For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls
By Ernest Hemmingway
In 1940, Ernest Hemingway published For Whom the Bell Tolls to wide critical and public acclaim. The novel became an immediate best-seller, erasing his somewhat flawed performance in To Have and Have Not (1937). During the 1930’s, a time when Hemingway enjoyed great publicity, he went on the African safari that produced Green Hills of Africa (1935) and his column in Esquire (1933-1936). In 1940, he was divorced by his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, and married Martha Gellhorn. He set fishing records at Bimini in marlin tournaments, hunted in Wyoming, and fished at Key West, Florida, where he bought a home. In 1937, when the Spanish Civil War broke out, Hemingway went to Spain as a correspondent with a passionate devotion to the Spain of his early years. Not content merely to report the war, he became actively involved with the Loyalist Army in its fight against Franco and the generals. He wrote the script for the propaganda film The Spanish Earth (1937), which was shown at the White House at a presidential dinner. The proceeds of the film were used to buy ambulances for the Loyalists. In 1939, with the war a lost cause and just as World War II was beginning its course of destruction, Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls.
To understand Hemingway’s motive in writing the book, it is helpful to study the quotation from John Donne, from which Hemingway took his theme, “any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” Hemingway wanted his readers to feel that what happened to the Loyalists in Spain in 1937 was a part of the twentieth century world crisis in which everyone shared.
Regardless of the route by which Hemingway came to exchange the “separate peace” idea of The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms for the “part of the maine” philosophy embraced by Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls , one can be...