Structural Device of Three Models
-- Jordan, Anselmo and Pablo in For Whom the Bell Tolls --

Hideo Yanagisawa


  For Whom the Bell Tolls was published in 1940, and it has been argued in various points that Robert Jordan, the hero, is in between two contrastive characters, Anselmo and Pablo. One example is their ethical attitudes of either having faith or having no faith shown by the difference of the degree to which each of the two shows loyalty to his own political doctrine. Anselmo, whom Jordan places much confidence in, has no fear of dying for his belief in Communism. Pablo, meanwhile, gives Jordan the negative image that he might be an obstacle to his mission even at the time of their first meeting in the novel. In fact he refuses to cooperate in the mission in which he may be killed. The reason why Jordan can be posited between them in this regard is that he fails to clearly show loyalty to his own doctrine: his behavior impresses us as the result more of a sense of responsibility to his mission of blowing up the bridge than of loyalty to a certain doctrine.

  It is true that this is a war novel and the work which made critics as Lionel Trilling say that the author changed his concern from individualism into social issues.{1} But it seems to me that the way of reading expecting a certain social ideology or any political doctrine is no longer extensively valuable.

  Jordan has been argued also to be in between Anselmo and Pablo because he has the strong points of both characters: the courage which Anselmo shows and the correctness with which Pablo grasps the situation. Gerry Brenner seems to support this by pointing out the aspect of the work as an epic. The premise, however, that a protagonist has to be competent makes the work too simple and restrains its possibility for further valuable examinations.

  The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how Jordan's seventy hours in the novel can be equivalent to Jordan's whole life itself. Jordan is not just a protagonist who exists between Anselmo and Pablo but is placed side by side with the other two characters in various situations which they show more fundamental contrast as human beings.


  Bhim S. Dahiya shows that Jordan is suitable as the hero in the work by saying as follows:
It is Jordan alone who, not blinded by Anselmo's kind of naive optimism, comes to understand the intricate crosscurrents of the Spanish situation and yet maintains, despite Pablo's kind of disheartening awareness of his hopeless situation, his faith in the ultimate usefulness to humanity of his role in the Spanish war. (137)
It is emphasized here that Jordan is the only person that has the strong point of both Anselmo and Pablo. But too much may it simplify the relationship among them to see, as Dahia, Jordan as a figure who stand aloof from the two.{2} To make the most of the intricate relationship of them, Jordan should be seen just as ordinary a man as the other two. If Jordan is considered to be an average person, then we can also make another contrast between Anselmo and Pablo. Let us turn to the scene in which the three meet for the first time in the work:
   ``This is my business,'' Robert Jordan said. ``We can discuss it together. Do you wish to help us with the sacks?''
   ``No,'' said Pablo and shook his head.
   The old man[Anselmo] turned toward him suddenly and spoke rapidly and furiously.... ``.... Pick up that bag''
   Pablo looked down.
   ``Every one has to do what he can do according to how it can be truly done,'' he[Anselmo] said. (11)
It is true that Pablo's refusing to help Jordan with the sacks is remarkably contrastive with Anselmo's cooperative behavior. Anselmo's anger, however, is not turned only toward the lack of Pablo's loyalty to Jordan. As his speech below clearly shows that Anselmo's anger is turned towards Pablo's lack of action and lethargic attitude. Anselmo says:
   ``That was the last raid of Pablo,'' Anselmo said. ``Since then he has done nothing.''
   ``But since a long time he is muy flojo,'' Anselmo said. ``He is very flaccid. He is very much afraid to die.'' (25-26)
What makes Pablo behave like this? And how does it make Pablo behave? The following sentences give us a clue:
   ``Give him some of that which Sordo brought,'' Pilar said. ``Give him something to animate him. He is becoming too sad to bear.''
   ``If I could restore them to life, I would,'' Pablo said.
   ``Go and obscenity thyself,'' Agustin said to him. ``What sort of place is this?''
  ``I would bring them all back to life,'' Pablo said sadly. ``Every one.'' (209)
This dialogue shows that Pablo is suffering from the sense of sin in his murder and that he wishes to `cancel his act' of committing murder. This wish seems to be attributed to his fear of death for which he exchanged his fortune of horses. Yet, of course, Pablo realizes that his own wish will never come true. And the despondency he feels in failing to fulfill this wish leads him to this sense of despair. His inerness or lack of spirit directly leads to his inaction and characterizes his internal struggle to right his wrong.

How does Anselmo, meanwhile, keep himself from feeling the burden of his murder? He doesn't deny murder as explicitly as Pablo. On the contrary, as follows, he even has a kind of mental support, which in fact serves to set an affirmative attitude to murder:

   ``... I am against all killing of men.''
   ``Yet you have killed.''
   ``Yes. And will again. But if I live later, I will try to live in such a way, doing no harm to any one, that it will be forgiven.''
   ``By whom?''
   ``Who knows? Since we do not have God here any more, neither His Son nor the Holy Ghost, who forgives? I do not know.''
   ``You have not God any more?''
   ``No. Man. Certainly not. If there were God, never would He have permitted what I have seen with my eyes. Let them have God.''
   ``They claim Him.''
   ``Clearly I miss Him, having been brought up in religion. But now a man must be responsible to himself.''
   ``Then it is thyself who will forgive thee for killing.''
   ``I believe so,'' Anselmo said. (41)
From the answer which Anselmo gives to Jordan we understand that Anselmo believes the sin of his murder to be compensated by himself. By telling Jordan ``And will again'' he means that he allows himself to commit still another murder. Compared with Pablo' s `cancel of his act', Anselmo tries to deal with his guilt by `making up for one act with another act.' Here we find a new contrast that is more fundamental to human beings than those of politics and social powers. Anselmo, in contrast with Pablo, impresses us as a character who is positive, optimistic and lively , at the same time, somewhat ignorant.{3} Thus the two contrastive models, of Pablo trying to `cancel acts' and of Anselmo trying to `make up for one act with another' , are exposed, and they are very responsible for the impression of each character in the novel.


In this interpretation of the novel, stress falls here on the point that the two contrastive models are coexistent within an ordinary person. If we make the analogy that Pablo and Anselmo are two contrastive lines within the story, it becomes possible to see Jordan as a third line zigzagging between the two, sometimes taking sides with Pablo and sometimes with Anselmo. This activity, furthered on towards the end of the story and understood in depth, brings us to a more complex and profound enjoyment of the process than simply that of models, with Jordan as a third and separate model. To give even more significance to juxtaposing Jordan's situation to that of each of the two, we should keep aloof from the premise that a protagonist has to be almighty. In attempting to draw the our attention back to seeing Jordan as a common person, it is necessary to point out that he has the same weakness as Pablo. Jordan tells us about his first impression of Pablo in the following scene:
   ``I will take it,'' Pablo told him, and in his sullenness there was a sadness that was disturbing to Robert Jordan. He knew that sadness and to see it here worried him. (12)
Pablo impresses Jordan as ``a sadness'' which worries him. But he also says the following:
You're getting to be as all the rest of them, he told himself. You're getting gloomy, too. He'd certainly been solemn and gloomy with Golz. The job had overwhelmed him a little. Slightly overwhelmed, he thought. Plenty overwhelmed. (17)
The adjectives ``gloomy'' and ``solemn'' which Jordan gives himself are approximate to ``sad.'' This means that Jordan admits to having Pablo's kind of weakness and perhaps shares the same community with Pablo. Pablo's ``sadness'' comes from fear of death which cannot be undone. From the words ``Plenty overwhelmed'' it is clear that Jordan's ``gloomy'' comes from the pressure of his mission to blow the bridge on time that he is not allowed to fail. Thus death for Pablo can be equated to the mission for Jordan and the two men behave the same way, which leads to our judging them as having the same fundamental nature. The next sentences support this:
I wonder what could make me feel the way those horses make Pablo feel. The old man[Anselmo] was right. The horses made him rich and as soon as he was rich he wanted to enjoy life. (16)
Jordan, after thinking of horses, the things that made Pablo cling to life, is wondering what can make himself feel as Pablo does. In other words, Jordan understands the reason why Pablo feels fear of death and allows himself to have the possibility to feel fear of death like Pablo. And readers should keep the fact in mind that at this early stage he has not found what makes himself cling to life. He does not reach a conclusion until the last stage. The story, after showing us the similarity between them, juxtaposes Jordan's situation to Pablo's, one of the two parallel lines. In short Jordan has Maria, the existence which makes him ``want to enjoy life'' just as horses for Pablo. Here we are led to wonder if Jordan will cancel the mission of blowing the bridge as Pablo `cancels' his murder. Considering that Frederic Henry chose ``a separate peace'' in A Farewell to Arms, readers will think Jordan may give up his mission.{4} With the tension created by this comparison with Pablo, we come to realize the importance of the mission as he gave it priority over Maria. Here, Jordan's situation shifts from Pablo's line to Anselmo's. The achievement of the mission is very important for Anselmo because he feels his sin can be made up for only by following his principles and the mission may give this opportunity to atone for his sin, or in other words to die. As, in fact, is the eventual outcome.
I hate the shooting of the guard and it made me an emotion....
  That is over, he told himself, and thou canst try to atone for it as for the others. But now thou hast what thou asked for last night coming home across the hills. Thou art in battle and thou hast no problem. If I die on this morning now it is all right. (442-443)
Jordan, however, says after blowing the bridge ``Now it was over he was lonely, detached and unelated and he hated everyone he saw''(447). He feels ``lonely'' and an unspeakable anger. This means that the achievement of his mission itself makes up for nothing for Jordan. And it also means he has changed through the story. Jordan, who is now facing death, comes to think:
The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it. And you had a lot of luck, he told himself, to have had such a good life. (467)
His words ``I hate very much to leave it[the world]'' mean that now something makes him want to live like Pablo. Here again, Jordan's situation shifts from Anselmo's line to Pablo's. Jordan, here, reaches Pablo's state of mind, while he never allows himself to choose the way of making up for that we have identified in Anselmo. Under circumstances like this, how does Jordan accept his short life? We are to pay attentions to the words ``And you had a lot of luck, he told himself, to have had such a good life.'' He believes he is lucky. To die clinging to life is important for him as it `makes up for' his miserable life. Readers also notice another way that Jordan `makes up for' his cruel death in the monologue of the last wish, emphasized in italics:   And if you wait and hold them up even a little while or just get the officer that may make all the difference. One thing well done can make --- .... Robert Jordan's luck held very good because he saw, just then, the cavalry ride out of the timber and cross the road. (470-471)He wants to kill the officer and from the next series of events we are sure that his wish will come true, ``As the officer came trotting now on the trail of the horses of the band .... The officer was Lieutenant Berrendo''(471). This luck also `makes up for' the unhappy death predicted by Pilar and changes it into a happy one.

Thus, the two contrastive models, Pablo's `cancel' and Anselmo's `making up for', work as the gauge when Jordan's situation juxtaposed to that of each of the two. The several shiftings of Jordan's situation between the two parallel lines create a depth of life and gives us the impression of time neatly compressed in Hemingway's novel, aptly described by Rao as explicable, not through algebra, but through the complex mechanics of calculus.{5} How seventy hours can, to both Jordan and readers, be equivalent to his whole life itself is achieved by this hidden structural device.

   (This paper is a revised version of a paper presented at the 51st General Meeting of the Chubu Branch, the English Literary Society of Japan, October 23, 1999, at Toyama University.)

  1. Trilling regards this novel as a moral and political one and says that in this sense Hemingway quite fails. He says ``The clue to the failure is the essential inner dullness of his hero. Robert Jordan does not have within himself what alone could have made tragedy out of this remarkable melodrama--he does not in himself embody the tensions which were in the historical events he lived through. His fate is determined by the moral and political contradictions of the historical situation, but he himself explicitly refuses to recognize these contradictions, he stands apart from them.'' (79)

  2. Joseph Warren Beach also makes a point of the complexity of states of Jordan's mind effected by other characters: ``In his[Jordan] personal reflections and in his talk with others, states of mind are the ultimate subject throughout....'' (83)

  3. Rovit and Brenner cite the same scene in order to show the evidence that heroes in Hemingway works ``are not `men without memories,' but men determined not to become slaves to their pasts(memories); they are men who have made signal attempts to become masters of the present; and they know they can strive to do this only through disengaging the present moment from all past moments. And It is this,... that makes the act of self-forgiveness so important in code.'' (103)

  4. Henry, who had given up his mission as a soldier, made ``a separate peace.'' (305)

  5. ``The intensity of the story[For Whom the Bell Tolls] and the technical excellence, which takes us across distances in time and space and packs the experience of a number of years into less than three days, give us the impression that Hemingway has moved through algebra into calculus in this novel itself.'' (197)

Work Cited
  1. Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. NY: G.K. Hall, 1995.
  2. ---------------. For Whom the Bell Tolls. NY: Scribner's, 1968.
  3. Beach, Joseph Warren. ``Style in For Whom the Bell Tolls.'' Ernest Hemingway&quot: Critiques of Four Major Novels. Ed. Carlos Baker. NY: Scribner's, 1962. 82-86.
  4. Dahiya, Dr Bhim S.. The Hero in Hemingway &quot: a study in development. New Delhi: Bahri Publications, 1978.
  5. Rao, P. G. Rama. Ernest Hemingway &quot: A Study in Narrative Technique. New Delhi: S. Chand, 1979.
  6. Rovit, Earl and Gerry Brenner. Ernest Hemingway. Boston: Twayne, 1986.
  7. Trilling, Lionel. ``An American in Spain.'' Ernest Hemingway &quot: Critiques of Four Major Novels. Ed. Carlos Baker. NY: Scribner's, 1962. 78-81.

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Last Modified: Fri Oct 6, 2000