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One of the best examples of how war shapes men, For Whom the Bell Tolls is written by Ernest Hemingway and published in 1940. This novel is considered one of the most important works of the Nobel and Pulitzer-prize winning author.

Plot Summary

Based on Hemingway`s own experience during the Spanish Civil War, For Whom the Bell Tolls is the story of Robert Jordan, an American expert in demolitions and explosives who goes to Spain to combat the nationalist forces there. There are three types of characters: some are truly fictional, some are fictionalized real persons and some are actual people.

Robert is sent behind the enemy lines with the objective of destroying a bridge and he is to be helped by a group of guerillas from the nearby mountains. Once arrived in their camp, he meets and falls in love with Maria, a young Spanish woman who is now living the terror of the war.

The leader of the anti-fascist guerillas, Pablo, fears for the repercussions of them helping Robert. Meanwhile, the Robert`s sense of duty comes in opposition with the idea of living his love with Maria. The reader cannot tell till late in the novel if the bridge was successfully blown up and if this action really helped and influenced the war development.

Many soldiers die during the battle and Robert himself dies in the end. Still, before he dies, he still has hopes to kill some enemies and slow things down.

Themes and style

For Whom the Bell Tolls is more like a graphic description of the brutality of civil war. Death is the main theme of the novel – Robert knows from the beginning that blowing up the bridge will kill him, while almost all main characters face their own deaths. Still, it seems to be a strong camaraderie when facing death.

Suicide is another main theme of For Whom the Bell Tolls. Many characters prefer killing themselves instead f being captured by the enemy. Almost all themes are related to war such as the loss of innocence and the value of human life.

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