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Aug 17, 2019


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Robert Jordan, a tall, a thin young man, with sun streaked fair hair, and wind and sun burned face, is one of the most complicated heroes, in Hemingway’s fictions. He is a typical Hemingway hero who fights till end and wins a moral victory for him. Two categories of heroes are found in the novels of Ernest Hemingway. One of which is a round character who finds himself unfit for the circumstances in which he is surrounded, but with the passage, of time he evolves certain values, which make his survival possible. According to the critics, this kind of character is “Hemingway Hero”, or “the Tito”. In the other category of hero is a developed character that does not need for further improvement. He is a confident man who knows his area of action and his skills. He serves to teach, the Tito, and thus is called “the Tutor” or “the code hero”.

Jack Barnes, Nick Adam, Fredric Henry etc., are all Hemingway’s typical heroes. They have been presented in the background of First World War. They portray the attributes of “Lost Generation”. They have got disillusioned with war and, therefore, remained under great stress. War has shattered their all the ideas of religion, humanity, love and peace. Hemingway at first shows through them the death of love, lost ness and forlornness’ and finally the moral code of life that “a man can be destroyed but not defeated”. Hemingway hero is a sensitive and intellectual being, but he suppresses his thoughts, he suffers from “Nada” the extreme feelings of nothingness. Inconsequence, he leads a life of sensuousness and seeks pleasure in sexuality, drinking and roaming about.

Hemingway takes life as a battle, in which man has to fight till his end. Therefore, his hero is always revealed in a war or war –like conditions, fighting against natural or human forces. This war can either be physical or spiritual or both. Within the course of his war, he learns the code of his life that: “A man is not made for defeat”. And that: “A man can live only through the manly encounter against death”. This code helps him to achieve a moral victory. Hemingway believes that “a winner gets
nothing in this world”, therefore, we see. “Despite Hemingway’s preoccupation with physical contests his heroes are almost always defeated physically their victories tries are moral one”. Robert Jordan is considered to be the most complex of all heroes, presented by Hemingway. He has seen excessive violence and bloodshed and is thoroughly aware of the cruelties of war, yet he is ready to fight for the cause of “humanity”. He is an idealist as well as a realist. He knows “neither all fascists are black nor all republicans are white”, but he fights for the betterment of Spanish people, as his meditations reveal:

“You believe in liberty equality and
Fraternity. You believe in life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”

Thus, as it is common with Hemingway’s heroes, Jordan is also shown under great stress and tension –at the same time though he criticizes his actions yet he is also ready to blow the bridge. He is very sensitive and intellectual being but he feels that thoughts are not appropriate for the world in which he is living, he takes refuges in drinking and sexually. Though he does not want to keep his mind busy in thinking about the rightness of his action, as he feels “to worry is as bad as to be afraid”. Yet he keeps himself busy in the unrealistic thoughts of a happy future with his beloved Maria. “When there was no understanding only the delight of acceptance”.

Though he likes “good things” of life yet he is so committed and honest to himself and his duty, that he does no let these things, come in his way. Even he attributes his love for Maria to his love for Spain as he says: “I love thee as I love that we have fought for”. He is so honest to the job that is assigned to him that he can understand that to blow the bridge is futile, yet he blows it, for it is the very order given to him.

Being a main character of Hemingway, he also fights his personal psychological battle in Spain. Jordan is extremely ashamed of his father, who attempted suicide instead of fighting. He wants to wash out his guilt. Though the life is dear to him, yet dearer than life is the need for the justification of his courage, which his father lacked. Thus, the war has a “double importance” for him. He says: “My mind is in suspension until we win the war”. He idealizes his grandfather, who was a courageous warrior and had died in a battle. Fighting against the enemy, Jordan seeks his code within the thoughts of his grandfather and is determined to fight till his death. When he falls from the horse and it breaks his leg, Jordan remains there to cover the escape of his companions. At this time it is the memory of his grandfather, which keeps him firm on his decision. Though he is disappointed yet not
desperate. He has learnt the lesson like Santiago that: “A man can be destroyed but not defeated”.

Near the end, he bears the pain courageously, and proves that “pain does not matter to a man”. He appears to be satisfied on achieving the moral victory over his enemy. This is the lesson Hemingway wants to give through his writings that fighting matters more than winning and one who fights till the end, is the winner in true sense. Thus we can conclude that Robert Jordan is a typical Hemingway hero, with all the heroic qualities in him. He also retains some of the autobiographical touches in his characters; this quality of his personality also enriches his personality in the eye of the readers.


The term nihilism implies the negation of any authority and code at the heat of the universe. Hemingway has largely been accused of being nihilism. It is said that his heroes have no code to follow; that they are living on their own, that they are lost in this world thus they are hopeless and chaotic. A critic remarks: “--

-Again and again, Hemingway was writing of the –
the end of life, the end of love, the end of hope, the end of all”.

But to condemn his writing, by pronouncing nihilism, is to do injustice to him. Though Hemingway writes of the chaos and desperate situation, yet he provides a hope and code for life. If he denies the presence of God, heals creates new gods, for his heroes, in the apparent forms i.e., honour, dignity and struggle. He gives the code of constant and untiring struggle for life.

In his writings, Hemingway focuses at the lost generation, which emerged in the consequence of the two highly explosive World Wars. In19th century mankind was enjoying global peace, economic stability and scientific progress. People were thinking that Man has conquered the  beast in him and has learned to live peacefully. But all these idealistic dreams shattered away, when the First World War emerged due to this very industrial progress. The men who entered war with patriotic ideals were stunned at man’s inherent Barbarity when they realized the horrible uncertainty, pithiness and meaninglessness of life, they were desperately disillusion with the hollowness and emptiness of the high sounding slogans of religious and political leaders. Moreover, Darwin’s theory of evolution added fuel to fire and crumbled the roots of Christianity. It was felt that “God does not exist and man has to face all the consequences of this”. Hence:

“Man is forlorn; because neither within him nor without does
her find anything to ding to”.

Hemingway captures all this nothingness and forlornness in his stories. His heroes represent the lost generation. They are usually expatriates, disillusioned with war. They have utterly disappointed with the nothingness of life and seeks refuge in drinking, sex, wandering. Hemingway depicts his heroes at war, sometimes physically but most often metaphorically. Then, within the course of their war, they get the code is of unending struggle regardless of victory or defeat.

His hero in “The Old Man and the Sea”, Santiago says: “Pain does not matter to a man”. Then: “Man is not made for defeat”. And finally, he says: “A man can be destroyed but not defeated”. In “The Sun also rises”, there is a massage of hope: “A man can live only through the manly encounter against death”.

Robert Jordan in the “For Whom the Bell tolls”, is confused about his aims. He is disillusioned with war; he loves humanity and wants peace. But to establish peace, he has to fight against the evil. He is not certain about the usefulness of his action, though takes refuge in Maria’s arms, yet he resolves to continue his task. He says:

 “You can do nothing for yourself but
perhaps you can do something for another”.

It is an understanding assumption of Hemingway’s philosophy that there is no world beyond the grave. Therefore, one’s victories and losses are to be measured in terms of this world and not in the world beyond the grave. Life is tragic, sad and there is no escape from pain, therefore, it is useless to try to escape the inevitable. Hence what one can do is to be a man. When man is afflicted with misery pain or sorrow or even death, the proper way to face it is to remain true to oneself and one’s companions, to endure pain and must fight like Santiago against the heavy odds. To give up a fight would be unmanly. One must achieve moral victory even though he has nothing to win. Robert Jordan has to remain undefeated, to prove his moral victory. He fights not only for the sake of Spanish freedom, but also for the fulfilment of his moral duty and his reward is the consciousness and his satisfaction in the duty done. This constant struggle and absoluteness of duty is something, which one can cling to in the present times. Hence, Hemingway should not be pronounced as nihilism, prevailed in his time, and presents the solution of it rather he gives the faith of constant struggle and a moral victory to his readers. Thus the outlook or the background of his novels is nihilism but the message of his novels is the message of hope and confidence.

Hemingway’s Message : 
Man Can Be Destroyed but Not Defeated
Hemingway was considered to be a man more than life. He thrived to reduce the life than its gigantic stature. He wanted to explore more and more about the gravities of life. He had seen both pre-war and post war situations. He had deeply observed the change in the attitude of people, towards life and their scattered dreams and desires. Thus, he sought to give message to the post war generation –the message of struggle for life. He taught them that man can live only through the manly encounter against death and miseries.

Nineteenth century was the period of the boon of humanity. There was industrial rise and scientific progress. Mankind was enjoying global peace and stability. Man was thinking that he had conquered the beast in him and had learnt to live peacefully. But them, this wide spread scientific progress brought two most destructive and fierce worldwide wars. With the advent of these wars, all the thoughts and dreams of a peaceful and progressive future shattered. People look refuge in sensual pleasure i.e. drinking, free sex and wandering and avoided thinking. These people, after the wide spread devastation of wars, were pronounced as the Lost Generation.

Hemingway writes his stories, to guide his lost generation. They are expatriates, confused and frustrated beings, indulged in drinking, gambling and sexual pleasures. Hemingway wants to give them a code of life, higher than any ethical code. This is a code of “constant struggle”.

Hemingway creates a microcosm of the post war scenario in this story and delineates his characters, very close to real men, with their tensions and conflicts. Almost all of his protagonists are representatives of lost generation. They are all disillusioned with war, but each experiences this situation differently. Yet one thing is common in all of them that they have to struggle for life. Henry hates war; at he has to fight for life. Jordan knows that war is destructive; he wants peace and is aware of the feet that to attain peace, it is necessary to suppress force, by force.

Hemingway perceives life as a struggle, in which man has no choice except to fight. Santiago has to go far away, on the sea, to fight with evil, regardless of any loss. Robert Jordan has to blow up the bridge without considering its usefulness. It also gives a view that duty, must be done at any cost, and a duty assigned to an individual should be considered special in its way. Jordan says: “If I have to do what I think, I will have to do; it will be very select indeed”. Besides fighting with the outer circumstances, Hemingway’s protagonist also fights a battle of inner self. He knows the worthlessness of his act, yet he fights to prove his courage and strength by accomplishing that act. Jordan realizes the futility of his act; he also loves life and feels: “This world is a fine place”. Though life is dear to him, yet dearer than life is the need to justify his courage, which his father lacked.

Hemingway feels that winner gets nothing in this world. The victory of his protagonist is never physical but always moral. Santiago, after successfully achieving victory over Marline loses it during his journey back to home. Jordan successfully blows the bridge, yet, in the end, his is a loser –loser of his life. All that is achieved in all this exercise is the insight that one must go on struggling come what may and whatever is the cause. Thought he winner gets nothing yet he attains moral dignity. Jordan says:

“You can do nothing for yourself but
perhaps you can do something for another”.

Hemingway holds the view that whatever has to be done, has to be done with good grace. He says in “Old man and The Sea”:
 “Pain does not matter to a man”

Robert Jordan repeatedly wishes for the arrival of Fascists, to the end of the novel, because of his increasing pain. Yet he does not choose to kill himself. He feels that to die a courageous death is better than to live, as a coward in owes own eyes. He says: “I wish, they would come now”. He fights bravely and does not lack courage. He proves:  “A man is not made for defeat”. Jordan fights till end and sacrifices his life, for duty. He dies not only for Spain, not only to save the girl, Maria, whom he loves, but also for his own sake and in fulfilment of a moral duty. So, his only reward is the consciousness of duty done. Thus he proves that “A man can be destroyed but not defeated”.

“For Whom The Bell Tolls” as a Modern Tragedy
“For Whom The Bell Tolls” is a modern tragedy, as it depicts the conflict, struggle, tension and frustration of a modern man. A modern tragedy is quite different from classical standards.  According to Aristotle, tragedy is a story of conspicuous man who fall from prosperity to adversity because of his error judgment, i.e., hamartia, his death is not essential, but his fall arises a sense of pity and fear
for him, in us. 

But in a modern world, there are no kings and princes, who could be regarded as “conspicuous”, therefore, modern tragedy is the story of a common man who falls from prosperity to adversity, because of his error of judgment, i.e., his hamartia, but his death is not essential, but his fall arises a sense of pity and fear, in us. Secondly, now a modern man is not confronted with the supernatural forces of his surroundings and society. Thus a modern tragedy is different from a classical tragedy. Hemingway writes in an effort to reduce the harms done by the two world wars. He presents a picture of the post war scenario, when the atomic weapons shattered all the dream of global peace. There was a big generation gap in the society and a sense of lost ness. Hemingway portrays in his novels, a microcosm of that larger universe, and gives a lesson of constant and untiring struggle.

Robert Jordan is a typical Hemingway protagonist. He is an American volunteer. He is very sensitive and intellectual man who wishes for the global peace. He believes that liberty diminished at one place means some liberty lost everywhere. Because of his this belief, he is fighting Spain for republican he is not only fighting the war of the freedom of Spain, he is also fighting a mental and psychological war of self-realization and self-assessment. He has been assigned the duty of blowing a supply line bridge up, of Fascists and through this duty; he wants to judge his mental and physical usefulness for the world.

Hemingway’s hero is usually a disillusioned but a reluctant man. He is aware of the futility ofaction but tries to avoid this awareness by indulging into sensual pleasure. Robert Jordan alsotries to avoid his thoughts and seeks refuge in Maria’s arms and intoxication. But being an intellectual he cannot escape from his thoughts. He knows that his action of blasting the bridge would not help the Republicans and the Fascists would not be stopped; yet he continuous his work. The reason is the accomplishment of duty, which has been assigned to him, and an inner satisfaction that at least he has done what he could do. He feels that he is fighting for his love of Spain, for his love of Maria and for his love of freedom as he says:

“You believe in life, liberty 
and the pursuit of Happiness”

But this is a kind of self-deception and false justification of his useless act and this proves his flaw, which leads to his tragedy. However, it is a preoccupation of a Hemingway Hero, which he goes too far in the accomplishment of his duty, regardless of any danger. Hemingway adopts this trait to achieve his moral end, and this gives a new dimension to tragedy. He has moralized the tragedy, “despite Hemingway’s preoccupation with physical contests, his heroes are almost always defeated physically, nervously, practically; their victories are moral ones”.  As we see that Jordan remains stick to his duty. He says:  “You can do nothing for yourself but perhaps you can do something for another”. This belief keeps him firm, even when Pablo betrays him and leaves with the blasting material. This is the moment of his moral uplift.There is a sure fear of his death, but he goes on. Though life is dear to him, but dearer than life is the justification of his courage, which his father lacked. He also hints this in his saying:

“May be I have lived all my 
life in these seventy hours”.

Jordan successfully blows up the bridge but, while moving away from the scene, he falls from his horse and breaks his leg. This is the most pathetic and tragic situation, when a man achieves success at one moment and loses everything at the other. The reader feels extreme pity for Jordan at this stage.

The ending moments of the novel are the most convincing and magnificent ones, when Jordan is lying on the ground waiting for fascists to come. So that he may be able to prove his courage and strength by fighting till the end. He repeated utterance:  “I wish is not made for defeat”. I create a moving effect. The dramatic ending of the novel gives a message, a lesson and alsohope to the reader that:  “Man is not made for defeat”.  Jordan proves that: 

“A man can be
destroyed but not defeated”.

Jordan fights till end and sacrifices his life for duty. He dies not only for Spain, not only to save the girl, Maria, whom he loves, but also for his own sake and in fulfilment of a moral duty. So his only reward is the consciousness of duty done. And again:  “Winner take nothing”. But it seems that Hemingway had found something to die for, and he seems to imply that if you die as Anselmo or Jordan died, then physical death means nothing, death has no sting for the dying man rather he dies victoriously and his death is a moral victory. Thus we can conclude that “For Whom the Bell Toll” is a modern tragedy in which an ordinary hero –an American volunteer falls from prosperity of adversity because of his hamartia, i.e., his extreme sense of duty. He dies a physical death but wins a moral victory. His sufferings arise a sense of pity and fear in us.

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