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For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls

by Ernest Hemingway

Morality and Ethics Quotes Page 3

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

I've probably seen him run through the streets ahead of the bulls at the Feria in Pamplona, Robert Jordan thought. You never kill any one that you want to kill in a war, he said to himself. Well, hardly ever, he amended and went on reading the letters. (26.3)

Robert Jordan sounds like Anselmo here. He had no desire to kill the patrolman he shot that morning, and no reason to other than his "orders." He was a fascist only because of the allegiance of his region, Navarra, and his loyalty to the Catholic Church (as a Carlist). Navarra is one of Robert Jordan's favorite regions of Spain, and it's particularly saddening for him to kill one of its native sons. What must it feel like for a Spaniard to kill another Spaniard, then?

Quote #8

But it would not drop that easily. How many is it that you have killed? He asked himself. I don't know. Do you think you have a right to kill any one? No. But I have to. How many of those we have killed have been real fascists? Very few. But they are all the enemy to whose force we are opposing force. But you like the people of Navarra better than those of any other part of Spain. Yes. And you kill them. Yes. If you don't believe it go down there to the camp. Don't you know it is wrong to kill? Yes. But you do it? Yes. And you still believe absolutely that your cause is right? Yes.

It is right, he told himself, not reassuringly, but proudly. I believe in the people and their right to govern themselves as they wish. But you mustn't believe in killing, he told himself. You must do it as a necessity but you must not believe in it. You must do it as a necessity but you must not believe in it. IF you believe in it the whole thing is wrong. (26.20-21)

This is about as definitive a statement as we'll get of Robert Jordan's feelings about killing. He can't admit that killing in itself is ever right, but he feels it's necessary. And that's because he's convinced the Republican political cause is right. To minimize the injustice of killing, however, the killer can't take pleasure in it. And should kill as few people as possible. It's interesting to note, though, that Robert Jordan doesn't seem to have strong feelings, or disgust, about killing in the way that Pilar or Anselmo do. His disagreement seems to be more intellectual, more on principle, and less emotional.

Quote #9

He heard her breathing steadily and regularly now and he knew she was asleep and he lay awake and very still not wanting to waken her by moving. He thought of all the part she had not told him and he lay there hating and he was pleased there would be killing in the morning. But I must not take any of it personally, he thought.

Though how can I keep from it? I know that we did dreadful things to them too. But it was because we were uneducated and knew no better. But they did that on purpose and deliberately. Those who did that are the last flowering of what their education has produced. Those are the flowers of Spanish chivalry. (31.163-164)

It's after Maria describes her rape to Robert Jordan that he first shows signs of the bloodlust that other characters like Pablo and Agustín have already felt. He tries to think his way out of it by recognizing that both sides have done horrible things to each other. But thinking also leads him to one difference he thinks is morally relevant between the Republicans and the fascists: many of the Republican brutalities have been done by the poor and uneducated (who are trying to defend what little they have), whereas the fascists, who represent the upper class, should know better, and have higher standards.

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