For Whom the Bell Tolls
How we cite our quotes:
If he had known how many men in history have had to use a hill to die on it would not have cheered him any for, in the moment he was passing through, men are not impressed by what has happened to other men in similar circumstances any more than a widow of one day is helped by the knowledge that other loved husbands have died. Whether one has fear of it or not, one's death is difficult to accept. Sordo had accepted it, but there was no sweetness in its acceptance, even at fifty-two, with three wounds and surrounded on a hill. (27.62)
El Sordo's about to die, and here we see the thought expressed that dying is something one does alone. It doesn't matter to you that other people have died, or that they died in such and such a way, or for such and such a reason. All that matters is that you're dying. Any way you look at it, you're still faced with the same thing: ceasing to be. And whether or not you accept that (admit it to yourself honestly), it's not pleasant. El Sordo's attitude here is an example of Hemingway's (macho?) ideal of "taking it straight."
Dying was nothing and he had no picture of it nor fear of it in his mind. But living was a field of grain blowing in the wind on the side of a hill. Living was a hawk in the sky […] Living was a horse between your legs and a carbine under one leg and a hill and a valley and a stream with tress along it and the far side of the valley and the hills beyond. (27.64)
El Sordo's thinking that death isn't something mysterious: it's just nothingness. Period. Everything stops. That's part of what makes it so hard to imagine, and hard to accept. Any image or sense one might have of what it would be like, fearful or beautiful, would come from the living world that we've spent all of our existence in. There's a wistfulness here for nature and the vibrancy of natural life, which makes sense, given that El Sordo loves hunting and being "in the wild."
He looked very small dead, Robert Jordan thought. He looked small and gray-headed and Robert Jordan thought, I wonder how he ever carried such big loads if that is the size he really was. (43.128)
It's only when Robert Jordan sees Anselmo's dead body that he sees him as he physically really is: small and old-looking. When he was alive, his animation and personality (his "spirit"?) had changed the way he looked. But with death that animation has vanished, and Anselmo has in an instant become another inert thing. There's something very anticlimactic about death that way, which Hemingway's matter of fact prose conveys quite effectively.