For Whom the Bell Tolls
by Ernest Hemingway
For Whom the Bell Tolls Theme of Mortality
Death and war go hand in hand, and For Whom the Bell Tolls is about war. So almost every major character in the book is forced to come to terms with their own death, and the deaths of their loved ones. They display a variety of attitudes towards death, from paralyzing fear and despair, to resignation, to relative unconcern. One thing that all experience, however, is the way death forces a re-evaluation of one's priorities. The protagonist's attitude towards death changes as the value he gives to his own life changes, and the book explores the relation between the two.
Questions About Mortality
- Which characters in the book feel a strong fear of death and which do not? For those who do, how do they manage their fear? For those who don't, why is it that they do not fear death?
- What is behind Pablo's "fear of death"? And since we know that earlier in the war he wasn't troubled by it, how do you think it came about?
- What do you think Robert Jordan dies for? Is it the Republic, "freedom," Spain, his friends? If several or all of these, which do you think is most important for him?
- Do you think there's a difference between what Robert Jordan thinks he's dying for and what might really be motivating him?
Chew on This
At the start of the book, not only is Robert Jordan not afraid of death, he actively wants to die.
Pablo's fear of death is actually a symptom of a more general despair caused by his guilt over the people he's killed.