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For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls


by Ernest Hemingway

For Whom the Bell Tolls Politics Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #7

It was at Gaylord's that you learned that Valentin Gonzalez, called El Campesino or The Peasant, and never been a peasant but was an ex-sergeant in the Spanish Foreign Legion who had deserted and fought with Abd el Karim. That was all right, too. Why shouldn't he be? You had to have these peasant leaders quickly in this sort of war and a real peasant leader might be a little too much like Pablo. You couldn't wait for the real Peasant Leader to arrive and he might have too many peasant characteristics when he did. So you had to manufacture one. At that, from what he had seen of Campesino, with his black beard, his thick negroid lips, and his feverish, staring eyes, he thought he might give almost as much trouble as a real peasant leader. The last time he had seen him he seemed to have gotten to believe his own publicity and think he was a peasant. (18.36)

A major part of Robert Jordan's political transformation is his loss of belief in the necessity of telling the truth. Instead, he comes to feel that deception might be necessary and beneficial. More specifically, in the Spanish Civil War, the Republicans need to pretend to have more popular leadership than they in fact do. The reality is that the Russians, and more experienced Spanish military or servicemen, are in charge. Even though he's not a Communist, Robert Jordan's agreement with this, um, loose use of truth makes him sound oddly like the outspoken defenders of the USSR at the time, which was notorious (especially among Americans) for creating truth to serve its own purposes.

Quote #8

"But an army that is made up of good and bad elements cannot win a war. All must be brought to a certain level of political development; all must know why they are fighting, and its importance. All must believe in the fight they are to make and all must accept discipline. We are making a huge conscript army without the time to implant the discipline that a conscript army must have, to behave properly under fire. We call it a people's army but it will not have the assets of a true people's army and it will not have the iron discipline that a conscript army needs. You will see. It is a very dangerous procedure. (8.142)

Karkov (or maybe Ernest Hemingway) is here giving in a nutshell what he thinks is wrong with the Republican organization and war effort. It basically reduces to a lack of discipline and a lack of shared understanding of what the war is about (the "level of political development"). These were both very real problems, and understandably so, given what a hodgepodge the Republican forces actually were. You can see the truth of this characterization later in the book, when Andrés goes behind Republican lines to deliver his message.

Quote #9

Since when did you ever have any such conception? himself asked. Never. And you never could have. You're not a real Marxist and you know it. You believe in Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. You believe in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Don't ever kid yourself with too much dialectics. They are for some but not for you. You have to know them in order not to be a sucker. You have put many things in abeyance to win a war. If this war is lost all of those things are lost. (26.31)

At heart, Robert Jordan's just a good ol' American, who believes in freedom of the individual (though it's interesting that he groups the American Revolution with the French, which is usually seen as more "leftist"). He already knew he wasn't a Communist, but after what's happened with Maria, he can accept the American dream in a way he couldn't before: he now has a reason to live for himself, and pursue happiness. Plus, he thinks that hard-headed Marxist materialism ("human life reduces to matter plus the laws of the economy!") doesn't seem to have much room for the magical aspect of love.

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