For Whom the Bell Tolls
by Ernest Hemingway
For Whom the Bell Tolls Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- The book begins and ends with the same image of Robert Jordan lying on the forest floor. Some argue that this establishes an underlying circularity in the book. In what ways might the book be circular?
- It's become increasingly popular for feminist scholars to hate on Hemingway for creating shallow, formulaic, and stereotypical women in his books who either exist to serve men or are themselves basically just men. Do Maria and Pilar fit this characterization? Why might they, and why might they not?
- Our own interpretation aside, what do you think of the idea that Spain is the real main character of For Whom the Bell Tolls? If it were, how would this change your understanding of the structure of the book?
- Is "blowing the bridge" symbolic of something else?
- What's the relation between historical reality and imaginative creation in the book? Why does Hemingway choose the balance between the two that he does?
- To what extent do you think Robert Jordan is a vehicle for expressing Hemingway's own thoughts, and to what extent is Hemingway distanced from him? What in the text would lead you to go in one direction or the other?
- The inescapable question of style: it's been argued that Hemingway's famous terse and minimal prose is actually meant to reveal a great deal of complexity and disorder beneath its surface. Do you think this is true? Do you find it works as a way of writing about war?
- We've already asked it, but we'll ask it again. Is Robert Jordan's mission ultimately futile?
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