Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Background of For Whom the Bell Tolls

Martha Repeats Pauline’s Trick
Martha Gellhorn, who eventually became Hemingway’s thirds wife, came to, Key West in 1936 in the company of her mother and brother. She had returned from Germany where she had seem from close quarters the rise of Nazism and she was very bitter about it. During their stay in Key. West, the family particularly “the bright haired” Martha, developed intimate friendship with the Hemingways. Pauline, Hemingway’s second wife, observed the growing friendship between Martha and her husband but she chose to ignore it. She had played the same trick on Hadley earlier and now she could at beat be a silent sufferer. Fate seemed to be playing a dirty trick on her.

Homingway’s Interest in Spain
In January 197, Hemingway signed a contract with NANA for covering the Spanish Civil War. Madrid, the Spanish Capital, was being shelled everyday by the Rebel troops under Franco, Hemingway was keen to help the recording of the commentary on a documentary film, Spain in Flames and most of his time was devoted to this propaganda film before sailing for Spain. It was humanitarian zeal in Hemingway that impelled him to join hands with the communists in Spain. The rebels were being helped by the Italians and the Germans and they were fighting against the Loyalists––those who were loyal to the Republic Hemingway wanted to arouse American conscience against the war in Spain because he knew that if the Fascists (the rebels) won in Spain, a major war in Europe could not be avoided. He had signed the contract with NANA hoping that he would be an “anti-war corresponds t”, a task similar to what he had achieved in A Farewell to Arms in 1929. Hemingway had recently finished the first draft of To Have and Have Not and if the final message of this novel––“No muter how a man alone ain’t got no bloody chance”––gives any indication of the turn of Hemingway’s social philosophy, it is not surprising that Hemingway was keen to go to Spain and fight for a cause. The cause more than anything else was that America should keep out of the Second World War for which the Spanish Civil War was “a dress rehearsal”. He thought that he could influence public opinion by reporting on the people in Spain involved in a Civil War.
Hemingway’s Film on Spain,
Impelled by the same humanitarian zeal he cooperated with Dos Passos and others engaged in making another documentary film on Spain with a view to raising funds. Dos Passos was more interested in the predicament of the people while Hemingway wanted to emphasize the military aspect of the war in Spain. The two friends disagreed on other details as well. The film was named The Spanish Earth, but more of it later.
Hemingway Sees Action
Hemingway reached Spain in March 1937. Around Barcelona he did not see much signs of war, but over Valencia the scars became quite obvious. He stayed at Hotel Florida in Madrid; which he has immortalized in The fifth Column. When he arrived there the Loyalists had won victories at Guadalajara and Brihuega : he made haste to visit the scenes of action. He was not disappointed in his search for action for while on inspection three Rebel bombers dutifully blew up a hillside.
Martha Joins Hemingway in Spain
The Rebel plan was to encircle Madrid but this plan was shattered by the Italian defeat at Brihuega. Madrid bore, the onslaughts of Franco’s raids and shelling heroically. While, in Madrid, Martha Gellhorn joined Hemingway Martha had come to Spain on forged papers, establishing her status as a correspondent. From then onward Martha and Hemingway visited the fronts and lines of action together. Danger drew them closer each day mutual admiration turned into romance. Hemingway was a V.I.P. in Madrid, never lacking transport, petrol coupons, food and attention from those in command.
Hemingway Befriends the Russians
The war around Madrid was being directed by the Russians who stayed behind the closed or guarded doors of a hotel called Gaylord’s. Hemingway was a frequent visitor there hoping that if he kept his ears open he might catch how the war was being conducted. Madrid. was a besieged city but the luxury at Gaylord’s concealed this fact. Koltsov, the Russian journalist at the Gaylord’s, respected Hemingway as a writer ; therefore, he gave him “all the dope” that, Hemingway needed so, that the latter could transmit to the outside world the feeling what it was like in Spain. It is here that Hemingway met men who refused to surrender to the inevitable.
Return to Society
In Spain, Hemingway began to relive his old life in Italy [as described in A Farewell to Arms] there was danger, and a feeling of comradeship born of shared danger. He felt he had to return to society and democracy to which he had bade farewell in A Farewell to Arms and had felt no regret in leaving them alone in Green Hills of Africa. He jumped into the fray seeking new sustenance’ for his artistic life.
The Shooting of the Spanish Earth
The Spanish Earth was being directed by a very able director, Joris Ivens ; while John Ferno was shooting the documentary. Hemingway spent much _time in their company. Ivens was a communist and he hoped that Hemingway had come round to believing in collective action. Shooting the documentary was not a child’s play ; it involved following the Loyalist offensive, going near the Rebel artillery targets, and often dust and bullets fell to their lot as well.
Martha and Hemingway Become Lovers
Martha treated Hemingway with “humorous indulgence”, which was surprising until the secret that they hid become lovers was revealed accidentally by a rebel shell that fell on Hotel Florida. The Eleventh and Twelfth International Brigades broadened Hemingway’s political outlook. Andres Marty, who makes a brief appearance in For Whom the Bell Tolls, was specially chosen by Hemingway for adverse criticism for the former’s “imperious” bearing and suspicious nature.
Hemingway Returns to America
In April, while Madrid was being shelled by the Rebels, Hemingway accompanied by Martha Gellhorn left for the mountainous region still with the Loyalists. They also visited 4,800 foot high Sierra de Guadarrama. The film was complete by April end and Hemingway got ready to leave Spain for New York.
Hemingway Speaks Against Fascism
During his stay in the States, Hemingway spoke before a 3,500 strong crowd under the auspices or the League of American Writers. He spoke of the problems of a writer which do not change. He emphasized that under Fascism no genuine writer could flourish for “fascism is a lie told by bullets”. He was one of those who had enlisted in the fight against fascism. Everybody who heard him was impressed by his sincerity.
War Effort Gains Momentum
The Spanish Earth was shown to President Roosevelt at the White House. Both the Roosevelts were much moved by the film because in it the sponsors had attempted to capture the total experience of living in wartime Spain. Thousands of dollars poured in to provide ambulances for the war-torn country. Hemingway’s fame and sincerity contributed a great deal to this war effort.
Franco Seems to Win
Hemingway had just turned thirty-eight. He was looking forward to his next visit to Spain enthusiastically. In August 1937 he was back in Spain but the war had taken an unexpected turn. The Loyalists had failed to lift the siege of Madrid and the Rebels had swept across the northern provinces. The Loyalists had suffered heavy casualities in the battle of Brunete. Two thirds of Spain was in the hands of Franco, the Rebel general. The only consolation was that the Fifteenth International Brigade under major Robert Merriman had occupied Belchite below Zaragoza.
‘The Lovers Share Hardship
Hemingway and Martha were together once again. During September the lovers braved the dangers and hardships of touring the country around Belchite. Most of the time they spent nights in the open and cooked their food over, open fires. As it had already snowed in the mountainous region the weather was really cold. Toward the end of September they returned to Hotel Florida ill Madrid. Hemingway’s rooms at the hotel became famous for their hospitality and comforts and to these rooms many Americans on leave came frequently.
Mixed Reaction to ‘To Have and Have Not’
In October 1937 while Hemingway was still in Spain, To Have and Have Not was published in New York. Although the sales were respectable yet it was received by critics with mixed feelings. But all commented on the new direction Hemingway’s writing had taken. The Leftists were jubilant, on the growth of social consciousness in him, though the book did not appeal to them wholely.
Pauline Tries to Save Her Marriage
Hemingway in the meanwhile wrote a play, The Fifth Column, in which be used a lot of autobiographical material. The hero, Philip Rawley, was certain aspects of Hemingway, while the heroine, Dorothy Bridges bore unmistakable resemblance to Martha Gellhorn. It may be said that in Philip Rawley’s rejection of Dorothy Bridges, Hemingway made up his mind to reject Pauline. Pauline must have guessed Hemingway’s intention and in making a desperate effort to save her marriage she reached Paris unannounced on her way to Spain. Hemingway and Martha celebrated their Christmas in Barcelona. Before Pauline could leave Paris. Hemingway met his wife there. There was a bitter quarrel but she succeeded in bringing Hemingway back to the States.
Hemingway’s Political Foresight
After his return to the States in January 1938, Hemingway remained quiet on the Spanish Civil War, except one article, “The Time Now, The Place Spain,” in which he argued that America should end her neutrality so as to avoid a future battle against fascism. He believed that fascism could be defeated in Spain otherwise there would be much bloodshed afterwards. He was torn at this time between his desire to return to Spain and to Martha Gellhorn and the desire to stay at Key West with Pauline. He could not resist the charm of Martha and his dedication to Spain for long enough ; on 19th March, he sailed for Europe.
Franco Marches to the Sea
In March, Franco launched an offensive to separate Valencia from Barcelona. If he reached the Mediterranean, he would achieve his objective of breaking the backbone of the Loyalist strength in the area. Some of the survivors of the battle of Gandesa who had swum across the Ebro gave Hemingway a first-hand account of the heroism of the Washington-Lincoln battalion. “Loyalist morale was higher everywhere than the situation appeared to warrant .. “ Hemingway moved into the lower Pyrenees on the Spanish side of the border where the Rebels were driving the Loyalists out of the area. The Loyalist discipline in the area was slack, of course. The Rebel bombers were causing heavy damage among the Loyalist troops. In April the Rebels succeeded reaching the Mediterranean and thus dividing the Republic in two. When the Rebels overran Vinaroz, it was a major disaster for the Loyalists.
Maria : A Real Heroine
During his visit to Mataro north of Barcelona, he met “a quiet and devoted Spanish girl Maria” who was working as a nurse. She had been raped by Fascist soldiers but she serenely bore her misfortune. Hemingway stored her experience in his memory and used it in For Whom the Bell Tolls. His contract with NANA had come to an end but he wrote three articles for Ken and their message was plain enough for America : “Oppose the Fascists in, Spain by selling arms to the Loyalists otherwise Hitler and Mussolini would over-run Europe in the summer of 1939.”
Hemingway Breaks Away From the Catholic Church
His three trips to Spain had convinced Hemingway that he must break away from the Roman Catholic Church for he could not associate himself with the Church that had sided with the Rebels in Spain. So he quit praying. One wonders whether this was another step in his separation from Pauline who had persuaded him to join the Church. By this time his affair with Martha Gellhorn was well-known even in New York. His dedication on The Fifth Column and The First Forty-Nine Stories read “To Marty and Hubert with Love.” Perceptive readers commented privately that his. break with Pauline was complete.
Hemingway’s Neutrality
Action thirsty as Hemingway was, it is difficult to be reconciled to the fact that he stayed clear of the war because, he had promised Pauline that he would do so. The truth of the matter is that he had observed “the carnival of treachery and rottenness on both sides” of the conflict. It is this feeling in For Whom the Bell Tolls that baffles most ordinary readers. Hemingway refused to take sides when he came to write of this war in his novel.
An Artist’s View of Spain
Hemingway made one more short trip to Spain before he settled down to sort out the spoils of the war and rearrange them on paper creatively. He had foreseen the fall of the Republic for which lie blamed the corrupt and treacherous politicians. However, he was all praise for the courageous commanders and the volunteers in the International Brigades who had staked everything, they had any claim to, in the defence of the Republic. As a writer he was conscious of his duty to write of what he had seen in Spain, rising above propaganda and party politics, of human beings who had been affected by the war, of events and things impartially and realistically. He began writing For Whom the Bell Tolls early in March 1939.
Martha Marries Hemingway
He had gone to Cuba to write the novel where Martha joined him. Martha had come to stay with him in Cuba ; so she discovered “an old estate called Finca Vigia” fifteen miles outside Havana which she rented and renovated to make it comfortable for living and in which his romance and For Whom the Bell Tolls progressed satisfactorily. In December, he openly accepted his break-up with Pauline. The novel was finally completed in July 1940 but later he dropped out the last two chapters as he felt they were superfluous. Pauline divorced Hemingway on the grounds of desertion. The news reached Hemingway in early November and he married Martha the same month.
The Locale and the Characters
The main action of For Whom the Bell Tolls takes place in the Escorial region of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains. When Hotchner once asked Hemingway how much of For Whom the Bell Tolls had come from actual events, he replied :
                Not as much as you might think. There was the bridge that was blown, and I had seen that. The blowing of the train as described in the book was also a true event. And I used to slip through the enemy lines into Segovia, where I learned a lot about Fascist activity which I carried back to our command, But the people and events were invented out of my total knowledge, feeling and hopes. When Pilar remembers back to what happened in their village when the Fascists came, that’s Cuenca, and the details of the town are exact.
                All good books have one thing in common––they are truer than if they had really happened and after you’ve read one of them you will feel that all that happened, happened to you and then it belongs to you forever : the happiness and unhappiness, good and evil, ecstasy and sorrow, the food, the wine, beds, people and the weather. If you can give that to readers, than you’re a writer. That’s what I was trying to give them in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Baker, on the other hand, feels :
                Many of his friends appeared in the book, sometimes under their actual names, sometimes in thin disguised... Duran (the Loyalist Commander) appeared by name, as did Petra. Ernest’s chambermaid at the Hotel Florida. General Lucasz of the 12th International Brigade was described with loving precision. So was the Polish general Karol Swierczewski, known to his troops as General Walter, and in the novel as General Golz. Koltsov the journalist stalked through Gaylord’s under his fictional name of Karkov. Maria, the heroine, bore the name of the nurse whom Ernest had met at Mataro in the spring of 1938, although her physical characteristics, including the blonde hair ‘like a wheatfield in the wind’, were evidently designed as a secret tribute to Martha Gellhorn. Robert Jordan, the professor from Montana, owed at least something of the courageous figure of Major  Robert Merriman of the 15 th international Brigade, the one-time professor of economics from California. Like most of Ernest’s heroes, however, Jordan shared many of the personal characteristics and opinions of his creator. Jordan’s parents were clearly modelled on Dr. and Mrs. Hemingway. The elder Jordan had shot himself to death with a Smith and Wesson Civil War pistol. His son was made to reflect on his father’s cowardice (the, worst luck any man could have) and his mother’s: aggressiveness (because if he wasn’t a coward he woul d have stood up to that woman and not let her bully him). Ernest even gave Jordan one of his own most prominent traits-a ‘red, black, killing anger’ that spread scorn and contempt as widely and unjustly as a forest fire spreads ruin, only to die away and leave his mind as quiet and empty-calm as a man might be after sexual intercourse with a woman he does not love.
The Title
The title of the novel came from The Oxford Book of English Prose. In John Donne, he found a striking passage in which the Seventeenth-Century author had set down a little parable about thee interdependency of all human beings. Ernest saw with delight that the passage pointed up the theme of tragic loss and human solidarity which he had been developing in the story of Robert Jordan. It concluded with the statement : “Any-man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde ; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls ; it tolls for thee.”
Reaction to the Novel
When the novel was published it was extensively reviewed and quite favourably ; it had “the bracing quality of brandy” ; it was “the fullest, the deepest, and the truest” of Hemingway’s novels ; it was a “rare and beautiful” book containing “strength and brutality”, but also a “degree of delicacy” ; it revealed an adult Hemingway ; it set a new standard in characterization, dialogue, suspense, and compassion for the human being faced with death ; it was a moving and vivid story of human beings involved in war ; etc., etc. The leftwing, reviews were not complimentary, to say the least. They called Hemingway an unprincipled man who understood neither... democracy nor communism ; Hemingway had mutilated the cause for which so many brave men had fought and died ; he had misrepresented the attitude of Soviet Union towards the Republic ; he did not understand the relevance of the war in Spain to the world of the Nineteen-forties.
Fails to get the Pulitzer Prize
The popular success of the film made Hemingway happy and apparently at least he forgot his rancour and rage. The Advisory Board on Pulitzer Prizes unanimously recommended For Whom the Bell Tolls as the best novel written by an American in 1940, but the Chairman of the Board vetoed it. So in 1940 there was no Pulitzer prize for fiction. Hemingway learnt of it when he was in the Far East with Martha Gellhorn, celebrating his prolonged honeymoon ; he could not care less!
Mary Visits the Locale
During his visit to Spain in 1953, Hemingway was keen to show Mary his fourth wife, the country of For Whom the Bell Tolls. He took her to the imagined locale in the Sierra de Guadarrama where the guerrillas had their hideout. There they found a small stone bridge over a small mountain stream. All around there were granite rocks and pine forests. The bridge he pointed out, was not a replica of the iron-girder structure that Robert Jordan had blown up but he was glad that he had depicted the country successfully in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
A Mature Novel
For Whom the Bell Tolls is Hemingway’s most ambitious novel in which he tried to express his emotions for Spain, and all he had observed in that country for over fifteen years. This is his fourth book about Spain and it was not an easy task to express all he knew about Spain in a single book. It is not surprising that different readers have reacted to the book so differently and strongly ; perhaps all of them right, perhaps none is wholely true.

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