Saturday, October 9, 2010

Discuss Robert Jordan as a tragic hero.

The Tragic Hero
A tragic hero in a play or novel is one who achieves greatness at the cost- of self. Obviously, the goal that the hero sets out to achieve cannot be a selfish goal, especially if the story ends in the death of the hero. The higher the goal, the more difficult must its realization be. If in addition to the nobility of the goal it is also for the good of the public, the story acquires a deeper tragic colouring. The hero becomes a tragic hero.

Jordan’s Ideal
Robert Jordan is one such character. He is fighting for an ideal, and in a foreign land. He is committed to the Republican cause because he loves Spain, and if the Fascists come to power in Spain, it will not remain the same country that he loves. More than that he believes that liberty diminished at one place means some liberty lost everywhere. With all its flaws, a Republican form of government is better than a totalitarian state because the individual feels cramped and suffocated in a totalitarian state. However, his idealism is not naive.
Structure of the Novel
The basic structure of the novel consists of a series of tests or obstacles in the path of the hero. It is designed to test the quality of his idealism. As the narrative progresses, the task becomes more and more difficult. The seriousness of Jordan’s goal saves it from degenerating into a force. In fact, it is hinted at throughout the novel that Jordan is going to die at the end. General Golz knew what his assignment implied ; so did Pilar when she saw his hand. Pablo’s hostility is rooted in his realization that Jordan’s plan means destruction of the band. Nor is Jordan blind to the risk involved in his determination to blow up the bridge at the appointed time but since he considers his ideal higher than himself, his life is of no consequence. At the outset we learn that Jordan “did not give any importance to what happened to himself.” The novel is a dramatization of Jordan’s ability to overcome all the obstacles until he achieves his objective.
Jordan’s Obstacles
General Golz had warned Jordan that it would be a difficult assignment but he gave a promise that the bridge would be destroyed at the precise time. Pablo makes no bones about his hostility to .Jordan’s plan, and the latter accepts it as a necessary condition. However, Jordan is lucky because Pablo’s hostility is balanced by Pilar’s allegiance. Jordan’s falling in love with Maria is a potential threat to the success of his mission but he “did not care”. He keeps the two roles––that of lover and that of a dynamiter––apart, though towards the end they merge into each other. Jordan is worried by the news brought by Fernando, and later confirmed by El Sardo. The fact that the Fascists have learnt of Golz’s attack makes Jordan think whether the plan should be executed at all. His inability to peep the purity of his resolve is another threat to his mission.
Later, when the Fascist cavalrymen penetrate into their camp, the desire to kill in Agustin poses a serious challenge to Jordan’s resolve but he restrains him. His admiration for and others’ loyalty to El Sardo are strong enough motivation to abandon his plan and go to El Sardo’s help. He remains cool enough to preserve himself and the band for the next day. He sacrifices human values, ironically, for his political commitment is meant to preserve those very values that he has sacrificed_ Pablo’s desertion is the last temptation that he bushes aside; he will attack the bridge without Pablo.
Jordan is Made Convincing
The danger inherent in portraying such a hero is that he may become a plaster figure, a sort of dummy, but Hemingway makes Jordan into a very convincing figure. Jordan fights against many abstractions––liberty, equality, rights of the people, democracy which seemed hollow to Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms––which could provide him with an easy escape from his skepticism. His endeavour all along’ has been to stick to realities which are concrete enough. He begins with _discipline, that is to say an individual must do his job well. He wants to live up to the ideal set before him by his grandfather. His love for Maria is concrete enough. He enshrines in him all the religious zeal of a Thomas Becket but he is fighting for a secular ideal. As William T. Moynihan has said : “He dies for the American dream”, for all the poor in the world. Although Jordan is fighting for an ideal, he is made very convincing by his weaknesses as a human being. He would like to live with Maria for a long, long time. He tells Pilar that he loves the good things of life, and he will die only if it is a necessity. He is persistently assailed by doubts regarding the worthwhileness of his sacrifice.
Other Devices to Make Jordan Convincing
Hemingway has used some other devices to make Jordan a convincing character. With the help of flash-backs Jordan is made aware of the sufferings of the Spanish people involved in a civil war. Pablo’s cruelties are matched by Joaquin’s story. He kills the cavalryman who comes to their camp but his letters make Jordan sad. Maria’s traumatic experiences become his own. He tells the truth about Kashkin’s death, although it is not good for the morale of the guerrillas. All these experiences link him up with all men in past and future who have tried to understand the human lot. Again, El Sardo’s death on the hill-top reminds him of all men who have fought on other hill-tops. His grandfather was a guerrilla in the American Civil War, as he is in the Spanish. One war is related to another war, one hero to another.
Maria’s Role
Maria is hard on his bigotry. “To be bigoted you, have to be absolutely sure that you are right and nothing makes that surety and righteousness like continence”, he reflects. From the very start he is in love with her ; and if he can be fallible how can the party be infallible ? Their love has a quality of innocence that is not present elsewhere in Hemingway. Jordan is completely overwhelmed and. swept off his feet by love like any human.
Pablo’s Role
Pablo’s desertion upsets Jordan but lie takes it in his stride. He knows all along that Pablo is capable of treachery, but when Pablo who had killed many men and is sad for his acts returns to aid him in his assignment his faith in the nobility of his cause receives a moral boost. Pablo’s return with five more guerrillas is a sort of miracle––for which he was not prepared at all. If a die-hard, like Pablo can participate in a mission as risky as this, and despite his continuous opposition to it, Jordan’s sacrifice becomes all the more convincing. It is possible that Jordan’s determination and courage bring about Pablo’s conversion, and elevate Jordan to the level of a tragic hero.
Jordan is Not Perfect
Jordan is not a perfect human being because he has much to learn. Karkov teaches him Marxist dialectic, and he is keen to learn. Anselmo is a true Christian, and its rises in Jordan’s estimation. His morality that it is a sin to kill human-beings is beyond Jordan, yet he is perceptive enough to be able to appreciate it. Pilar gives him the gift of Maria, and he learns to love, something that he had not thought possible before. Pilar’s discourse on the smell of death was beyond him but as Pilar says : “All right, Ingles. Learn. That’s the thing. Learn.”
The Oneness of Mankind,
Anselmo and Maria claim that they have had no religion since the beginning of the revolution, but in their moments of crisis both pray to the Virgin. Similarly, Joaquin switches his thoughts from the communist Pasionaria to Mary as he approaches death, uttering the same prayer which the Fascist Berrendo repeats. And Anselmo, while watching the sentry on the bridge, sees that he is a hum in being like, himself. The dead, whether they are Fascists or Republicans, are the same people––they are all Spanish. The death of one diminishes the other. By depicting concrete situations, Hemingway gives credence to Jordan’s beliefs, and his death. Hemingway first creates an aura of skepticism around Jordan, and then scatters this mist to let Jordan stand beside other tragic characters like Becket or Socrates. It is a rare achievement in modern literature.

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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