On the question of morality, Hemingway specialists are divided. into two well-defined camps. One school believes that Hemingway’s honest and uncompromising standards of thinking and acting contain all that matters about morality in the modern world ; others dismiss his ideas of right and wrong as crude, neurotic, and intellectually stunted. There is little hope of reconciling these views but the fact remains that Hemingway’s works reflect a deep concern with the questions of right and wrong. It is also true that he did not spell out very clearly his concepts of moral right and wrong because for him the ‘what’ got transformed into ‘how’. His concern for the observance of ritual overshadowed his morality.
Definition of Morality
He defined morality in Death in the Afternoon : “I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” His writing is pervaded by an ironic tone associated with moral austerity. Honesty, integrity, honour and truth without having been defined carry strong emotions with them. He, as is well known, shied away from abstractions, while he has lavished enormous care on details of how certain acts are to be performed.
Morality Rooted in Something Outside Oneself
An accepted assumption about morality is that it is rooted in something outside oneself-say in God, mankind, country or even family. Obligations to these are not arbitrary, and they are of a fundamental nature. True morality does not reside in one single act but is comprehensive enough to cover an individual’s entire conduct.
From the point of view of a strict moralist, ritual is artificial, contrived and even whimsical. Ritual is a kind of game and a serious game. It creates its own occasions, its own setting in which to act. But it has its own morality, or rather its own aesthetic. In an important sense, it is an art to be judged in aesthetic terms. It has been rightly called “a disciplined rehearsal of right attitudes.” A prescribed series of gestures mechanically symbolize one’s feelings about ultimate things. The emphasis in ritual is on the performance of a preconceived drama which has its own meaning. Morality adapts itself to the occasion ; the form of ritual is fixed. The meaning of ritual is in the action itself.
came to Jordan with a view to fighting against Fascism he was a naive person. He accepted communism and felt like a religious convert. In his own words Spain
It gave you a part in something that you could believe in wholly and completely and in which you felt an absolute brotherhood with the others who were engaged in it. It was something that you had never known before but that you had experienced now and you gave such importance to it and the reasons for it that your own death seemed of complete unimportance, only a thing to be avoided because it would interfere with the performance of your duty.
Realities of War Destroy That Faith
The Need to Suppress Thinking
Under these circumstances, it is clear why
suppresses all thoughts. He understands the role of the communists in Jordan but to take his thinking to its logical conclusion implies that he must give up his activities. He knows who the peasant commanders in reality are, but he continues to work with them. He understands Pablo’s intentions wren he brings those five guerrillas with their horses to help Spain , bat he keeps his mouth shut. He terms his insoluble problems discipline and goes on functioning because lie has a bridge to blow up. It is the grand ritual to which he sacrifices truth and other moral values. Jordan
Blowing up the Bridge : A Ritual
The destruction of the bridge becomes his supreme goal even when he knows that it is futile to destroy it. Fernando learns in
that Fascists know of the Republican attack and El Sardo confirms it. But Segovia persists. El Sardo’s death makes the task all the more difficult and yet his determination to blow up the bridge is unshaken. Pablo steals his exploding device and detonators, but Jordan has other alternatives. Since Jordan Agincourt, he has found fault with others’ battles, therefore he wants to fight his own so that it is fought the right way-ritualistically. And all along his pretext is that he is following Golz’s orders.
Death : A Ritual Too
Finally, when he has to face death, the earlier feeling of the brotherhood of mankind is no longer there. Death is no longer unimportant for he wants to live. Hemingway specifically shows that
’s death is to be a waste, that it does not contribute substantially to the cause because the attack of which it is a part is doomed to failure by bad communications. And Jordan is aware of the waste, and that by blowing up the bridge and sacrificing himself no useful purpose will be served. In fact, he is prepared to sacrifice the guerrillas with whom he has established strong ties of loyalty, friendship and love. His courageous encounter with death, when it finally happens, has become almost wholly a ritual action. The emphasis all the time is on correct acting and correct dying. He must attain ritual correctness. “You follow orders. Follow them and do not think beyond them.” His last battle and death are “a festival” for him ; he has become so dispassionate about his own death. Jordan
An Aesthetic Experience
In the last scene
is no different than Romero in the bull-ring who must give a. perfect, demonstration. The odds do not matter ; his performance will be appreciated by a few aficianados. There are no moral questions left, or at least they are so oversimplified that at they do not matter. The beauty of the act lies in its correctness. The audience plays up the aesthetic character of the performance, and also links up with the fact that primitive ritual is almost always public and tribal ; calling for some sense of community. The ritual fails to effect moral good in the last analysis Hemingway does not seem to have distinguished clearly between ritual and morality. Jordan