Thursday, December 16, 2010

Robert Jordon-a Tragic Hero/ Discuss the tragedy of Robert Jordon and how his cause leads to his tragedy.

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 coloring and the hero becomes a tragic hero.
For Aristotle, a tragic hero is an intermediate person whose tragedy comes as a result of his Hamartia and leads to Catharsis (emotions of pity and fear). We can judge Robert Jordon by Aristotelian standards but Jordon is a different tragic hero and has far more contours to his character than Aristotle’s theory can afford. What marks his character significant and unique are his high ideals for the cause for the Republic and his sacrifice as William T. Moynihan says that:

“Robert Jordon willingly takes up his heavy yoke for the sake of the cause”

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. 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. 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. Even Jordan’s falling in love with Maria is a potential threat to the success of his mission but he “did not care” and fared well as a hero despite Pablo’s treachery and El Sardo’s death. Hemingway makes Jordan into a very convincing figure. Jordan fights against many abstractions––liberty, equality, rights of the people and democracy. 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. His endeavour all along’ has been to stick to realities which are concrete enough. He begins with a discipline, that an individual must do his job well. He wants to live up to the ideal set by his grandfather. As William T. Moynihan has said:

“He dies for the American dream”

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 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.  To Aristotle, Hamartia a key to the tragic hero and tracing hamartia in Jordon’s character will lead us to his conflict of suicide. He dies as a tragic hero, but his death is more to psychotically conflicts. He welcomes death, but to avoid possible suicide in life. He couldn’t conquer his fear of suicide and so he was a learning character and not perfect. 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”

His death and sacrifice raise certain questions. Is his sacrifice moral or ritual? Jordon has his own morality. An accepted assumption about morality is that it is rooted in something outside oneself: in God, mankind, country or even family. True morality does not reside in one single act but is comprehensive enough to cover an individual’s entire conduct while ritual is artificial, contrived and is more aesthetic. We see that Jordon wants to live and death is no important while he could save himself. Hemingway specifically shows that Jordan’s death is to be a waste, that it does not contribute substantially to the cause His encounter with death has become almost wholly a ritual action. The emphasis all the time is on correct acting and correct dying. He is so dispassionate about his death and must attain ritual correctness:

“You follow orders. Follow them and do not think beyond them”

Jordon with his strengths and weaknesses is a tragic hero who dies for a cause and finally his death evokes feelings of pity and fear. Although, he is an intermediate person, as Aristotle would have it, he transcends intermediacy and attains the supremacy due to his acts. Even his fear of suicide makes him noble due to his sacrifice.  Jordon believes that the death of Fascists or Republicans is the same in human terms because the death of one diminishes the other. By depicting concrete situations, Hemingway gives credence to Jordan’s beliefs and his death. Hemingway first creates skepticism around Jordan, and then scatters this mist to let Jordan stand beside other tragic character. This technique makes him more tragic.

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