For Whom the Bell Tolls

The Disillusionment of Hemingway with War

Hemingway uses certain repetitive themes and ideas in his book, For Whom the Bell Tolls, which relate to the grander dogma that he is trying to teach. By using these reoccurring ideas, he is able to make clear his views on certain issues and make the reader understand his thoughts. The most notable of this reoccurring theme is that of war. Hemingway uses the war concept as paradoxical irony in this book, to tell the reader what the thinks about war. It is even more interesting to note that rather than this theme being derived from this war theme, the book is derived from this main theme.
Hemingway emphasized the fallacy of war by discussing how there are no real winners in war, that war is equal. What goes around comes around. That whereas one man may kill another, another man will come to kill the first man and so on, in a never-ending cycle of stupidity and futility. The setting of this book can be analyzed here; the Spanish Civil War in the 1920-30 time period is the setting for the book, on the battlefields in the Spanish countryside. The whole fascist/communist aspect is brought up since both sides are against one another. Here again, Hemingway doesn?t idealize either side, not referring to their political beliefs but to the fact that each side is very much the same. Both sides consist of sad, depressed fools who have been shipped off to war, content to live in peace and harmony with each other. It is here that Hemingway?s first satirical punch at war comes in, when he makes it clear that both sides are human, with no clear line separating the saints from the sinners.
Another thing that is connected to the war concept is that both sides are hopelessly disillusioned. A victory for any army is not truly a victory if it involves the loss of human life, and Hemingway seems to imply this as he pokes fun at the ongoings of the war. Atrocities are committed by otherwise compassionate, peaceful people since they are forced to do so by their respective sides. The author also satirizes the "illusion" that people have of war being glorious, heroic, etc., saying that even a victory is a defeat since so many lie dead in an effort to get that victory. He says that war is not all that, that war is in fact legalized murder, that has no place in human life.
The last profound relation of war in the book is the theme of equality, that what goes around comes around. Hemingway shows the never ending Hinduism like circle of war, wherein people fight, die, fight, die and after many such pointless revolutions, there is some escape. What one side does to the other, is always returned. The balance of things must be maintained, and the same holds true for war. The best example of this is with Lieutenant Berrendo, who kills Sordo. Yet later on, Robert Jordan kills Berrendo, showing the circle of equality. It is here that Hemingway makes his most profound theme known; given that if war is equal (one man kills another only to be killed, etc.), then war itself is nothing but a farce, something like people taking turns killing one another. The sheer irony is used by Hemingway even at the bridge attack scene, when the protagonist guerillas attack the bridge and kill many of the fascists, only to lose many of their own. Another irony is the causes that both sides are fighting for, communism and fascism, both which are unfair and unequal ways of life. The use of Gaylords by Hemingway when Robert Jordan thinks about it idealizes it as a corrupt, debauch place? yet ironically this is the unofficial communist headquarters and place of socializing during the war. In fact, communism holds people to be equal and have equal things, yet Gaylords is anything but that, serving them with the best delicacies possbile.
Ernest Hemingway uses many reoccurring themes throughout his book, For Whom The Bell Tolls, as if to emphasize a grander point. One such theme is the concept of war, and how it encompasses the plot, storyline, characters, setting, and much more. He talks about the equality of war, that one side does to