For Whom the Bell Tolls

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For Whom the Bell Tolls is a novel by Ernest Hemingway published in 1940. It tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to a republican guerilla unit during the Spanish Civil War. As an expert in the use of explosives, he is assigned to blow up a bridge during an attack on the city of Segovia. This novel is widely regarded to be among Hemingway's greatest works, along with The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea, and A Farewell to Arms.[1]


Origin of book title

The title of the book quotes John Donne's Meditation no. 17 from "Devotions upon Emergent Occasions" (1624): "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Plot summary

This novel is told primarily through the thoughts and experiences of Robert Jordan, a character inspired by Hemingway's own experiences in the Spanish Civil War. Robert Jordan is an American who travels to Spain to oppose the nationalist forces of Francisco Franco.

A superior has ordered him to travel behind enemy lines and destroy a bridge, using the aid of a group of guerrillas who have been living in the mountains nearby. In their camp, Robert Jordan encounters María, a young Spanish native whose life has been shattered by the outbreak of the war. His strong sense of duty clashes with both Republican partisan leader Pablo's fear and unwillingness to commit to a covert operation that would have repercussions, and his own joie de vivre that is kindled by his newfound love for María.

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