Study Guide

A Bell for Adano

by John Hersey

A Bell for Adano Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

When the U.S. Army invades Sicily, Major Victor Joppolo is placed in command of Adano. He sets up his office in the city hall, rehires the janitor, and investigates the records left by the Fascist mayor, who has fled to the hills. Soon after his arrival, Major Joppolo summons the leading citizens of the town and asks them, through Giuseppe, his interpreter, what they consider the most important thing to be done. Some answer that the shortage of food is the most pressing problem. Others insist that what the town needs most is its bell, which was removed by the Fascists. The bell, it seems, had a soothing tone and it regulated the lives of Adano’s residents. The major promises every effort to recover the bell. Meanwhile, the problem is to obtain food and to have produce brought into the town. In order that his directives will be understood and carried out, the major issues proclamations that the town crier, after being silent for so long, hastens to shout in the village.

On Sunday morning, when the major attends mass at one of the churches, he notices a blond girl sitting in front of him. When he later asks Giuseppe about her, the interpreter assumes that the American’s interest has nothing to do with official business. Major Joppolo’s primary interest, however, is the girl’s father, Tomasino, owner of a fishing fleet. He has Giuseppe ask Tomasino to come to see him, but Tomasino, distrustful of authority, refuses to come to the headquarters. The major therefore goes to Tomasino, followed by practically all the townspeople. The old Italian is defiant, sure that the major comes to arrest him. Major Joppolo finally convinces him that he means neither to arrest him nor to ask for a cut in the proceeds from the sale of the fish but rather wants him to go out with his fishing fleet, despite the danger of mines.

The major and his policies are the subject of much discussion among the people. The Fascist mayor provides a great deal of amusement because he comes out of hiding and is paroled into Sergeant Borth’s custody. Every morning, the mayor goes to Sergeant Borth and publicly confesses a Fascist sin. Giuseppe is astonished to discover that the major means what he says when he tells him to report for work...

(The entire section is 912 words.)