Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Robert Jordan, an American expatriate schoolteacher who has joined the Loyalist forces in Spain. Disillusioned with the world and dissatisfied with his own country, Jordan has come to Spain to fight and die, if necessary, for a cause he knows is vital and worthwhile: that of the native peasant free souls against the totalitarian cruelty of Francisco Franco and his Fascists. He is, however, aware of the contrast between his ideals and the realities he has found among narrow, self-important, selfish, bloodthirsty men capable of betrayal and cruelty as well as courage. He also finds love, devotion, generosity, and selflessness in the persons of Anselmo, Pilar, and especially Maria. The latter he loves with the first true selflessness of his life, and he wishes to avenge her cruel suffering and someday make her his wife in a land free of oppression and cruelty. With bravery, almost bravado, he carries out his mission of blowing up a bridge and remains behind to die with the sure knowledge that in Maria and Pilar his person and ideals will survive. Successful for the first time in his life, in love and war, he awaits death as an old friend.
Maria, a young and innocent Spanish girl cruelly ravaged by war and men’s brutality. Befriended by Pilar, a revolutionary, Maria finds a kind of security in the guerrilla band and love in her brief affair with Robert Jordan. As his common-law wife, almost all...
(The entire section is 775 words.)
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Robert Jordan is the main character and the central consciousness of the story, the apprentice hero who, for some readers, achieves wholeness, triumph over doubt and uncertainty, and, in the end, a clear moral victory. For others, Jordan is intellectually vague, self-absorbed, and an unconvincing hero. Clearly, Hemingway intended the former portrait, and hoped the reader would identify with Jordan's "ridding of self you had to do in war. Where there could be no self," as with his triumph over human aloneness in a community of resistance and the recognition that "with another person" (Maria) he "could be everything" and transcend time and death.
In his guerrilla camp in the mountains, Jordan is surrounded by exemplars who embody the Hemingway code of values and grace under pressure. The quiet dignity and courage of Anselmo, who performs his duty admirably but acknowledges the need to "be cleansed from the killing"; the strength, poise, and courage of El Sordo, even the gentleness and piety of the enemy, the fascist Lieutenant Berrendo — all illustrate exemplary behavior, since all are Spanish. The anti-exemplars of the piece by and large are the outsiders, those who in a cold and calculated fashion stand to gain in one way or another from the tragedy of the Spanish people: the Russian communists at Gaylord's in Madrid, the Italian and German fascists, and most other interlopers.
The richest character of all, the primary exemplar, is Pilar,...
(The entire section is 316 words.)
The characterization in For Whom the Bell Tolls differs from that of Hemingway’s shorter novels in that we get a more detailed insight into a greater number of characters. Nonetheless, as with the shorter pieces, it is the “code hero” at the center of the tale whom we come to know most intimately.
Robert Jordan is a Spanish teacher who has come to Spain during the civil war to help fight for the Republican cause. Like Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms, he is an outsider fighting in a foreign war, but, unlike Frederic, Jordan believes deeply in his cause, which he fights for because of his persona and political beliefs rather than for the chance of adventure. He is willing to repeatedly risk his life, welcoming the dangerous mission entrusted to him. This idealism and belief are, however, brought into question by the events which unfold in the novel.
Jordan is faced with two problems as he prepares for his mission—the feelings he develops towards Maria which threaten to distract him from the task at hand, and the number of obstacles to carrying out his task. He has a shortage of men and of time, the unseasonal weather creates difficulties, and Pablo continually opposes him to the point of stealing some of his explosives and equipment. Despite this, the task is carried out. Yet Robert Jordan does not feel the sense of victory he has felt after...
(The entire section is 1044 words.)
Before the Spanish Civil War Robert Jordan had been a college Spanish instructor with a deep love of Spain and its people. His liberal political leanings prompted him to join the Loyalists in their fight against the Fascists. Initially, he idealized the Loyalist cause and the character of its devotees, but as the novel begins, with Jordan embroiled in the realities of war, he experiences a profound disillusionment. He notes that his devotion to the cause had been almost like a religious experience, likening it to “the feeling you expected to have but did not have when you made your first communion.” That “purity of feeling,” however, soon dissipated. He has observed atrocities on both sides of the conflict and has been chided for his naivete and “slight political development.” At Gaylord’s Hotel in Madrid, where he heard the callousness of the Russian officers, he concluded that they could “corrupt very easily” but then wondered “was it corruption or was it merely that you lost the naivete that you started with?”
He has come to the realization that most of the people of Spain have, like him, become disillusioned about their noble cause and so are not as willing to sacrifice themselves to it. As a result, he no longer defines himself as a communist; now he insists instead that he is an “anti-fascist,” not a firm supporter of a cause but at least a dissenter to a movement he finds abhorrent.
His sense of duty compels...
(The entire section is 370 words.)
Jordan meets the young and beautiful Maria at Pablo’s hideout. She has been brutalized by the Fascists after they murdered her father, a Loyalist mayor. Fascist sympathizers shaved her head as punishment for her association with the enemy, and, as a result, she is tagged with the nickname “Rabbit,” which also suggests her timid demeanor. She gains strength, however, through her intense and short-lived love affair with Jordan.
Several critics, including Leslie Fiedler, have noted that Maria, like many of Hemingway’s women, lacks development. She appears in the novel as an idealized image of a devoted woman who enjoys extreme sexual pleasure in her relationship with the protagonist. She seems to exist in the novel as a tool to help reveal Jordan’s character and to provide him with a sense of meaning. By the end of the novel, he must decide between his love for her and his duty to his compatriots.
Maria’s immediate sexual attraction to Jordan seems unlikely given the sexual abuse she has repeatedly experienced at the hands of the Fascists. Yet her romantic insistence on staying with the injured Jordan at the end of the novel inspires readers’ sympathy.
(The entire section is 197 words.)
Pablo serves as a foil to Jordan. He is the leader of the central guerrilla band and Pilar’s husband. Prior to Jordan’s appearance, he had earned the group’s fearful respect. Yet, when Jordan challenges his authority and outlines the dangerous plan to blow up the bridge, Pablo’s cowardice and self-absorption emerge. He tries to cover his fear by insisting that the mission is too dangerous, claiming that the lives of his men would be put at risk and their headquarters would most likely be discovered, since it is close to the bridge. His men, however, determine that they will follow Jordan’s plan of action in an effort to ensure a Loyalist victory.
Pablo’s vicious battle with Jordan for supremacy over the group, coupled with the fear that he will endanger the mission, prompts the band to consider killing him, but Pablo escapes with the explosives before they can act. Pablo’s return to the group the next morning appears to be generated by his feelings of remorse over his actions; yet his primary motive may be his jealously over Maria’s love for Jordan. When he returns, he insists that he now wholeheartedly supports the mission.
Hemingway suggests that, like Jordan, Pablo has lost his idealism by witnessing the brutalities of war on both sides. His acknowledgment of these atrocities has weakened his resolve to fight for the cause and has made him fearful for his own safety. Yet, though Jordan also at some points in the story...
(The entire section is 392 words.)
Pilar is married to Pablo, the leader of the central guerrilla band. Unlike many of Hemingway’s other women, Pilar is a complex, strong woman who does not allow her husband to dominate her. When Pablo’s actions threaten to subvert their mission, Pilar promptly takes over as leader of the guerrillas. Hemingway suggests that Jordan could not have carried out his mission without her. She comes to represent in the novel the ideals and dedication of the Spanish Loyalists.
She also helps engineer Jordan and Maria’s relationship, giving her as a gift to him. Pilar tells Maria that she supports and encourages her union with Jordan but admits that their relationship will make her jealous. Pilar insists that she is “no tortillera (lesbian) but a woman made for men”: “I do not make perversions,” she claims, yet she refuses to explain her jealousy.
Michael Reynolds, in his article “Ringing the Changes: Hemingway’s ‘Bell’ Tolls Fifty,” writes that this scene, more than any other, reveals her complexity. Hemingway, he notes, “who would become increasingly fascinated with such triangles, realized the androgynous side of men and women earlier than most have given him credit.” Pilar has insisted elsewhere, “I would have made a good man, but I am all woman and ugly. Yet many men have loved me and I have loved many men.” However, as Reynolds notes, Hemingway has characterized her as androgynous, juxtaposing her insistence...
(The entire section is 376 words.)
Anselmo is an elderly member of Pablo’s band. Anselmo lacks education but reveals a moral and compassionate nature. He supplies the human element to the struggle that Jordan and Pablo so often ignore, as he embodies the Loyalist ideals to which the two men had originally devoted their lives. Each time he witnesses or participates in a killing, the event profoundly troubles him. He is killed as he helps Jordan blow up the bridge.
General Golz is one of the Russians who have been sent to help the Loyalist army. He oversees the upcoming planned attack against the Fascists.
El Sordo is the leader of a neighboring guerrilla band. Jordan asks him and his men to join Pablo’s band to help blow up the bridge.
(The entire section is 132 words.)