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Hemingway borrowed the title for his novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, from John Donne's Meditation XVII ("For Whom the Bell Tolls"). John Donne, a metaphysical poet who died in 1671, penned the original "For Whom the Bell Tolls" which concerns the metaphor of the tolling bell signalling the death of yet another human life. In this piece, Donne explicates just how humans are bound as one: "All mankind is of one author, and is one volume." Donne cleverly uses the book metaphor to represent mankind as one book. Hemingway uses the same implied reference in his novel concerning war. During times of war, crisis, mankind becomes one. A relevant thought for today as you consider the events of 9/11. Donne goes on to say the "bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth." Again, if one believes the bell (death) is beckoning, from that moment on, that person is part of a bigger plan, joined to the universe. In the case of the war in Hemingway's work, once a soldier is on the verge of death, he is forever changed. Robert Jordan, the American Hemingway hero, comtemplates death, stares it in the face, and he is forever changed. Lastly, Donne's Meditation XVII states: "No man is an island." Therefore, we have justification for Jordan, an American, fighting in the Spanish Civil War. No man, no matter the race or religion,is isolated; all of us are a part of mankind.
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