Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Adano (AH-dah-no). Fictional town on the southern coast of Sicily, based on the island’s real town of Licata, which was one of the initial landing points of the Allied Occupation of Italy in July, 1943. The fictional town physically mirrors the actual town as a seat of shipping and the sulfur industry, as a fishing port, and even in some of its place names. The town halls of both Adano and Licata are located in squares called “Piazza Progresso,” and the principal churches of both towns are called Church of Sant’Angelo. The novel takes its name from an incident that actually occurred after Italy’s Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, had the real town’s seven-hundred-year-old bell melted down so its metal could be used to make munitions. John Hersey’s fictional military governor, Major Victor Joppolo, is based on the actual American military governor of Licata during the American occupation.

A typical commercial port for its time and place, Adano has a population of about forty thousand people. It is large enough to contain thirteen churches and social strata ranging from rich industrialists and politicians, both honest and corrupt, to shopkeepers, poor working people, cart-drivers, and fishermen. However, it is small enough for every resident to know everyone’s loyalties, strengths, and weaknesses. The fictional town is at the mouth of the River Rosso, surrounded by hills and rocky promontories in an arid part of Sicily and depends on water carts to carry in drinking water—a fact upon which the plot of the novel revolves.

Palazzo di Citta

Palazzo di Citta. Adano’s city hall, where much of the important...

(The entire section is 692 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Hersey claimed that he wrote A Bell for Adano in three weeks after going to Sicily with the American army and watching military...

(The entire section is 236 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A Bell for Adano is a book written by a young war correspondent who has proven himself as a reporter and now wishes to extend his...

(The entire section is 600 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The effects of war on those who fight and on civilian populations as well was a concern of Hersey's from the beginning of his career. In...

(The entire section is 293 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A Bell for Adano is a first novel by a reporter and is as much a documentary account as it is a piece of fiction. Hersey the reporter...

(The entire section is 213 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A Bell for Adano was dramatized and became relatively successful as a Broadway play. In August 1945, Twentieth Century Fox released a...

(The entire section is 199 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bradbury, Malcolm. The Modern American Novel. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984. A helpful summary of twentieth century American fiction, which places A Bell for Adano in the mainstream of conventional realism and naturalism.

Gemme, Francis. John Hersey’s “A Bell for Adano,” “Hiroshima,” and Other Works: A Critical Commentary. New York: Monarch Press, 1966. A brief survey for beginning students. Good cursory treatment of Hersey’s works and an overview of the initial reception of his novels.

Huse, Nancy Lyman. John Hersey and James Agee: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1978. Extremely helpful compilation of materials for research. Includes reviews from the time of initial publication.

Sanders, David. John Hersey. New Haven, Conn.: College and University Press, 1967. Excellent overview of Hersey and his work; traces significant themes and beliefs. Good treatment of Hersey’s life, with critical attention to his literary output.

Sanders, David. John Hersey Revisited. Boston: Twayne, 1990. A competent survey of Her-sey’s life and works, updating the previous information on the critical estimate of Hersey and of A Bell for Adano. Also includes bibliography.