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Ernest Hemingway’s for Whom the Bell Tolls Essay

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Ernest Hemingway is one of the critically acclaimed fiction writers of his time, because of the novels that he wrote which both captivated the readers and at the same time triggered different responses from critics and literary analysts. His works were admired, and the writer given the respect due to him because of the impact he and his works have made in the field of literature. But like the experience of many other great writers, there are also those who do not regard Hemingway’s works with the same level of admiration and fervor.

As Shuman wrote, “Although For whom the Bell Tolls was the unanimous choice of the panel for the Pulitzer Prize in letter in 1941, the chair overturned the recommendation on the grounds that it was too controversial. No Pulitzer Prize for fiction was awarded that year (Shuman 676).” But regardless of this fact, Hemingway’s works have the many different characteristics that made it more than a great read, and one of the most important characteristic of his works is how culture is reflected in his works and how his works are evidently influenced by the existing culture which contributed in the shaping of the story as it happened in the novel. One of Hemingway’s works that reflect this characteristic is his widely popular work For Whom the Bell Tolls.

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How this text influenced culture positively and/or negatively – One of the most obvious impacts of the novel to the culture is the addition of a new masterpiece which literary analysts, critics and historians will reference and refer to for years to come. The novel attacked and complimented Spain and its culture during the time of the life of the characters present there, and because the novel is close to real life where there is a conscious effort to make the story closely akin to Spain, the Spanish lifestyle and other cultures found in the country during the particular time set, readers especially of Spanish decent may find it easy to relate to the novel.

So do other people who can relate to the different challenges that is found in the novel that features cultural traits that is never dying and never fading – struggle, victory, defeat, honesty, love, betrayal, patriotism, anger and sadness, all of which found in a novel that moves around in a very short yet scattered period of time which was long enough to deliver the message it intends to send to the readers. “The novel’s action covers only three days, but flashbacks and digression give it a broader scope. In fact, this novel might be called an epic of modern Spain, and it is surely Hemingway’s love song to the Spanish people (Shuman 676).”

Another impact of the novel on the culture is that Hemingway managed to add to the many different tools by which the Spanish people can understand themselves by reviewing their past and the struggles that the people of the old Spain underwent. “Hemingway’s view of the Spanish, as of all the nationalities and ethnic groups he wrote about, was never blindly complimentary (Shuman 676).” Hemingway’s novel serves as a time machine for people who want to go back during the time of the Spanish Civil War and get a glimpse of the life that was there during that time – without the literature of the likes of Hemingway and his novel, it maybe a tad difficult to do so.

Through this literary work of Hemingway, Spain and the rest of the world now has frozen an imagination of a real past, and everyone who wishes the journey can return to Robert Jordan and Maria, return the bombs and atrocities of the Spanish Civil War, return to the personal dilemma that every character faced especially in the face of grave, serious and long lasting consequences. This novel can provide a stable leg from which literary and historical analysis can be made particularly with reference to the different levels and spheres of challenges found amongst the Spanish population at the height and extent of the Spanish Civil War.

The contribution of Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” to the society and how the work affected the culture that absorbed it can also be seen in the manner by which the novel acted as an important linchpin in many different literary and historical discussions. Critics and analyst debate and expand different areas of argument involved in the complex subject of the Spanish Civil War, largely because of the contribution of the novel on its literary merit and how it puts color in a very important part of the Spanish history. Hemingway wrote something that will be considered important and significant both by his contemporaries and those who will come before him, and many intellectuals will wonder and argue about the characteristics of the author and the novel and how it ultimately impacted the Spanish culture and the literary world in general.

As Kurzweil and Philips wrote, “Mr. Wilson describes Hemingway’s political consciousness as ‘not so highly developed’ as it is with a writer like Malraux (Kurzweil and Philips 140),” an opinion stemming from the analysis of political consciousness, partisan journalism and the differences in the ability of Hemingway and his contemporaries based on the review of a particular work, in Hemingway’s case For Whom the Bell Tolls. “Of course, posing the alternative in these terms, one must agree that For Whom the Bell Tolls is vastly preferable to the ‘partisan journalism’ of The Fifth Column. But there is another alternative, namely the treatment of revolutionary struggle as Malraux and Silone have treated it in their novels, on the level of political consciousness (Kurzweil, Philips 140).”

The release of this particular work of Hemingway to the consciousness of the people and the inclusion of this material in the overall culture starting the time it was made available to the public affected culture in a way that it allowed students of different disciplines to have another perspective at looking things and to reference another person and another different approach based largely on the how Hemingway and his work is in itself something that stands out from the rest of the field because of its characteristics that is inherent to the author, his style and his outputs. Hemingway’s work provided a new dimension in the world of literary writing, something that other persons can learn from and develop.

The effect of the text on the culture indeed was very noticeable, if not high impact. The effect generally rests on the emotive and intellectual spheres of individuals and ripples out through the actions that they take after they are affected by what they read. If the novel altered their behavior and their behavior altered culture, then it is safe to say that the novel indeed impacted culture as culture impacted the writing of the novel vice versa. There are realizations that the readers experience, realization that can perhaps lead to a change in behavior and trigger a change in a particular aspect of the culture.

Take for example the realization that readers may experience according to Ferrer, Manuel and Derrick. Through the analysis of the character(s) in the novel, readers are moved towards a realistic realization that can be potent enough to trigger cultural change through newfound cultural enlightenment. Ferrer, Manuel and Derrick wrote, “For Whom the Bell Tolls suggest that the Spanish Civil War endangers Spain’s entire heritage, so Hemmingway refers to the ancient Phoenician and Greek civilizations that colonized Spain. At one point in the novel, Jordan thinks of the ‘old Iberians’ (Ferrer, Manuel and Derrick 287).” Hemingway makes the direct correlation between Robert Jordan’s last name the Jordan River… “Just as the Jordan River separates the Hebrews from the Promised Land, Robert Jordan’s demolition of the bridge is designed to protect the ideological promised land of the Spanish Republic (Ferrer, Manuel and Derrick 262).”

There were other effects to the culture, like how the work may alter the perception of the people outside Spain and outside that time frame of the particular culture being represented, not knowing which is true and which is inaccurate, since “criticisms of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls for the last fifty years has been dominated by charges that the writer falsified fact and ignored truths (San Juan 91).”

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