Hemingway’s writing style
For Whom the Bell Tolls portrays typical Hemingway characters and addresses the problems of machismo and the womanizer. In this novel, as in many of his other works, Hemingway employs extensive use of what is known as the Hemingway Code. Numerous influences from various people and events in his personal life also had an effect on his writing.
Many people think that there has been no American writer like Ernest Hemingway. A member of the “lost generation” of World War I, Hemingway was in many ways its best character. Whether as his childhood nickname of “Champ” or as the older “Pope,” Ernest Hemingway became a legend in his own life. Although the drama and romance of his life sometimes seem to overshadow the quality of his work, Hemingway was first and foremost a literary scholar, writer, and book reader. This is often overlooked among all the conversations about his safaris and hunting trips, adventures with bullfighting, fishing and warfare. Hemingway liked being famous and he loved being the center of public attention. However, Hemingway considered himself an artist and did not want to be famous for the wrong reasons.
Hemingway was born in the quiet town of Oak Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, on July 21, 1899. His father was a physician and Ernest was the second of six children of Dr. and Mrs. Clarence E. Hemingway. His mother, a devout and religious woman with considerable musical talent, expected her son to develop an interest in music. Instead, Ernest acquired his father’s enthusiasm for guns and fishing trips in the northern Michigan forests (Lynn 63).
Almost from the beginning of his writing career, Hemingway employed a distinctive style that generated comments from many critics. Hemingway does not give way to an extensive geographical and psychological description. His style has been said to lack substance because it avoids direct statements and descriptions of emotions. Basically his style is simple, direct and somewhat straightforward. He developed a forceful prose style characterized by simple sentences and few adverbs or adjectives. He wrote a concise and vivid dialogue and an accurate description of places and things. Critic Harry Levin noted the weakness of syntax and diction in Hemingway’s writing, but was quick to praise his ability to convey action (Rovit 47).
Hemingway spent the early part of his career as a journalist. In 1937, he traveled to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance. After a few months in Spain, Hemingway announced his plan to write a book with the Spanish Civil War as the background. The result was For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Most of his early novels were narrated in the first person and locked within a single point of view, yet when Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, he used several different narrative techniques. He employed the use of internal monologues (where the reader is in the “mind” of a particular character), objective descriptions, rapid changes of point of view, and generally a more flexible structure than in his previous works. Hemingway believed that “a writer’s style should be direct and personal, his images rich and earthy, and his words simple and vigorous. The best writers have the gift of brevity, they are hard-working, diligent scholars, and competent stylists (Magill 1287). .
For Whom the Bell Tolls is Hemingway’s most serious and politically motivated novel. There are few comic or light episodes in the entire book. For Whom the Bell Tolls is an attempt to present in depth a country and people that Hemingway loved very much. It was an effort to honestly deal with a very complex war that was made even more complex by the beliefs it inspired (Gurko 127).
Common in almost all of Hemingway’s novels is the concept of Hemingway’s hero, sometimes known as the “hero of the code.” When Hemingway’s novels were first published, they were readily accepted by the public. Part of this acceptance was due to the fact that Hemingway had created a character whose response to life strongly appealed to those who read his works. The reader saw in Hemingway’s hero a person with whom he could identify almost in the sense of a dream. Hemmingway’s hero was a man. He went from one love story to another, participated in hunting wild animals, enjoyed bullfighting, drank insatiably, engaged in all so-called manly activities that the typical American male did not participate in (Rovit 56).
Hemingway’s involvement in the war instilled in him deeply held political views. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a study of the individual involved in what was once a politically motivated war. But this novel differs greatly from Hemingway’s earlier portrait of the individual hero in the world. In this book, the hero accepts the people around him, not just a select few of the distinguished, but the entire community. The organization of this community expresses itself eloquently in the quote from one of the poet John Donne’s sermons on the death of a close friend. This is the quote from which the book takes its title:
No man is an island, in himself, each man is a piece of the continent, a part of the kingdom, if a clod bee carried by the sea, Europe is less, as if a promontorie were, as well as if it were a Mannor of your friends or yours; the death of any man diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore, never send to find out for whom the bell tolls; It sounds for you.
Therefore, although the hero retains the qualities of Hemingway’s Code, he has been built by his unity with humanity. In the end, he finds the world to be a “good place”, “worth fighting for” (Curly 795). In his personal confrontation with death, Robert Jordan realizes that there is a greater cause that a man can choose to serve. In this way he differs from Hemingway’s previous hero. The insistence that the action and its form be placed solely on one individual remains, along with the need for the character to master that action. However, this theme is no longer a single matador against a single bull, or an individual character against his entire environment. The person is the “instrument of humanity” against the horrors of war. The political issues in this book, therefore, are presented not as a “contrast of black and white, but in the shadowy tones of reality” (Magill 491).
While Jordan is the epitome of the hero in his actions, he is also in command of himself and his circumstances to a much greater degree than previous Hemingway heroes; he is driven to face reality by deep emotional needs. Jordan’s impulses in the novel appear to be a direct reflection of Hemingway himself, for Hemingway had also been deeply affected by his own father’s suicide (Kunitz 561). Ironically, suicide as an escape from reality is a violation of Hemingway’s own code. The doubt and fear that such an act provokes in the children of a person who commits suicide is a well-known psychological result. Perhaps that is why the pain of their fears makes Hemingway’s heroes avoid “thinking” at all costs. Because “thinking” too much can prevent a person from reacting. And without something to react to, the hero must face his inner fears (Magill 474). Death is also used by Hemingway at the end of the novel to resolve the dramatic conflicts that the story establishes. The theme of death is observed in other parts of the book as well, such as when the characters express concern about dying during the attack on the bridge. As in other works after his father’s suicide, Hemingway confronts his characters with death. He admires those who face death with courage and without expressing emotion. For Hemingway, a man does not truly live life until he personally analyzes the meaning of death (Brooks 323).
In contrast to Hemingway’s heroes, there are his female characters. Hemingway’s approach to women in his works is particularly masculine. They are seen and valued in relation to the men in their stories to the extent that they are absolutely feminine. Hemingway does not enter their inner world except when this world is related to the men with whom they are involved. The reader comes to see them as objects of love or as anti-love figures (Whitlock 231). Part of the reason Hemingway had this opinion of women was the way he viewed his mother. He believed his mother was a manipulator and blamed her in part for his father’s suicide. “The qualities he considered admirable in a man – ambition and independent point of view, defiance of his supremacy – became threatening in a woman” (Kert 103).
Hemingway’s heroines almost always personify the physical appearance of the ideal woman in their beauty. But in her personality they appear as two types: the “every woman” who gives herself completely to the hero and the “femme fatale” who holds herself back and prevents the hero from possessing her completely. The “every woman” is acceptable from Hemingway’s point of view because she submits to the hero. She wants no life other than his. By succumbing to the hero, she allows him to dominate her and assert his manhood. The “femme fatale” is usually a more complex character than the “all woman” (Lynn 98). While she may or may not be unpleasant, she does not submit to the hero and hurts him and all the men around her mainly because they cannot handle her and therefore cannot assert their manhood through her. But despite Hemmingway’s interpretation of women, he generally puts them in the same basic category as men. The heroine, like the hero, obeys the “Hemmingway Code.” She sees life for what it is even when she yearns for something more. She is basically brave in life, chooses reality over thought, and faces death stoically. In practically all cases, some tragic event has already occurred in his life – the loss of a lover, violence – that has given him the strength to face life in this way (Lynn 102).
For those who tolled the bell “it is a living example of how, in modern times, the epic quality must be projected” (Baker 132). Heroic action is an epic quality, and For Whom the Bell Tolls contains this element. The setting is simple and the emphasis is on the basic virtues of simple people. The men involved in the conflict are willing to sacrifice their lives; they are exceptional for their acts of daring and heroism (Baker 94).
Behind the conception of this idea of the hero lies the disillusionment of the American public, the disillusionment caused by the First World War. The impressionable man realized that old ideas and beliefs rooted in religion and ethics had not helped save man from the catastrophe of World War I. As a result, after the war came to an end, Hemingway and other writers began to search for a new value system, a value system that would replace old attitudes that they thought were useless. The writers who embraced these new beliefs became known as the “lost generation.”
The “lost generation” was a name instituted by Gertrude Stein and meant the postwar generation and the literary movement produced by the young writers of the time (Unger 654). His writing reflected his belief that “the only reality was that life is hard” (Bryfonski 1874).
Much has been written about Ernest Hemingway’s distinctive style. Since he began writing in the 1920s, he has been the subject of high praise and at times savage criticism. It has not been ignored.
Explaining Hemingway’s style in a few paragraphs in a way that satisfies those who have read his articles and books is almost impossible. It is a simple, simple and modest style. Hemingway’s prose is unadorned because he refrained from using adjectives as much as possible. He tells a story in the form of direct journalism, but because he is a master at conveying emotions without embellishing them, the product is even more enjoyable.