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The Role of Women

The basic aim of this project is to make an outcome of the novel called “For whom the bell tolls” written by Ernest Hemingway who was a legend of his own lifetime. I tried to answer and explain a specific question that is “what is the role of women in this novel of Ernest Hemingway”[1]. In this novel, typical Hemingway characters are portrayed and also womanizing and machoism is addressed[2].

Ernest Hemingway, the legendary writer of American literature, was born in 1899 in a prosperous, conformist Chicago suburb. His writing talent was recognized earlier in his life. He started to write in his high school’s literary magazine and student newspaper. After graduating from high school, he started his professional writing career as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. During World War I which affected his writings as it is noticeable, he worked for Red Cross as an ambulance driver. He was sent to Italy where he was injured and then sent to a hospital in Milan. There he fell in love with a nurse that made him write the well known novel “A Farewell to Arms”.

After the war, Hemingway started to work as a newspaper correspondent in Paris. There Gertrude Stein was his spiritual instructor who provided the inspiration for the character Pilar in “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, who serves as a mother figure for the protagonist, Robert Jordan.

As correspondent he traveled in Spain and became very interested in Spanish culture, especially in bullfighting which he considered as a tool to live fuller lives because it makes the people face the death[3]. This interest of his in Spanish culture and Spain made him create another masterpiece called “The Sun Also Rises” and a nonfiction work about bullfighting “Death in the Afternoon”.
His For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) takes place during the Spanish Civil War which ravaged the country throughout the late 1930s.[4] I will mention the details of this novel in the following pages.

Hemingway’s characters are somewhat different from other ones of different writers as it is explained here

“Hemingway’s novels are known for portraying a particular type of hero. Critic Philip Young famously termed this figure a ‘code hero’, a man who gracefully struggles against death and obliteration. Robert Jordan, the protagonist of For Whom the Bell Tolls, is a prime example of this kind of hero”. [5]

First of all, the novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was written as a result of the Spanish Civil War, and here is the short summary of it. Robert Jordan, who left the United States to enlist on the Republican side in the war, works with Spanish guerilla fighters. He is assigned to blow up a Fascist-controlled bridge as part of a larger Republican offensive by the Republican command. Anselmo, a peasant, guides him to the guerrilla camp the leader of which is Pablo who greets Robert with hostility and opposes the bridge operation. Robert meets Pilar who seems to be the real leader of the guerrilleros. A close relationship quickly develops between Robert Jordan and Pilar who is the main woman character in the novel. The camp also shelters a young woman named Maria who was raped not long before. Robert and Maria are drawn to each other immediately. They profess love to each other and after that day they made love almost every day despite the war and Jordan’s dangerous task. At the end of the novel Robert Jordan is killed but Maria, Pilar and Pablo survived.[6]

This novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is the most serious and politically motivated one by Hemingway. He wants to display his love for the people of Spain and the country itself. Also there are few comic episodes in the entire book and it deals with a very complex war.[7]

When we came to the important aspect of this novel, the women in it have a great participation and role. At first, when we look at the very beginning of the novel you see Pilar is the real leader of the camp that is particularly something to do with the importance of women in this novel. Because it is firstly introduced us that the leader was a man but the fact is not so. Hemingway’s approach to women in this novel is predominantly masculine. The female characters he used are in contrast to his heroes he created. Hemingway presents the women as love objects or anti-love figures to the readers. He doesn’t go into the inner world of women as this world is related to the men with whom they are involved. Hemingway thinks the same for all the women part of the reason of which was because the way he viewed his mother. “He believed his mother to be a manipulator and blamed her in part for the suicide of his father”.[8]

In the novel, women are important just on behalf of their physical beauties. They almost always personify the appearance of the ideal woman. In personality there are two types one of which is “all-woman” and the other one is “femme fatale”. Former gives herself entirely to the hero and the latter one retains herself and prevents the hero possessing her completely. “all-woman” in the work of Hemingway is submitted to the hero.[9] In this novel Maria represents the “all-woman” who wants no other life than with him. For example one night Robert and Maria were talking Robert told that he was thinking about the bridge, Maria replied to him saying “I am thinking about you” which makes it very clear that Maria is an “all-woman” kind.

Women characters in his work also obey the “Hemingway Code”. They are brave in life, choosing reality over thought and face death stoically. In every case, there is a tragic event for the women which makes them stronger and give them the strength to face life this way.[10]

In conclusion, Ernest Hemingway uses the women characters in his works in a different way he presents men, which is called “Hemingway code”. But the women submit to the hero which is the “all-woman” style. The other one “femme fatale” is the more complex character than the former. In the novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, Maria is an example of “all-woman” kind, and Pilar is the one for “femme fatele”.







[7] See 2

[8] See 2

[9] See 2

[10] See 2


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