Term Paper: Ernest Hemingway Spanish Civil War

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Ernest Hemingway / Spanish Civil War

Besides enjoying a wonderful piece of universal literature, Ernest Hemingway's for Whom the Bells Tolls offers its reader the chance to find a detailed report and a point-of-view altogether of what the Spanish Civil War meant for the reporter and writer Hemingway.

The role of a war correspondent from Spain during the Civil War that broke out in 1936 gave Hemingway the opportunity to use all his war experiences and put them together in the form of a novel that allows one to go deep beyond the lines of a war account. It was notorious the Hemingway was an active sympathiser of the Communist movement and that placed him automatically on the side of the Loyalist forces in Spain.

One reporter from Spanish ground, Frank L. Kluckhohn, was writing for the New York Times, on October the 4th, 1936 about the absurdity of this total destruction that war means and especially a civil war which is by definition auto destructive: "On battle lines, shifting daily and often undefined, and behind the lines as well, death is meted out by women as well as men. This is more than just a war. It is a class battle, and observers who saw the Russian revolution say there is more passion in this Spanish struggle" (Kluckhohn, Death in the Afternoon- and at Dawn). The general tone of this article in the newspaper is that of an outsider who gets the chance to witness and report on scenes from Hell and to express his disgust along with that of others' in all matters of war. The government forces, the reds fought against general Franco's armies, the whites, for an end Kluckhohn was unable to understand. He depicted episodes of the war on the Spanish landscape, in the middle of medieval towns, "hard nuts for even the best troops to crack"(Kluckhohn, Death in the Afternoon- and at Dawn). The reporter describd the ferocity of war and its ugliness in contrast with the beauty of the landscape and men's contribution to its beauty through cities built up along centuries. The reason for adding beautiful buildings to nature's work is annulled by the actions of the same folk in a desperate and useless fight that puts fellow countrymen against each other in the name of an ideal that in the end will no longer be theirs.

The love scenes between Jordan and Maria, their love in the middle of that madness war was generating around them every second, even though incredible, are better understood when Kluckhohn, the reporter wrote in his article about the seemingly touches between evil in its ugliest form and love between man and woman: "It is amazing, upon driving into a town, to see the bodies of twenty executed persons just outside and then to turn a corner and catch sight of a young man and a girl courting" (Kluckhohn, Death in the Afternoon -- and at Dawn).

Kluckhohn's point-of-view expressed in the above mentioned article will be reinforced by Hemingway, his fellow war correspondent, but also active supporter of the Loyalist side, in one of his masterpieces, for Whom the Bell Tolls. Although a supporter of the communist ideology, Hemingway proves his genius by showing the ability to free himself from any partisanship. His characters are far from being merely the positive characters of a story. Robert Jordan, the American professor who fights on the side of the guerrillas against Franco's fascist forces is the literary incarnation of a real person, Hemingway interacted with and is the portrayal of a hero who volunteers to join the forces he firmly believes are on the right side of the cause. There are some characters that are incarnations of real persons Hemingway heard of or even met. Hemingway makes a brief characterization of the governmental army through the inner reflections Robert Jordan has in his hotel room in Madrid: "Gaylord's was the place where you met famous peasant and worker Spanish commanders who had sprung to arms from the people at the start of the war without any previous military training and found that many of them spoke Russian... They were peasants and workers. They had been active in the 1934 revolution and had to flee the country when it failed and in Russia they had sent them to the military academy and to the Lenin Institute the Comintern (Hemingway).

Kluckhohn was also writing about his opinion on the republican army and its supporters in the New Your Times: "In brief, it may be said that, as far as military action is concerned, this is a war of a very small body of trained troops against a vastly superior number of unorganized opponents aided by natural obstacles"(Kluckhohn, Death in the Afternoon- and at Dawn).

February the fifteenth, 1938 presented the Spanish Civil War situation still unresolved and near no end. The two opponents were using propaganda destined to encourage the forces in combat and the fight seemed still open to any result. The New York Times reported on this situation in an article entitled: Rebels Increasing Army to 1,000,000 and subtitled: Report Aimed to End Spanish War in Six Months - Loyalists Hold Step Is Move to Aid Morale.

Most of the events Robert Jordan actively participates in or is listening being told of, Hemingway took from the real events in this Spanish Civil War. For instance, Pilar's story about the revolt in a small town and the temporarily victory over the fascist forces is the real story happened in the Andalusian town of Ronda. The communist forces came to power and one the fascist population was not spared by them. Hemingway does doe attempt to present facts in a milder light, despite his communist ideology. War as reported in the news and newspapers, with hundreds and thousands of deaths and horrors is not hiding in his literary piece under the cloths of artfully chosen words and immaculate ideals.

October 23, 1937 revealed the weak efforts of the international powers to appeal to common sense, at least when it came to the treatment of prisoners. This came in strong contrast to what happened to the fascist people in Ronda when the town was occupied by the communist forces. Not only prisoners, but any one who had fascist sympathy suffered maltreatments from their fellow citizens before being thrown out of the cliffs. Ironically, the brief article entitled France Appeals to Spain ended with the following explanation: "French Foreign Office Officials said the notes were part of France's efforts to prevent executions behind the lines"(the New York Times, 1937).

The subject of international relations and the impact the Civil Spanish War had at an international scale, especially in the rising of the fascist movement was generously presented in the news of the time. In this area, Hemingway does not spend too much of his words in his novel, for Whom the Bell Tolls, but there are themes and characters that can be extended to a larger scale and Jordan, Pablo, Pilar and Anselmo could also be representatives of different nations through their roles in the dynamiting of the bridge which will eventually fail due to treason.

The world was slowly beginning to understand the danger the Civil War in Spain posed. The articles in the newspapers were beginning to report on the echoes of the events in Spain, heard by the rest of the world. A subtitle in the New York Times, Danger Spots are Many, was presenting a fragment written by Edwin L. James and published on July 11, 1937. He expressed Britain's deep concerns about being unable to mediate the conflict due to Italy's more active involvement in the process of war on the side of Franco's Fascists.

Hemingway's intentions when he left for Spain, on the February 27, 1936, were declared in the spirit of unfolding the true and ugly face of warfare to the American people and the rest of the world: "this modern, new style war looks like, so that they can see it and hate it as much as any man who has ever seen it hates it." His declarations upon living for Spain and being a war correspondent were those of someone well aware of the international importance of the affair. Even if his novel is not very explicit when it comes to this kind of awareness, its very substance shows that its author, the journalist who went all to way to report on what was happening in the first lines or behind them was implicated in it much more than he must have let the public know.

Robert Jordan's joining of the guerrilla forces is ahead the Americans who awoke one day and understood that neutrality on the mater of supplying guns, for example, to Spain, or neutrality generally speaking was a bad choice. The New York Times presented representative's John T. Bernard resolution in its February 20, 1937 issue: "I think we should support the people of Spain against the fascist armies… [END OF PREVIEW]

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