PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that this occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another's danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

- John Donne

I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan, for it is a knell,
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.
-- W. Shakespeare,, Macbeth, Act II scene 1 (62-64).

1940 novel by Ernest Hemingway about the days leading up to the destruction of a bridge during the Spanish Civil War. American explosives expert Robert Jordan came to Spain to fight Franco and finds himself attached to a small guerrilla group. There, he meets Maria, a fragile young woman whose life was destroyed by the war, and falls in love with her, even though he's certain that he will die when at the bridge.

Hemingway was inspired by his experiences as a journalist reporting on the Spanish Civil War, and the novel was wildly popular and controversial upon its release. It's no surprise that Robert Jordan was heavily based on Robert Merriman, an American volunteer for the Lincoln Brigade.

Although this is considered to be one of Hemingway's more important novels, it seemed, to me, a few steps backwards from The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. Maria is such a one-note character that she pales in comparison to female leads like Brett, who, while not flattering to women, was at least a complete person. Hemingway also seems to have forgotten his trademark brevity in favor of repeating himself over and over again for no greater effect.

"For Whom the Bell Tolls", a 1940 novel by Ernest Hemingway, is widely considered to be one of his best works, and one of the definitive works of 20th Century American Literature. The book came out of Hemingway's reporting of the Spanish Civil War, and the book's plot centers around the story of an American dynamiter, Robert Jordan, who is sent with a band of Spanish guerrillas to destroy a bridge.

Hemingway's reputation proceeds him, and that was a bit of a problem when I began the book. At least from my cursory knowledge, Hemingway seemed to be one of the exemplars of machismo and individualism, something that is in some ways hard to reconcile with a book whose very title is argument against individualism. But before I deal with, here is a brief outline of the book's plot and characters:

Robert Jordan, a professor of Spanish at the University of Montana, has come to Spain to volunteer as a dynamiter for the Republican forces. Although not a communist or an ideologue of any type, he is committed to a free, non-fascist Spain. He travels behind enemy lines to meet a band of guerrillas, led by Pablo, an experienced but jaded fighter, and his wife Pilar. A number of other guerrilla fighters rounds out the band. They also have a young woman, Maria, who was imprisoned and raped by the fascist militia. The guerrilla group has survived by avoiding direct conflicts, and Pablo feels that the mission to destroy the bridge will bring disaster to them. Over the course of three days from Jordan's arrival until the attack on the bridge, the group quarrels amongst themselves, discuss the history of the war and the future of their country, and Robert and Maria fall in love. Then, in the book's conclusion, the bridge is attacked, leading to a stark and brutal description of warfare.

There are several different stories contained in the novel. On its basic level, it is a piece of journalism, a piece of reporting on the Spanish Civil War, at the time one of the largest crisis in world affairs. On top of that, through his characters, Hemingway writes about the conflicts in every community, using the small guerrilla group as a microcosm of human affairs. And underneath that, there is a mystical bent to the book, as the characters try to understand their role in a world that seems so brutal.

I think that Hemingway's stereotypical reputation is perhaps a detriment to understanding this book. Although the book is limited in its scope (taking place in one location over three days), and is not highly stylistically innovative, it is still hard for me to understand exactly what Hemingway was getting at with this book. It presents the reader with multiple levels of meaning to choose from.

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