Mourning and Melancholia in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls

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Mourning and Melancholia in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls

Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) begins with a quotation

from John Donne’s “Meditation XVII.” With this epigraph, Hemingway identifies the

source of his title and defines the connections achieved between human beings through

mourning.: Donne’s argument begins, “No man is an island,” and it concludes with an

assertion of our bond to the dead: “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls

for thee.” Proper mourning acknowledges the losses to our self in the death of another.

Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls depicts such connections to the dead and

examines the emotional effects of incomplete mourning in terms that parallel Freud’s

own comments in “Mourning and Melancholia”(1917. Hogarth Press edition 1937).

Hemingway’s novel about mourning concludes by depicting Robert Jordan, the

American volunteer in Spain, as he prepares for his death. Jordan accepts the inevitability

of this death and he designs a ritual which expresses his commitment to his lover, Maria,

and contributes to the successful retreat of the members the guerrilla band (401-10). He

provides a last effort of participation in their struggle against fascism and affirms his


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connection to the future of Spain. In a parallel to the argument of Donne’s “Meditation,”

Jordan’s death while fighting as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War is presented as a

loss to fascism suffered by the people of all the republican nations of the world. In a

report published in 1938 Hemingway wrote of the deaths of such volunteers of the

International Brigades, and said, “They die fighting for you” (Hem on War 293).

The depiction of Jordan’s life and death parallels the ...

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...ocative that Rickman’s edition of Freud’s

essay appeared shortly before publication of For

Whom the Bell Tolls.

Gajdusek, Robert E. (2002). Hemingway In His Own Country. Notre Dame Indiana:

University of Notre Dame Press.


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Gellhorn, Martha. (1986). The Face of War. New York: Atlantic Press Ed, 1988.

Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. (1940 ) Blakiston: Philadelphia.

________________.By-Line Ernest Hemingway. (1967) New York: Scribners.

________________ Hemingway on War.(2003 ) Ed. with an Introduction, Sean

Hemingway. New York: Scribners.

Myers, Jeffrey. (2000) Hemingway: Life into Art. New York: Cooper Square Press

Nelson, Cary (1994). Remembering Spain: Hemingway’s Civil War Eulogy and the

Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Winnicott, D.W. Playing and Reality. (1971) London: Pelican, 1980.

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