For Whom the Bell Tolls | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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Course Hero, "For Whom the Bell Tolls Study Guide," September 29, 2016, accessed December 15, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/For-Whom-the-Bell-Tolls/.

For Whom the Bell Tolls | Symbols

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Ernest Hemingway uses symbols in For Whom the Bell Tolls to represent the essence of the relationships between major characters in the novel, the vulnerability they experience in hiding, and their physical environment.

Rabbit

In Spain rabbits are commonly used as meat, so they represent nourishment. Pilar cooks rabbit stews for the guerrillas, and they "eat like generals." Rabbits are also sweet little creatures, so in addition to calling Maria guapa, meaning "beautiful," Robert Jordan also calls her "little rabbit," a term of endearment. Both references appear frequently in the novel. However the term "rabbit" is also used to represent the vulnerability of the guerrillas in the mountains. The peasants are hunted down like rabbits, meaning that they are easy prey.

Pines

Pines are part of the landscape in the Spanish Pyrenees, and they serve as protection for the guerrillas, shielding them from gunfire and keeping them out of sight. The ground is covered with pine needles, and they can either cushion a person who is hiding or they can get into one's weaponry, bags, and clothing. The smell of the pines is everywhere in the mountains, and Robert Jordan also enjoys the beauty of the sunlight through the pines to keep him occupied as he waits for the perfect moment to shoot a sentry. As a symbol the pine needles provide a connection to nature and the land of Spain, with which Robert Jordan has a physical relationship that mirrors his relationship with Maria.

Sleeping Robe

The sleeping robe is one of Robert Jordan's prized possessions, and it is extremely warm. Jordan uses it to sleep outside the cave. When Maria comes to make love to him under the sleeping robe, it represents safety and the warmth of their love. At the end of each full day in the novel, they are again safe in each other's arms under the sleeping robe.

Planes

The guerrillas in the mountains are only armed with explosives and guns, but the Fascists are heavily armed thanks to help from other countries. The planes bombing El Sordo on the hill are an example of how unprepared the disorganized Republicans are in fighting such a powerful enemy. Planes are also able to see all of the people hiding below, so for the guerrillas, they represent the vulnerability of hiding in the woods and the hopelessness of being so vulnerable to attack.

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