Masaryk University Faculty of Arts

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4.4Dignity of soldiers as a double standard

The theme of dignity in this novel is not as strong or frequently occurring as in some of Hemingway′s other works which are analyzed in this thesis. The characters are mostly regular, simple people living as well as possible under the circumstances of war. The question of dignity is more interesting when it comes to soldiers who feel fear and disobey orders. Those who decide to run away and desert the army. If they disobey they are shot by their officers and if they are caught deserting the army they are shot by carabinieri. In the point of view of the officers they are cowards and they do not deserve to live, they do not have the dignity to die in a fight. From their point of view they try to keep their dignity by refusing to blindly follow like a sheep coming to be slaughtered. At the beginning Frederick agrees with the military point of view, he feels that they are obliged to fight because the “defeat is worse” (50) and he even shoots a deserter himself. In the second half when defeat becomes reality and his position changes, he deserts the army. Even though he feels like a criminal because of it (251). Frederick was disappointed by the reactions of carabinieri in the situation of retreat, which was badly organized, they were shooting officers for no good reason and it did not even make sense to try talk to them. For them the world was black and white. They did not even consider the dignity of those men whom they took and shot like animals. On the run for his life, he removes his stars from his uniform: “It was no point of honor. I was not against them. I was through. I wished them all the luck. There were good ones and the sensible ones, and they deserved it” (232). Even after almost being executed he still does not judge everyone the same, as opposed to the simple minded carabinieri.

It is safe to conclude that with a change of perspective a person′s perception of dignity can be changed as well. The fact that dignity is ignored does not mean it is not present. It depends on the ability of the judge to empathize, acknowledge the grey scale and give the benefit of the doubt. Hemingway makes it clear that war is no place for dignity of the masses and it makes his heroes differ, they have the opportunity to have their own opinions and the luxury of the position when they are allowed to act on it.

5.For Whom The Bell Tolls

Another work with the surroundings of war but still different in many respects – For Whom The Bell Tolls is rather lengthy novel which became a big success. It takes place during the Spanish Civil War that ended a year before the publishing of the novel. It shows people trying to keep their dignity through the horrors of war, some with bigger success than others. This thesis is mainly concerned with dignified death which is widely illustrated in the novel.

The main character is Robert Jordan who was a teacher in America and decided to join the anti-fascist resistance. He becomes an expert on explosives and, with a very specific assignment, is sent to guerillas for help. The whole story takes place in three days but several sub-stories are told in retrospective.

5.1Dignity of settings

Most of the story takes place in the mountains, they provide a refuge for guerillas. In Hemingway′s work the mountains usually mean dignity and it is on a mountain where the guerilla fighter El Sordo and his group find a way to die with dignity. There are several different locations, in retrospective it is possible to visit Robert′s favourite hotel (247) or the village where Pablo killed people for the first time (106). What gives these places dignity are the people in them. The emphasis of this novel is more on the behaviour than on the locations.


Robert Jordan has one mission and that is to blow up a bridge, which is a key manoeuvre in a planned offensive. He violates the rules when he falls in love with Maria, but the closeness to death makes him want to live all he can in those three days before his dangerous mission must be completed. He explains to Agustín, that they must live all of their life in those days (311). Robert is not afraid to die, he accepts the fact that in war it is more likely to get killed than in regular life and this awareness makes him to enjoy his life even more. Sanders points out that:
he [Robert] knew his enemy intimately to the point of having something to fight against. He did not merely happen to be around when a war broke out. He came to Spain from the remoteness of Missoula, Montana, because he was a dedicated, if not a doctrinaire, anti-fascist, which, elaborated simply, meant that he had strong personal values to defend. His anti-fascism had the precise quality and intensity of Hemingway's . . .” (141).
Pablo is the complete opposite of Robert. He is aware he could die at any moment and he fears death very intensively. He drinks excessively and he talks to his horses to get some comfort because as a coward he becomes an outcast in his group. He was not always like this, when the resistance started he was a very ruthless and fearless leader. In his village he organized the killing of fascists, where they were beaten to death. At the beginning it was a clever thought about collective killing and guilt but it changed into an aggressive mob lynching, killing even a priest. He allowed people to die without dignity, as Pilar noted some of them deserved it for being cowards but there was a man who was suppose to die with dignity, he was not even a real fascist (126-27) but Pablo did not care. He was disappointed by the priest who died without dignity, Pablo did not expect that, but Pilar has more common sense to realize that no one can have dignity in such a horrible death – being chased and beaten by mob (137-38).

Pilar knows all about dignity, she spent a part of her life with a matador (57) and she has lots of courage. She becomes the leader of the group of guerillas (59) but Pablo is still considered as more intelligent (100-01). Pilar realizes that their purpose is to kill fascists which was not done for a long time because of Pablo′s fear. She is a woman of action.

Anselmo was originally a hunter and he is proud of his killings when he talks about his past but he hates to kill people (42). He is old and brave and becomes Roberto′s friend. Anselmo is a very dignified hero, he fears too but he is able to fight it and he knows what must be done is dangerous but does not hesitate. It is ironical that Anselmo dies because of Pablo′s cowardice (477), if life was fair it would be Pablo dying.

Another man carrying dignity is El Sordo who is the leader of other guerilla group. He fought until his last breath, he managed to kill some of the fascist′s officers and the fascists had to send planes to kill him.

Maria is a very complicated character when talking about dignity. She watched her parents being shot and then she was tortured and raped, the fascist took her hair away trying to strip her of her dignity (374-75). For some time she wanted to die (77), but in front of the fascist she never submitted (374). When she falls in love with Robert her personality is lost in her submissive behaviour.
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