At first glance Hemingway's novel For Whom The Bell Tolls appears to be an action packed war novel. But underneath all the action there are underlying ideas that reveal much about how war changes a man and causes him to realise the importance of time.
Hemingway reveals these ideas about war through the narrator's thoughts and through the interaction between the major characters. Hemingway shows that war brings about a personal change, that reveals much about man's individuality and that time is limited.
Hemingway reveals much about the individuality of men through the relationship of Robert Jordan and Maria. When Jordan is dying at the end of the novel he says to Maria "Thou wilt go now, rabbit. But I go for thee. As long as there is one of us there is both of us. Do you understand?"(p460) We begin to understand how we as people are never truly alone but instead are always surrounded by the memories and thoughts of those we love. When two people truly fall in love they become as one. Where one goes, both go. Robert finally says to her " The me in thee. Now you go for us both. Truly. We both go in thee now. This I have promised thee. Stand up. Thou art me now. Thou art all there will be of me. Stand up." (Pg.462) By saying this Jordan reveals how man is never an individual but instead is made up of all the influences, experiences, and memories that we have shared with others.
Furthermore This change came upon Jordan as a consequence of joining the war. Before the war had started he had no idea what it meant to be an individual, or to truly fall in love. Jordan says to Maria "I have never loved someone as thee. Before our cause I never new what it was like to truly live. Or to love, as I do thee" (P160). This shows how being in the war allowed him to understand what it really meant to be a man. Before the war he never lived as full a life as he does during the war. It is the essence of war which causes these changes in him.
The simple character Anselmo is also changed by the war. But instead of the changes being negative as they are with many of the other characters (except Jordan), they bring upon a positive change on him. When discussing the horrors of war with Robert Jordan Anselmo mentions "The men who come to enjoy the killing, they are the ones who are changed. I always hatted killing a man, and I still have trouble doing it."(p358). Anselmo gains more of a respect of humans after he has been forced to kill some" Hemingway contrasts Anselmo's philosophy of life with the more hardened, cruel men in the play. By doing this we see the change the war has brought upon the other characters. When Anselmo is watching the fascist camp he thinks "We will kill them. It is a strange thing and I do not like to think of it. I have watched them all day and they are the same men we are. They are poor men as we are. We should not be fighting each other, but we are."(p192) Anselmo comes to the discovery that all men are equal regardless of politics, but it is war that causes are hatred. The war he is fighting is what causes this change of viewpoint.
On the other hand, Pablo is a character who has been changed negatively by the war. When mentioning how he and his people slaughtered a town, he says "I liked it. All of it, expect for the killing of the priest. I was disillusioned by him. I expected a better death. He died with very little dignity."(P127). Pablo is a character who now is a drunkard. It takes killing to get him to do something. After the death of a Fascist brigade Pablo mentions that "I feel like my old self again. I am back. I wish we could have killed some more". When contrasting the ways of Pablo and Anselmo we come to see how much we can be changed by the horrors of war. Whereas Anselmo did not let the changes negatively affect him, Pablo did. By this contrast we can compare what change can be brought upon us by the effects of war.
Throughout the novel there is a concept that the amount of time you have to accomplish something, or be with someone, is irrelevant. All that matters is how you take advantage of what time you are given. When Robert Jordan realises that his time in earth may be limited he says "If all I have are these three days to live out my life, then I will be thankful and enjoy what gift has been given to me"(p208). At this point Jordan's realisation causes him to stop worrying about what may come, but instead to enjoy the rare opportunity he has been given. After these three days are up Jordan mentions "I have learned more in these three days, then in my whole life. If only I had more time I could learn so much, but maybe man was only supposed to understand so much about life."(P295) Through Jordan's thoughts Hemingway has shown us how the quantity of time is immaterial, but it is rather the quality of time that is the utmost of importance. Jordan comes to realise that time is limited but we must make the best of what we have.
Furthermore it is the war that has caused this change in Robert Jordan. Near the end of the novel Jordan states that "The war has taught me one thing. That time is what is important. More so than I thought before. If I die it will be OK, because I have lived the life I wanted in these last three days" (P434). Jordan has come to realise that time is a very limited thing, and that opportunities only come once. To waste them is foolish, you must take what you can, when you can, because of the very fact that time is limited. There is only a finite amount of time to do the things we want, and when Jordan comes to this realisation he has already done what he wanted to do. The essence of war is what taught him this. The fact that one minute "Your friend is beside you, the next he is laying on the forest floor. Begging for you to kill him."(Pg. 207).
In conclusion Hemingway reveals much about how war causes us to realise what it means to be individuals, and more importantly that our time here is limited, and we must take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to us.