In Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, the recurring images of the horse and the airplane illustrate one of the major themes of the novel. The novel’s predominant theme is the disintegration of the chivalric order of the Old Spanish World, as it is being replaced by the newer technology and ideology of the modern world. As a consummate artist, Hemingway, in a manner illustrating the gothic quality of his work, allows the bigger themes of For Whom the Bell Tolls to be echoed in the smaller units. He employs the tropes of the horse and the airplane to convey these larger themes, while at the same time using them to comment upon the complex relationship that exists between the Spaniards – Fascists and Communists, alike – and religion. Through a close reading, and through detailed references to the work, it is the purpose of this paper to examine the tropes of horses and planes, as they exist in For Whom the Bell Tolls, placing a special emphasis on religion.
The frequent occurrence of the images of the horse and the airplane is not purely accidental, for Hemingway is using these tropes to support his bigger theme. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway uses the horse to represent the aristocratic hierarchy of the Old World dating back to the Middle Ages, while he uses the airplane to represent the invasion of Spain by modern technology and ideologies. The most powerful and moving illustration of the use of these images to symbolize this changing of orders occurs in Chapter 27, which proves the importance of the horse and plane images and what they represent.
Hemingway uses the tropes of the horse and the airplane to symbolically portray the two contrasting views of the war held by the small bands of Spaniards and the Fas…
… match for the airplanes.
When the images of the horse are first presented to the reader in Chapter One, Robert Jordan, somewhat of a cultural invader, remarks, “ThatSis much horse” (13). Later, in Chapter 27, Sordo says to his dead horse, “Eras mucho caballo,” meaning, “Thou wert plenty of horse” (313). Clearly, death of the horse by the mechanized warfare of the modern world bespeaks the death of the Old World. By the novel’s end, the same Robert Jordan will become injured by a horse which falls on him, as he is overwhelmed by the Old World, symbolized through the horse. At the end of the novel, Robert Jordan, whose precise knowledge of planes and all aspects of modern warfare, has become crippled under the weight of the Old World. However, the horses accompany the peasants as they flee from the terrors of mechanized warfare, and thus, the community lives on.