Heroic Fiction: The Epic Tradition and American Novels of the Twentieth Century

By Leonard Lutwack | Go to book overview

4
For Whom the Bell Tolls

It is not surprising that both The Grapes of Wrath and For Whom the Bell Tolls express a militant sense of social responsibility: they were published within a year of each other at the close of a decade in American life that saw a remarkable extension of social action on the part of the government and the beginning of a new war era requiring of Americans the utmost sacrifice for the common cause. One novel is a lesson in social responsibility in economic strife, the other a lesson in responsibility in warfare. Through these works Steinbeck and Hemingway were quite consciously responding to the needs of the time. As it turned out, Hemingway's book has remained more topical since it had the good fortune of appearing just at the time when American energies were turning from social to military efforts, which have not yet ceased; while Steinbeck's book applied itself to economic problems which have not become as serious as the problem of war. But though the subjects and impacts are different, the didactic burden is the same: both books advance the thesis that a wider and stronger social commitment is imperative in the contemporary world. The Okies learn that primitive family loyalty is not sufficient to cope with modern economic problems; the Spanish partisans learn that they must fight not only for the survival of their own little band but for the national cause, indeed for the cause

-64-

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Heroic Fiction: The Epic Tradition and American Novels of the Twentieth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iv
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - History and Definition 1
  • 2 - The Octopus 23
  • 3 - The Grapes of Wrath 47
  • 4 - For Whom the Bell Tolls 64
  • 5 - Bellow's Odysseys 88
  • 6 - Invisible Man 122
  • 7 - The Continuing Tradition 142
  • Notes 157
  • Selected Bibliography 167
  • Index 171
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