Sen. John McCain on His Hero from 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'
Published in the fall of 1940 at the end of the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" follows character Robert Jordan, a young American college instructor, in his fight against fascism. Senator John McCain discusses the profound impact the novel and its hero had on him.
- I was 12 years old.
I found a four-leaf clover,
and I brought it in to press it in a book
so I could preserve it.
That happened to be "For Whom the Bell Tolls."
Still the great American novel,
and I started reading, and I couldn't stop
until I finished.
- [Narrator] When "For Whom the Bell Tolls"
was published in October of 1940,
Europe and Asia were engulfed in a world war
far more cataclysmic than the one
in which Hemingway had been wounded.
(ominous orchestral music)
(plane engine roars)
- By the time "For Whom the Bell Tolls" came out in 1940,
war in Europe was a reality.
France had fallen.
It was do or die time.
The questions that Hemingway raises in that novel
were incredibly urgent.
And it was clear that the bell was tolling
for everybody in this country,
not just for the people in France and in England,
(light suspenseful music) (gunfire pops)
- [Narrator] The story is set in 1937,
when the defeat of Franco's forces
had still seemed possible.
(plane engines roar)
It's hero is an idealistic
young American college instructor named Robert Jordan,
with some knowledge of explosives,
and no political affiliation
other than hatred of fascism,
who finds himself part of a guerrilla band
that undertakes a doomed mission to dynamite a bridge.
(light piano music)
- My hero is Robert Jordan.
Robert Jordan is as real to me as you are.
He was working as a professor in the University of Montana,
but he heard about this struggle.
He knew about fascism.
He knew what Hitler and Mussolini were doing.
And he decided to go and fight on behalf of people
he had never met, and he did not know,
even knowing that that cause was a flawed cause.
But he was willing to fight
and do whatever he thought he could,
for the cause of justice and freedom.
I always wanted to be Robert Jordan (laughs).