Wisdom from Truby: The Single Grand Symbol

“In For Whom the Bell Tolls, the single image of the tolling bell signifies death. But the phrase ‘for whom the bell tolls’ refers to another line that is the real key to the designing principle of the story and the theme that comes out of it. That line, from John Donne’s Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, is:

‘No man is an island entire of itself…Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.’

The symbol of man, not as an island but as an individual in a community, organizes this story under one image, and it implies the probable theme line: in the face of death, the only thing that gives life meaning is sacrificing for the individuals you love.”

– John Truby, Anatomy of Story, p111.

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