A Bell for Adano still rings true for occupying armies

Bell tower of monastery at La Verna, Italy

When the American army kicks the fascists and their German allies out of Italy, Major Joppolo is assigned to restore order in Adano. He is supposed to see that there is food, water, sanitation and an appreciation for freedom and democracy.

He also has to keep his own troops in line.

The locals say the most important thing Joppolo can do is to replace the 700-year-old bell the fascists melted down to make gun barrels.

Joppolo vows to find Adano another bell.

He is beginning to get the town running again when General Marvin’s jeep is blocked by a mule cart as he passes through Adano.

The General orders the mule shot and all carts prohibited in Adano. Without the carts, Adano has no way to get water.

Joppolo countermands the General’s order.

John Hersey tells his tale with humor and gentle irony. The outcome of the story is predictable. The characters are predictable, too, by virtue of being very ordinary sorts of people.

We need men like Joppolo in our occupying armies, Hersey says, “to guarantee the behavior of men under pressure.”

Abu Grabe and Haditha testify that we still need to be reminded of that.

A Bell for Adano
By John Hersey
Alfred A. Knopf, 1944
269 pages
1944 bestseller #9
My Grade: B

Photo credit:  The old monastery uploaded by Mattox

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni


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Linda Aragoni

I'm passionate about helping people learn through the medium of nonfiction writing. Although I occasionally have an idea of my own, I mostly build education tools by recycling and repurposing other folks' ideas.

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