The Fifth Column is a play by American writer Ernest Hemingway, first published in 1938. The play tells the story of Philip Rawlings, an active, attentive warrior at night, though ostensibly a bystander with no connection to Spain. This play is the only one that Hemingway wrote in his whole life and has a strong autobiographical character. Rawlings, the hero, was based on Hemingway. The Fifth Column is a three-act play depicting the Republican government in Madrid besieged by Franco rebels during the Spanish Civil War. An American, Philip Rawlings, and a German, Max, sent by the Republican government security service to spy bravely on the rebels, capture an important prisoner, and then let him escape.
Many fifth column members were subsequently captured. Under severe torture, they confessed their accomplices, and three hundred others were arrested. Rawlings and his assistant Max eventually break up the rebel spy ring in Madrid’s fifth column. In time of peace, everyone’s life is equal, and no one can deprive another person of the right to live. But when the smoke of war is in the air, it is easy to form a disorderly ethical environment. Especially when the unjust party temporarily wins, they do not care about ethics at all, but enjoy the privileges brought by the victory of war and indulge their desires to do whatever they want.
The evil side of human nature is concentrated. Hemingway’s writing has a special style, that is, colloquialism. It is in these seemingly plain colloquialisms in his novels that the atmosphere of the story is profoundly delineated, as is also the case in The Fifth Column, where the story appears to be simple, but the ups and downs of the characters are clearly revealed in the spoken language. The play focuses on Philip’s love affair with Dorothy, the daughter of a middle-class American, who is vain and incompetent. In the end, Philip gave her up for his political convictions in favour of a grisly Moorish woman. From Dorothy’s characterization, it is clear that Hemingway has begun to use the rich but insatiable American female as a symbol of a hostile class in The Fifth Column.