Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers

Help / FAQ

printable study guide online download notes summary

For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway


No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Hemingway used this excerpt from the English poet John Donne (1572-1631) as an epigraph to For Whom the Bell Tolls. Its significance will become more apparent as you accompany Robert Jordan through the next few days of his life.


It's a peaceful scene: a young man is lying on a pine-needled forest floor. A gently flowing stream and a mill complete the placid, country picture. An old man answers the young man's questions about the countryside.

Think of a time when you were in a situation where the appearances of the surroundings contrasted with what was really going on. Perhaps something very serious was happening in your life on a bright, apparently carefree day.

That seems to be the situation here. Hemingway first hints at the seriousness of the scene by mentioning the young man's military map. You can be sure this is no pleasure trip when Anselmo, an old Spanish peasant who is Robert Jordan's guide behind enemy lines, asks how many men will be needed and when Jordan seeks a place to hide explosives.

Jordan considers it a bad sign that he has forgotten Anselmo's name. It might mean simply that he's upset with himself for forgetting a significant piece of information. But it could also mean that he's uneasy about an invisible force at work in the situation. As you read, look for other references to fate and signs.

While Jordan waits, Anselmo goes to inform "the others" of Jordan's arrival. Hemingway describes Jordan here as a man who "did not give any importance to what happened to himself." This may mean that he sees himself merely as a cog in the great wheel of some cause or idea.

The importance of the individual is a major theme in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Here you see Robert Jordan's original position in relation to this idea. Watch for signs of change.

As he waits for Anselmo, Jordan's reflections explain why he's here. He is to blow up a bridge in these mountains. He received the mission from General Golz, whom he addresses, communist style, in a flashback as "Comrade General." Jordan is capable of doing the job; his experience at demolition is considerable. But it's absolutely crucial that the bridge be blown up at the precise moment the general attack that Golz is commanding has begun. Jordan will know from an aerial bombardment that the attack has started.

Two things are now clear: Jordan is a partizan, a non-Spanish volunteer doing guerrilla work behind enemy lines. Golz (a pseudonym) is a Soviet career officer.

The Spanish Civil War was far from an exclusively Spanish affair. The Republican cause attracted volunteers from some 50 nations, with the largest number coming from France and Germany. Most of these volunteers were recruited and organized into the International Brigades by European Communist parties. More than 80 percent of the volunteers were (unlike Robert Jordan) working class people. A major recruiting office was in Paris where one of the staff members was Josip Broz- who after World War II became President Tito of Yugoslavia. About one third of the volunteers lost their lives in Spain.

Listening to Golz's comments, you may wonder why he's here in Spain at all. If you've ever tried to help an individual or a group, and your efforts were actually frustrated by the very people you were trying to aid, you have an idea of how Golz seems to feel. "You know how those people are," he complains to Jordan.

This won't be the first time you'll see uncomplimentary references to "those people," the very ones Golz and Jordan have come to help. It raises the question, Why do these two foreigners stay? Look for clues that answer this question and show you how Jordan and Golz really feel about the Spanish people.

NOTE: Many of Hemingway's friends (and one notable enemy, Andre Marty) appear in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Some bear their real names, such as the Loyalist commander Gustavo Duran and Petra, a chambermaid at the Hotel Florida where Hemingway stayed in Madrid. Others formed the basis for characters with fictional names. General Golz is closely based on the Polish general Karol Swierczewski. Karkov is the fictional name of the Soviet journalist and correspondent for the Soviet government newspaper Izvestia, Mikhail Koltsov. Hemingway often talked with Koltsov while in Spain during the civil war.

Pablo, the leader of the guerrilla band, joins the two men. Jordan's introduction to Pablo does not go pleasantly. Rather than welcoming Jordan, Pablo treats him rudely and with suspicion. "Here no one commands but me," he states sullenly.

So it's shocking when the 68-year-old Anselmo gives him a stiff tongue-lashing full of earthy insults. Your first clue that Pablo is not fully in charge has come early.

Pablo's objection to the bridge operation is that it will draw attention to the presence of his people's camp, and they'll no longer enjoy their relatively safe hideout. But Pablo finally gives in, and the guerrillas agree to carry the dynamite. Jordan has passed the first hurdle. Note that the hurdle was someone on his side: one of the people he is in Spain to help.

Pablo is caught in an inner conflict. He has become less interested in the cause the guerrillas are fighting for than in the preservation of the horses he recently acquired. Now that he owns property for the first time, Pablo is afraid that the mission to blow up the bridge will endanger his possessions. For some people, Hemingway seems to be saying, the desire to fight for a principle lessens if the fight affects the person on a material level. Perhaps you've been in a position similar to Pablo's. It's easy to voice concern over an issue, less easy to sacrifice something you love for it.

To Jordan, Pablo's sadness indicates that he is "going bad"; that is, showing signs of being a traitor. At this point, the reason is not completely clear, but we sense Pablo can't be trusted. Jordan also reminds himself to be cautious if Pablo suddenly becomes friendly. That will mean he has made a decision. About what? Hemingway leaves you in suspense here.


The three men arrive at the hideout. Rafael, a gypsy member of the guerrilla band, is even less respectful of Pablo than is Anselmo. But with Jordan, Rafael is friendly and good-natured, and Jordan enlists his loyalty.

Jordan is the replacement for a previous demolition expert named Kashkin, who died in a manner that Jordan knows but won't reveal. Kashkin had been getting nervous about his work and speaking in a way that was bad for morale. It makes you wonder if the tension-filled job will eventually get to Jordan as well.

There are seven men and two women in the band Jordan will be working with to blow up the bridge. One of the women is an attractive girl named Maria, whom he meets as she serves the evening meal. Throughout the meal, the girl and he stare at each other. Previously, Jordan had told Golz that there was no time for girls when one was working for the Republican cause. It looks as though Maria could change his mind.

Is this section realistic? You could see it as evidence of how firmly Jordan's relationship with Maria takes hold right from the start. But some readers feel that Hemingway has painted Jordan too much like a young man easily infatuated by a beautiful face and body.

Anselmo and Rafael prepare Jordan to meet the second woman in the band, Pablo's mistress, Pilar. You learn from Anselmo and Rafael that she is part gypsy, reads palms, has a vicious tongue, and is generally crude- and also very protective of Maria. It was Pilar's idea to take Maria with them when they left the scene of a Nationalist train they had just dynamited. Maria had been a prisoner on the train.

Pilar lives up to her billing. In her first speech she uses some salty language and gives the unmistakable impression of being in charge. She hurls insults at both Rafael and Pablo.

She is neither pretty nor feminine, but, to Robert Jordan, she is likable. Pilar exhibits qualities most people find admirable: she is strong, honest, unpretentious. It is easy to know where she stands.

Pilar is anxious for Maria to be removed from the situation. Pablo, she says, is beginning to desire the girl. But Jordan's attraction to Maria, which Pilar has noticed, doesn't seem to stir any resentment or misgivings in Pilar.

Pilar is definitely in charge of the guerrillas, in fact if not in name. She and Jordan discuss the bridge operation. Although they're counting on the assistance of El Sordo, a neighboring guerrilla leader, additional good help may be hard to get. There will be no money or loot from the bridge, as there was from the train they had blown up. Instead, the operation will be dangerous and will make it necessary to move from the mountain hideouts.

Pilar asks to look at Jordan's hand. Remember she is a gypsy; and remember he has said he doesn't believe in the occult. Pilar sees something in Jordan's hand that she obviously doesn't like. But she won't tell what it is. And Jordan, the unbeliever who is "only curious," is frustrated at not knowing.

Notice the foreshadowing of doom that Hemingway suggests for Robert Jordan: Pilar's reluctance to tell him what his palm has told her and the revelation that Kashkin, Jordan's predecessor, is dead. Jordan refuses to pay attention to these signs, but you can look at them as Hemingway's hints that all will not go well for Jordan.


Jordan and Anselmo go to inspect the bridge. But the details of the bridge are not Hemingway's real concern in this chapter. Through Jordan and Anselmo, the chapter offers a philosophical consideration of the necessity and the morality of killing.

The conversation between Robert Jordan and Anselmo gives you a good basis on which to develop your thoughts about the taking of someone's life. Although the two men are on the same side politically, their consciences are not the same. Jordan confesses a repugnance for killing animals, yet claims he feels nothing when it is necessary to kill a human being "for the cause." Anselmo has no problem with hunting and killing animals, but to him it's a sin to kill a man- "even Fascists whom we must kill."

Hemingway presents you with profound issues here early in the story. If something is necessary, can it be sinful- in other words, truly wrong and therefore blameworthy? Or do you proceed from the other end first: if something is truly sinful, can it possibly be truly necessary? Your own religious background and ideas of morality will certainly affect your analysis and opinion of this interchange between Jordan and Anselmo.

Jordan's original position on the importance of the individual compared to the cause is reinforced again. "You are instruments to do your duty," he reflects, speaking of himself and others like him.

Certainly you can think of situations where individuals are part of a team effort and times when doing one's duty is necessary to the group's success and is a praiseworthy, honorable thing to do. Team sports are an obvious example.

But how far does this value of "duty" extend? How much sacrifice of self is ever necessary? For Whom the Bell Tolls raises these questions eloquently.

The historical relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the government of Spain has been complex and stormy. Because a vast majority of the Spanish people has long been Catholic, the Church has had great power in the country. In the 1930s, as Spaniards began to divide into various political groups that leaned to the right or to the left, the Church aligned itself with the right. In the election of 1936 the left offered political amnesty to many anarchists and other political prisoners known to be anti-Church. This, plus the strong support of religious values by the right, prompted the Church to favor the Nationalist cause. As a result, many churches were burned and many clerics murdered by leftist fringe groups, and the Republican government did little to stop them, an attitude that further widened the gap between the Church and the left.

The victims of this schism mainly were the Spanish peasants. Marxist theories that urged them to forget God and espouse atheism were accepted by some, but many could not expel their religious beliefs so easily. The concept of sin and a life hereafter as a reward for a good life could not be ignored. Anselmo poignantly represents this conflict.

As they approach the camp, Jordan and Anselmo meet Agustin, one of the guerrilla band. Agustin is guarding the entrance to the camp, but he has forgotten the password- a clear indication that this is not the best prepared of rebel groups. Watch for Agustin to be one of the fiercest anti-Monarchist rebels, a man with little trust for anyone. Here he warns Jordan to guard the dynamite-from Pablo.


In some ways, Chapter 4 is like the classic scene from a Western movie where two men confront each other in a war of nerves that may soon turn into a war of bullets.

The showdown between Pablo and Robert Jordan begins. It soon becomes a matter of Pablo versus everyone else. At stake are two things: demolition of the bridge and official leadership of the guerrilla band. Hemingway builds the tension with mastery. Death for one of the men looms as a real possibility.

In the end, Pablo loses on both accounts. After a moment so tense that Jordan's hand is resting on his pistol, Pablo officially backs down and relinquishes command to Pilar. The remaining guerrillas endorse the demolition of the bridge, but only after Pilar approves of it.

Notice that there is less than unanimous commitment among the gypsies to the mission of destroying the bridge. Most would rather blow up a train, which at least would result in material to loot. One of them says that the bridge means nothing, that he is "for the mujer of Pablo," and others agree. The somewhat indifferent attitudes of these men emphasize one of Hemingway's themes: that the Spanish Civil War was fought in large part for the leaders of Spain and of foreign countries, not for the people of Spain, who had the most to lose. Here, Hemingway shows you a band of rebels doing their best to get along, although not sure why they're fighting.

Hemingway also dwells on the relationship of the individual to mankind and mysticism, both through Pilar. Pilar shows a devotion to the cause similar to Jordan's with her statement, "I am for the Republic, and the Republic is the bridge." The personal consequences of the demolition of the bridge, she claims, mean nothing to her.

Secondly she states, "That which must pass, will pass." And upon remembering what she saw when she read Jordan's hand, she becomes at first momentarily enraged- and then extremely sad. The chapter leaves us wondering what Pilar knows that we don't.


At the opening of this chapter, in the sentence beginning, "There was no wind...," Hemingway gives us still another typical Hemingway description: a single sentence almost 180 words long, detailing the sights and smells of the cave and contrasting them with the sights and smells of the night outside the cave. Notice again the preponderance of nouns.

Jordan finds from Rafael that in the preceding tense scene the band had both expected and wanted him to kill Pablo.

And then Pablo returns- full of friendliness and welcome! You may remember that Jordan had warned himself at the end of Chapter 1 to be wary if Pablo ever became friendly.

The chapter concludes with Pablo delivering a maudlin, drunken soliloquy to one of the horses. This is a good opportunity for you to examine your opinion of Pablo. Is he more to be despised or to be pitied? Why?


Pilar and Robert Jordan develop instant rapport. She openly encourages his appreciation of Maria's charm. Pilar quickly sees that Jordan may be what Maria needs to heal the wounds left by her captors.

Two more things emerge from this short chapter. Pilar does not see danger in Pablo's weakness, as Jordan does. And Maria needs a man. She cultivates Jordan's attention; in a low-keyed manner, she practically flirts with him.

Jordan is upset when Pilar jokingly addresses him by the aristocratic title "Don." It seems to offend his democratic sensibilities. In the course of their conversation, Jordan asserts that he is not a communist; he is simply an antifascist. In this statement, Jordan may be reflecting Hemingway's own beliefs.


Chapter 7 marks the beginning of Jordan and Maria's love relationship. Since this relationship will be one of the main strands of the story, the chapter is particularly significant.

Robert Jordan is asleep in his robe beyond the mouth of the cave. He is awakened by Maria. She protests a bit about getting into the robe with him, but not much. After all, she came there of her own volition.

This is the first but not the last such episode of lovemaking for these two. Maria reveals that she has been sexually used before- "things were done to me"- by her Nationalist captors, but that was not lovemaking. And she is not "sick" (from a sexually transmitted disease).

Today's novels are filled with graphic descriptions of sexual encounters. Hemingway couldn't go that far in 1940. Whether he would have, if it had been possible, is an unanswerable question. Most readers feel that his version is poetic and tasteful. It focuses more on the lovers' dialogue and feelings than on a clinical description of lovemaking.

NOTE: Some readers have pointed to this scene as wildly unrealistic. Given the morals of the day and of the country, no single woman would be so brazen as to give herself so openly to a relative stranger. Others defend Hemingway's choice, saying that Maria's behavior is necessary in order to accelerate the love affair between them. Within the space of less than three days she must offer him a love relationship that will help bring about a change in the way he perceives the war and his role in it.


This chapter contrasts sharply with Chapter 7. It's concerned completely with the war and Jordan's assignment to demolish the bridge.

As Jordan's second day begins, a huge number of enemy planes are roaring overhead. He listens for the sound of bombs. By noting the lapse of time between the planes flying overhead and the sound of the bombs, he could then calculate where the lethal missiles were being dropped.

But no bombs are dropped. The planes are not attacking. A terrible possibility strikes him: a large force of planes are being assembled because the Nationalists expect a Loyalist attack!

His premonition becomes more likely. Fernando, who was in La Granja the previous night, reports rumors of a Loyalist attack... including the demolition of a bridge! La Granja is a Nationalist town- how could there be such a drastic leak in security?


This is an important chapter that offers, principally through dialogue, insights into Pilar, Pablo, and Jordan.

Pilar confesses a "sadness" to Jordan. It's actually a despair she feels: death is on the way for many. In previous times, she would have shared this feeling with God. Now, as a communist, she cannot. Yet she confesses that God probably still exists, "although we have abolished Him."

Her conversation also reveals how much Pablo is hurting. He is deeply wounded that the group sided against him. And he's afraid to die. He clings to his one great moment of glory, the assault on the train. You may find this revelation little more than the tearful carrying-on of a man who has lost his courage. Or you may see it as a pitiful cry for help from a man broken by inner torment and the demands of war.

Agustin, one of Pablo's band, doesn't see Pablo as completely broken, though. He's convinced they'll need Pablo's skills when they retreat after the bridge is blown. Pablo may currently be a coward, but he is nonetheless "smart," according to Agustin. Pilar- for all her bravery, loyalty, decisiveness, intuition, and heart- is not "smart."

Exactly what he means by "smart" is something of a mystery at this point. Is he referring to Pablo's skills in conducting guerrilla maneuvers, and, if so, will those skills really be needed later on?

This chapter contains brief references to the themes of hypocrisy and mysticism. When Pilar asks Jordan if he has faith in the Republic, he answers yes- and hopes his answer is true. Is his devotion to the cause weakening? In that case, is he a hypocrite for answering yes?

And Jordan, the practical demolition expert, is still worried about what Pilar saw in his hand. Pilar calls the palmreading "nonsense." But she doesn't really mean that. She says it because telling what she saw might harm the Republic. Is she being a hypocrite too, lying and denying reality (as she saw it) for the sake of this supposedly glorious cause?


This chapter is notable for its gruesomely graphic account of a Loyalist takeover of a Nationalist town, complete with barbaric ritual executions. Pilar relates the incidents to Jordan and Maria as the three of them make their way to El Sordo.

But Hemingway accomplishes two other purposes earlier in the chapter, before Pilar's gory account begins.

With one exception (relaying her "sadness" to Jordan) we've seen Pilar only as a strong, practical leader who wants to get the business of war done. But on the way to El Sordo, it's Pilar who wants to stop and rest, take in the beauty of the surroundings, and bathe her feet in a stream. So even Pilar, the strong, rough-hewn woman soldier, has a side that wants to be an ordinary person, enjoying simple things like the rush of cold water across bare feet.

Pilar is ugly- so much so that she cannot risk going to a Fascist city. She's known to be a Loyalist, and her exceptional ugliness makes her instantly noticeable. Her reflections of what it's like to be ugly on the outside but to feel beautiful on the inside make a poignant scene. In spite of her ugliness, Pilar has not lacked for lovers. She recites the cycle of each relationship. At first, love blinds both the man and herself to her unattractiveness. Then, "for no reason," the man notices the ugliness. He leaves, no longer blind. And neither, anymore, is the woman. She realizes all over again that she is ugly.

In Pilar's story of the Loyalist assault on a Nationalist town, we see a completely different Pablo. He is energetic, decisive, aggressive- and almost unbelievably cruel. Can you imagine these qualities in the Pablo you've seen so far? If so, what is it that you've noticed in the usually drunk and "cowardly" Pablo that makes it easy to believe he could have been aggressive and cruel?

With Pablo in charge, the Loyalists took over the Nationalist barracks. The wounded were killed outright. Four soldiers remained. In a stroke of irony, Pablo got instructions from one of them on how to use the Mauser pistol he had taken from a dead officer. Then he made them kneel and calmly killed each of them with it.

But Pablo wanted more than the slaughter in the barracks. He wanted to taste revenge and blood, and to hear the screaming of the town's Fascist sympathizers as they were savagely beaten before dying. These prominent men of the town had been seized in their homes at the same time the assault on the barracks had begun. Then they were taken to the town hall and kept there.

Pablo organized the town square as if for a celebration. Citizens were arranged in two lines leading from the door of the town hall to the edge of a cliff. Each was given a flail.

NOTE: A flail is an old-fashioned tool for hand-threshing grain. It consists of a long staff with another shorter and thicker pole attached at the end of the staff by a hinge or a heavy cord so that it can swing freely. The damage to a human body from a strongly wielded flail would be considerable.

One by one, the fascists were taken from the town hall and made to run the gauntlet of the flailing lines. The citizens who had instruments even more torturous and lethal than flails (such as sickles and pitchforks) were put at the end of the gauntlet, by the cliff. This was to prevent any of the fascists from being killed too soon- before they made it through the entire line.

At first the peasants were uncertain; this was not their idea. But as one man after another came from the town hall and went staggering to his death, they became cruel. They began to enjoy it.

They were drinking, of course, but Pilar says they were overcome by a drunkenness caused by something other than wine, a "drunkenness" that comes from great ugliness.

Perhaps the ultimate in ugliness came with the execution of Don Guillermo, a fascist storeowner. Pilar points out that he at least should have been executed quickly and with dignity. He was a fascist in name only, and his wife had remained a Catholic. Ironically, the flails and other tools that the peasants were using came from his store.

Yet, with his wife watching and screaming, Don Guillermo was brutally killed before he even got to the edge of the lines and the cliff.

And then the situation became even uglier. Impatient with waiting for the men to be released one by one from the town hall, the mob stormed the building and attacked the remaining fascist prisoners in a slashing frenzy of sickles and pitchforks and reaping hooks.

Pablo sat calmly watching.

They had taken the town. But Pilar was disgusted with the brutality. As for Pablo, he "liked it... all of it."

This chapter has been described as assaulting the reader with its explicit ugliness. Beyond question it's powerful. But it's also a puzzle. The Spanish Civil War was filled with atrocities committed by both sides. Yet in the one chapter that describes such a scene, Hemingway chose to feature senseless, inhumane brutality committed by the side he himself favored: the Republic.

He even crowns it with a pathetic yet ludicrous scene. A drunken Loyalist pours wine over a dead body and tries to set it afire. Failing, he finally gives up the attempt, drinks the remaining wine instead, and sits in a stupor patting the dead body.

Why put your own side in such a bad light? Obviously, it shows us a very different Pablo. Perhaps Hemingway wanted to show that his book was objective despite his close ties to the Loyalists. Both sides are capable of atrocities, not just the Nationalists.

NOTE: Terrorism and atrocities occur in almost any war. There were many during the Spanish Civil War, although reports were sometimes sensationalized and exaggerated in the press. Republicans and Nationalists were equally guilty, but each side tended to excuse its behavior on grounds that atrocities committed by the other side were worse. The incident recounted by Pilar in Chapter 10 is based on actual events in the city of Ronda (near Malaga), where victims were thrown over cliffs.


This chapter is linked closely to Chapter 10 in questioning the merits of war. The repulsively brutal picture presented in Chapter 10 is now followed by more intellectual considerations. Chapter 11 is significant because it begins another central strand in the story: the change in Robert Jordan's attitude toward what he is doing here in Spain.

At El Sordo's camp, Jordan, Pilar, and Maria are met by young Joaquin, who was part of the train operation. Joaquin was also there- crying and unwilling- when Pablo took over the town and engineered the brutal executions. Joaquin's family themselves had been executed by the fascists.

This knowledge and the effect of listening to Pilar's story bring some reflections that you may find startling to be coming from Robert Jordan:

The war isn't helping these people. Partizans such as himself come into an area, perform their missions, and leave; then the people of the area suffer reprisals- often death- as a result.

Although Jordan automatically speaks of the fascists and Nationalists as "barbarians," his side commits atrocities too. He has always recognized that fact in an intellectual way. Now, Pilar has made him see it, feel it.

In spite of these realizations, Jordan postpones reconsidering his judgments about the value of the war. He returns to his belief that the war is all-important and reaffirms loyalty to his war-making duties. Later, he tells himself, after the war is won, he'll sort it out and make judgments based on his experience. But he's beginning to wish there wasn't quite so much experience.

Stop for a moment here and reevaluate your picture of Robert Jordan. Certainly he's not a fool. And certainly he has seen evidence that this war is not helping anyone and is not likely to. But as soon as these reflections begin to bother him, he returns to his position: we must win this war or all is lost. In contrast with his reflections, does the position seem simplistic? Is he backing away from the truth, unable to face it? Is his "Act now, think later" attitude an example of intellectual cowardice?

That's a possible explanation. But if so, Jordan is doing something we've all done at some time. Can you recall an occasion when you doggedly clung to a position in spite of mounting evidence that it was wrong or at least needed reevaluation?

Jordan's self-doubts are just the first of many he will have. Here he is made uncomfortable by his feelings and therefore turns to a more pleasant subject- Maria.

Was last night true or just a dream? Was it like the imaginary lovemaking he had engaged in with Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow, the sex goddesses of the movie world at that time?

This passage prompts various reactions. Some readers feel that it's realistic and we're getting an authentic look into the complex psyche of Robert Jordan. Others see the passage as juvenile and almost embarrassing, coming in the midst of a serious novel. What is your reaction as you read it?

Jordan finally gets to meet the partially deaf guerrilla leader that he'll be relying on to help blow the bridge. El Sordo is strange but hospitable. (His nickname means "The Deaf One;" his real name is Santiago.)

With offhand remarks, both El Sordo and Pilar add to the sense of futility and approaching doom. El Sordo says that there are many people in the hills now, but fewer and fewer who are reliable. When Jordan suggests where Pilar and the guerrillas should go after the operation, Pilar becomes furious and tells him to let them decide what part of the hills to dies in. Again you see Jordan's uneasy position as a foreigner come to help the Republicans in the war. On some matters the Spanish just don't want outside assistance or advice.


This chapter sets the stage for the exceptionally significant content of Chapter 13.

Jordan, Maria, and Pilar have secured the aid of El Sordo, although he doesn't seem overly enthusiastic about giving it. On their way back, Pilar stops to rest and reveals her affection for Maria, even to the point of admitting that she herself is somewhat jealous of Jordan.

But then she deliberately separates herself from the pair and heads back to camp so that Jordan and Maria can be alone. Maria seems extremely anxious for this moment.


You'll find a great deal to think about in Chapter 13. The relationship of Jordan and Maria is intensified. Jordan entertains even more serious doubts and recriminations about his activities in Spain and begins to change his opinion of what is most important to him. You also learn a good bit more about his background, which has been presented sketchily so far.

Jordan and Maria's lovemaking was an intense experience- both say they felt the earth move. Maria confesses that she "died." Robert Jordan says he almost did.

Jordan now realizes how special Maria is to him. He admits that he has made love before, but the earth did not move. There is magic in her body, he says.

Shortly afterwards, as they're walking back to meet Pilar, he begins planning the bridge operation. And suddenly he suffers from another wave of guilt and uncertainty about what he's going to do. These periods are coming more frequently now.

Jordan reflects ironically that he is about to do the kind of thing he is supposed to be fighting against, trying to prevent: he is about to use and at the same time destroy people. Why? He has to do this to help his side win the war. And why does he want his side to win? So that people don't get used and destroyed!

Yet, blowing up the bridge will not guarantee a successful end to the war, and it will certainly not help the people. So "should a man carry out impossible orders knowing what they lead to"?

Jordan's answer is yes. Yes, you must, because you won't know whether the orders are impossible (or harmful) until after you've executed the mission. Is Robert Jordan indulging in another instance of "Act now, think later"?

Although Jordan's orders come from General Golz, he wouldn't be court-martialed and ruined if he didn't carry them out; he's a skilled foreign volunteer, not a drafted recruit. But what do you think that someone in military or government service should do who believes that the orders from above are not only futile but harmful- perhaps even monstrously inhumane?

Can a person escape moral responsibility simply by saying, "I was following orders"? Are the personal consequences of not following orders (loss of job, ruination of career, imprisonment, perhaps even death) a valid consideration? Many high-ranking Nazis used "following orders" as a defense of their personal involvement in horrendous crimes during World War II.

Thoughts involving several of the novel's themes occupy Robert Jordan's mind now. He reflects that his presence brings danger to the people of the region. They'll be hunted down because of him. But, he rationalizes, if he weren't there, they'd be hunted down for some other reason anyway. So the war is futile, but it's still necessary to fight on.

He admits to himself that he has no particular politics now. This is amazing. A short while ago, he was saying that if this war (for people's rights) were lost, everything would be lost.

What's made the difference? Have his political views simply vanished, leaving a complete void? Not quite. Maria has come to fill the void.

He wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Consequently, he's no longer quite so enthusiastic about dying a hero's death as did the Greeks at Thermopylae, or holding out, like Horatius or the Dutch boy of legend, against almost insurmountable odds. Instead, he dreams of life with Maria as his wife back in the United States.

NOTE: Thermopylae was the name of the narrow mountain pass where the Greeks under the Spartan king Leonidas made a stand in 480 B.C. against invading Persians.

Horatius was a legendary Roman hero celebrated for his defense of a bridge across the Tiber against the Etruscans.

"The Dutch boy" is the hero of the tale that pictures him undertaking a night-long ordeal of plugging a small hole in a dike with his finger to prevent the hole from enlarging and causing the eventual collapse of the dike.

This section finally gives us answers to a few questions you've probably had about the background of Robert Jordan. He's a professor of Spanish at the University of Montana and has taken a leave of absence in 1937. He had spent much time in Spain during previous summers, doing civil engineering work, in the course of which he learned the science of demolition.

Now Jordan's thoughts occur rapid-fire. He realizes that bringing Maria home to the United States as his wife is a highly unlikely eventuality. But what he does have is now.

Is he being cheated if all he has is now? He tries hard to convince himself that a short time packed full of intense experiences could be the equivalent of living out a long life. And then he says that all such thoughts are nonsense.

Hemingway presents quite a picture of Robert Jordan: as a college professor, as a trained guerrilla and demolition expert, as an avid lover... and as a man who is very confused about the meaning of everything.

NOTE: Many readers have criticized Robert Jordan for being muddleheaded about his politics, saying that he hasn't learned enough about the issues to warrant leaving his university life to join the guerrilla band. According to these readers, he also makes many contradictory statements concerning his political philosophy, at one point saying he is merely an antifascist, at another point claiming to have no politics. Some readers defend Jordan, however, indicating that he is typical of many who supported the Republicans. Such people displayed much courage but often did not have a clearheaded intellectual understanding of the issues. As you read For Whom the Bell Tolls you'll want to consider whether Jordan is a contradictory person or whether his political beliefs are less important to his makeup than his heartfelt zeal.

Jordan and Maria find Pilar feigning sleep when they come back. Pilar seems to find vicarious satisfaction in learning (through insistent questioning) that the lovemaking was quite an experience for both Jordan and Maria.

Looking at the sky, Pilar predicts snow, even though it's late May. A snowfall could be disastrous for the guerrillas. Making a safe retreat after blowing up the bridge would then probably be more difficult than the demolition itself. If the snow-covered ground betrays their retreating tracks...


Chapter 14, though short, is important for plot development and character revelation. Plans for blowing up the bridge receive a setback, Pablo becomes more of a villain, Jordan does some more philosophizing, and we learn quite a bit about Pilar's background.

It is late on the second day when Jordan, Pilar, and Maria return to the hideout. And it's snowing. Jordan is furious. The job is difficult enough without the extra burden of freakish weather. Pablo, on the other hand, is positively enjoying the snow, or at least giving that impression. Remember, he doesn't want the bridge blown up. It'll ruin his security here in these hills. We can't tell whether he's gleefully anticipating calling off the operation or just perversely enjoying the bad luck of the people who are engineering the mission.

After fuming at the snow, Jordan returns to the composure and philosophy expected of a Hemingway hero. What if there is snow? What if the task is a little difficult? Calm down, stop complaining, and get the job done.

A great deal of the latter part of the chapter is devoted to Pilar's former lover, Finito. She reminisces about him, a relatively mediocre bullfighter who gathered quite a following nonetheless by his brave manner in the ring.

To many people bullfighting is almost synonymous with Spanish culture. Beyond question, it is Spain's best-loved sport. Spectacle is perhaps a better word than sport, for in bullfighting, unlike conventional sports, there is little doubt of the outcome between the combatants, the matador and the toro. It is an elaborately staged drama comprising three acts, and the script calls for the bull to die. Bullfighting has been compared to ballet, for the bullfighter executes definite, stylized movements. An essential attraction of the spectacle is the courage of the matador, who places himself in a dangerous position from which he can emerge only with much skill.

Why is all this time spent on Finito, a character who is long dead when the story opens and who does not affect the plot in even a minor way? Pilar tells us that Finito was always fearful before a bullfight. Yet during the fight he did what he had to do and even distinguished himself. What he got for all this was the respect of a few people, a severely broken body, and a partly broken spirit.

He gave bullfighting his best effort... and ended by publicly coughing up blood as he stared in terror at the head of a bull.

What is Hemingway trying to tell us? Perhaps that even if defeat is inevitable, a person should behave honorably. Keep Finito's story in mind as Robert Jordan's story continues to unfold.


It's now the second night after Robert Jordan's arrival. Most of this chapter features Anselmo at his post, noting the traffic on the road as Jordan has instructed him. He does a good job of keeping tabs on the number of vehicles, but doesn't distinguish the types of cars, as Jordan would have. There are many luxury vehicles, indicating a high concentration of top-level staff. You know from this fact that something is brewing. But Anselmo doesn't realize it and neither does Jordan.

Hemingway offers the reader this insight by a combination of omniscient point of view and direct statement. He relates a fact and then bluntly says, "But Anselmo did not know this" and "Robert Jordan would have..."

The main function of this chapter, however, is to collect the strands of several themes. Anselmo seems the perfect choice of a vehicle for the task. Throughout, Hemingway has emphasized Anselmo's straightforwardness and integrity.

Across the road is the sawmill. In it are enemy soldiers. Evil enemy soldiers? Not as Anselmo sees them. They are not even really fascists; they are simply men who have been forced to serve in the Nationalist army. Who are they then?

Individual men, just like himself: "It is only orders that come between us." Anselmo's only grudge against them is that they are warm and he is not. He hopes he won't have to repeat the killing and the cruelty that he's been part of in the past (back in "the great days of Pablo"). And he sums it up simply and poignantly: "I wish I were in my own house again and that this war were over."

Now Hemingway takes you into the sawmill itself, and we see the men just as Anselmo had pictured them. They're ordinary people with ordinary concerns, not monsters- although the war will no doubt make them capable of such a transformation.

It's an amiable scene. The soldiers realize they have an easy detail and wonder how long it will last. They're confident of the power of the Nationalist air force.

NOTE: Anselmo refers to the soldiers in the sawmill as Gallegos, indicating that they are from Galicia, a region in the far northwest of Spain. The climate there is generally wet, but snow is rare. Anselmo wonders what they must think of snow- another facet of seeing them as ordinary human beings.

Galicians speak a distinctive dialect similar to Portuguese. From the men's speech, Anselmo could tell where they came from.

After letting us see the Galician Nationalists as simple human beings, Hemingway returns to Anselmo, who is doing still further soul-searching. More and more he regrets that any killing has to be done at all.

And here comes the moral paradox again: Anselmo says that the killing, even though necessary, is a great sin. (Can a genuine sin ever be necessary?) He decides there will be a need for penance after the war is over. God has been abolished by the Republicans, so a religious penance will be impossible. Perhaps a civil penance of some sort will suffice. Even without God as a source and judge of morality, Anselmo feels the reality of evil and just as strongly feels the need to atone for it somehow.

You might use this section to check your own feelings about atonement for wrongdoing. Do you think it's enough if a person has an honest change of heart and sincerely resolves not to repeat a wrong? Or must that be combined with additional action to make up for what was done?

Anselmo misses his prayers. He used to pray frequently but has not done so since the beginning of the movement. His reasons have nothing to do with a personal rejection of God. Ironically, they're rooted in Anselmo's own simple integrity: he figures that praying would be unfair and hypocritical. Under the Republic's official atheism, none of the others on his side are saying prayers... and he doesn't want special treatment anyway!

What a strange and tragic conflict stirs within Anselmo, a deeply religious man whose very integrity keeps him from practicing the religion he misses so much!

The pangs of guilt over the killing will not leave him. He's further tortured by the unresolvable dilemma of "necessary evil" and returns again to the concept of atoning for the sins of the war. He sees these sins as things that need to be removed from a man's soul.

Anselmo has been called the novel's "yardstick of humanity," suggesting that he is the ideal of moral stability by which the other characters should be measured. Anselmo is thoughtful, brave, loyal, and one of the few characters in the story concerned about the penance they will have to do for the killing and destruction of the war. As the eldest character, 68-year-old Anselmo may represent Hemingway's view that wisdom comes with age. In any case, he is one of the more admirable characters of For Whom the Bell Tolls and shows how much Spain lost when it wasted the resource of its people.

Robert Jordan arrives to bring Anselmo back from his observation post. Hemingway gives us a brief glimpse of the comradeship between them. Jordan knows that he can count on Anselmo. And perhaps on Fernando too. But that's not many, considering the task ahead.


Back at the cave, Pablo is drunk, and Maria is waiting on Robert Jordan, trying to anticipate his every need.

El Sordo has come, leaving a bottle of whiskey as a present specifically for Jordan; then he's gone to look for the horses they'll need on the retreat after the bridge. The whiskey is a rare gift for the time and situation, and Jordan is grateful.

Now Pablo begins to suffer severe guilt pangs. He regrets the violence and killing he was responsible for when the movement began. He wishes he could restore his victims to life. It's highly uncertain, though, whether Pablo or Pablo's wine is delivering these repentant sentiments.

The others make conversation with Jordan, partly out of embarrassment for Pablo's drunkenness. They ask him questions about the United States and learn that he taught Spanish there. They are probably interested but also want to fill an embarrassing gap.

Pablo keeps entering the conversation. And he keeps insulting Jordan, particularly with immature insults about the latter's masculinity. Jordan begins to think that Pablo may not be as drunk as he appears- or wants to appear. It's a repeat of an earlier scene: an opportunity for Jordan to kill Pablo. Only now Jordan is more aware of the situation and has more incentive. He realizes more than before how dangerous Pablo could be to his operation.

And so he deliberately insults Pablo, hoping for some movement from the former leader that will justify a fatal retaliation of some sort, something that could be chalked up to self-defense. But Pablo senses a trap (which he's convinced Pilar has engineered) and will not walk into it.

Augustin takes the initiative with lurid insults and harsh slaps across Pablo's face. Still Pablo will not fight back. Moreover, he seems to know that he'll be needed during the retreat; he taunts Jordan with the prospect of having to lead the band to safety.

Pablo also makes a significant comment about the value of this ideological war and the merit of foreign involvement. He calls the band "a group of illusioned people" and refers to Jordan as "a foreigner who comes to destroy you."

Clearly, Pablo no longer feels allegiance to the Republic. In fact, such allegiance to the cause is precisely the illusion he's talking about. As for Jordan being a destroyer, that may be a little difficult to prove. He's about to destroy a bridge; we don't have any direct evidence that he has ever destroyed lives. On the other hand, it is difficult to see how he has saved or improved any lives.

Is Pablo right? Does this often drunken, superficially weak, less-than-admirable man have the best grasp on reality? As Pablo leaves to look after the horses, he needles Jordan again by pointing out that the snow is still falling.


Prompted by Pilar, the guerrillas concur that Pablo is a danger and should be killed. Jordan agrees to shoot him. A tense scene ensues when Pablo suddenly reenters the cave. The planned assassination is about to take place when Jordan realizes that he can't shoot inside the cave- the dynamite is stored there.

But Pablo now shows a complete personality change. He maintains he's no longer drunk and says he wants to be involved in the demolition of the bridge. He even openly admits that he knows they have thought of killing him but stresses that only he can lead them to safety in the Gredos Range.

Pilar attributes the change in Pablo to his having overheard the plans to kill him.

Do you recall Jordan's suspicions about Pablo at the end of Chapter 1? Agustin's anger at the guerrillas for not killing Pablo suggests that Pablo may still be a threat to them.


Most of this chapter contains Jordan's reflections about Gaylord's, a hotel in Madrid occupied by Soviet communists who had come to fight for the Republic. It's partly a story of the first stages in Robert Jordan's disillusionment. At Gaylord's "you learned how it was all really done instead of how it was supposed to be done."

At Gaylord's he had met the well-known "peasant leaders" of the Loyalist troops. Although they were originally simple peasants and workers, more recently they had spent time at the military academy in the Soviet Union and have Soviet interests at heart at least as much as Spanish interests. Jordan consoles himself that perhaps this manufactured peasant image isn't so bad because real peasant leaders, lacking the necessary military training, might very likely be more like Pablo.

NOTE: The three "peasant leaders" Jordan refers to in particular were Enrique Lister, a former stonemason; Juan Modesto, a former cabinet-maker; and Valentin Gonzalez, known as El Campesino ("The Peasant"). They were well trained, able military leaders.

The second of Jordan's disillusionments is with the luxuries that surrounded these communist leaders. (Communism was supposed to eliminate economic distinctions and privileges of class.) For a while, he had been able to accept this lifestyle on the part of his heroes (at least while they were at Gaylord's) and to give up the idea that champions of the common people should do without nice things. But the purity of revolutionary feeling dies fast, Jordan now reflects- for him within six months.

At Gaylord's, Jordan meets Karkov, a Soviet journalist who is more than just a reporter, and who serves somewhat as Jordan's tutor in the ways of this war.

Although Karkov is a minor character, he is compelling and interesting. Karkov is a realist. He holds no grand ideas about the qualities of the Loyalist forces. In a sense, he bares the reality of the Republican cause to Jordan.

Particularly significant is a comment Jordan makes to Karkov at one point: "My mind is in suspension until we win the war." You might see this as evidence that Jordan had adopted an "Act now, think later" stance long before taking the bridge assignment and meeting Maria.

NOTE: While covering the war in Spain, Hemingway stayed at the Hotel Florida when in Madrid. But he frequently called at Gaylord's, the Soviet center. He came and went freely there, although in many ways he disliked the place. Jordan's reactions to Gaylord's are basically Hemingway's: he felt it boasted too many luxuries, including gourmet food and drink, while the common people (on whose behalf they were supposed to be fighting) suffered. Nevertheless, he visited Gaylord's often in hope of gaining information about the war. There he frequently conversed with Mikhail Koltsov, a young Soviet journalist who appears in the book as Karkov.

THE STORY, continued


ECC [For Whom the Bell Tolls Contents] []

© Copyright 1986 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Electronically Enhanced Text © Copyright 1993, World Library, Inc.
Further distribution without the written consent of, Inc. is prohibited.

  Web Search Our Message Boards   

All Contents Copyright © 1997-2004
All rights reserved. Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.

About Us
 | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page
This page was last updated: 10/18/2019 3:21:09 PM