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For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway

THE STORY, continued


This is one of the few chapters that deals almost exclusively with only one theme. Here the theme is mysticism- knowledge gained by extraordinary, subjective means. It's been hinted at several times before, beginning with Pilar's reading of Jordan's palm.

The occasion of the theme is Kashkin, the demolition expert who preceded Jordan. Pilar claims she could foresee his impending doom. Jordan maintains that Kashkin simply lost his nerve and was afraid, and that it showed on his face.

Pilar then goes beyond appearances and says her gypsy nature could smell the death that was about to happen to Kashkin. Notice the components that Pilar says make up the smell of death. Her list is morbid and repugnant.

Jordan is distantly respectful of her lore. Comments from members of the band, however, suggest that this is a bit too much for them to accept, and Pilar seems to feel insulted.

There's nothing mystic about the danger to El Sordo, which Robert Jordan notes at the end of this chapter. The snow has stopped. But it's cold; the snow will stay on the ground. If El Sordo and his men have been out stealing horses for the retreat, they'll be easy to track down.


But Robert Jordan and Maria aren't even trying to cover their traces on this second night since Jordan arrived at the scene of his assignment. Maria simply leaves the cave and goes outside to Jordan's robe-sleeping bag, even though the others are still awake.

Jordan has prepared a bed of pine boughs under the robe. Again they make love.

It's not the same as it was that afternoon- no earthquakes, no stirrings that shake the center of their beings. Yet Maria says she loved it more. "One does not need to die," she tells Jordan. He doesn't seem to have regrets either.

Is there something to learn here about the nature of human experience? Is it that we need only one intense experience to give meaning to all similar ones?

Jordan feels that Maria's body next to his is an alliance against death. What is the significance of this phrase? How can they together defeat death? Think in terms of the meaning, quality, and value of experience as Hemingway sees it, regardless of the calendar years (or even clock hours) a particular experience may comprise.

And yet, does this brave theory make Jordan any more willing to relinquish Maria, because they've shared an intense, "worth a lifetime" experience? He holds her "as though she were all of life and it was being taken from him." But he makes sure his pistol is handy.


This extremely brief chapter abruptly jolts Robert Jordan from his lover/philosopher role and returns him to being a man of action.

His third day in the mountains begins early and dramatically. While still in the sleeping robe with Maria, he hears a horseman approaching. He waits. When the man comes into view, Jordan sees from his uniform that he's an enemy soldier and fires at him.

The slain cavalryman is probably part of a random patrol, but this means the enemy is in the area. Everyone is aroused instantly.

Now, perhaps predictably, the old Jordan takes over. Maria has "no place in his life now." He is once again the trained, efficient, deadly partizan, fighting for... what? This is a good place for you to attempt an answer. Answer first for yourself; then answer as Jordan might have at this point in the story. But keep in mind that a few hours ago Maria was "all of life" to Robert Jordan, instead of having no place in it. Now when she wants to be with him, he orders her back. Robert Jordan is pure soldier at this point. He takes charge, orders the submachine gun to be set up on the hill, and gives instructions on its correct positioning and use. If the cavalryman is missed and if others follow his horse tracks (there's still enough snow on the ground), the guerrillas may have to make a stand. If this happens, it will likely ruin the bridge operation before it gets started. The enemy isn't supposed to know they're in the area until after the bridge has been destroyed.


Chapter 22 resumes the action of the previous chapter without a moment's lapse or even a slight change of location. Jordan, Primitivo, and Augustin are installing the machine gun.

Into the midst of this situation comes a grinning Rafael, the gypsy, who has just killed two rabbits. He's proud of his accomplishment. That's not all bad: the band does need food, assuming they can escape from this situation. The upsetting part is that the enemy cavalryman came through the post Rafael was supposed to be watching. And the enemy might have heard the gypsy's gun shot.

The incident has symbolic significance. Before Rafael followed and killed them, the two rabbits were mating- "making love," if that term can be applied to rabbits. A few moments afterwards, they are dead. The foreshadowing is obvious if you remember that Jordan's nickname for Maria is "rabbit."

Robert Jordan knows the pure mechanics of killing and instructs his comrades. Shoot an officer first. Aim at the knees of a dismounted man if he is below you. Aim at the belly of a man if he is on a horse.

Primitivo is ready for some real action. He wants a massacre of the enemy. Jordan can't afford to condone Primitivo's bloodthirsty urges at this point, for fear of jeopardizing the bridge operation. So he appeases Primitivo with a simple message: Have patience... we'll have a massacre tomorrow at the sawmill and the roadmender's hut.


Primitivo is above, at the lookout point; Agustin is by Jordan's side at the machine gun. Four enemy cavalrymen ride out of the timber, perfect targets. It's a rare chance to kill them with no chance of return fire- not from these four men anyway. Nevertheless, Jordan restrains himself: "But let it not happen."

Why not? Is it purely a judgment that gunfire would be foolhardy since others may be in the area? Or is his restraint mixed with some other motive?

Whatever the reason, it's a good professional move. Twenty more soldiers ride into and then out of view. If the first four had been killed, the twenty would have had to be dealt with.

A mild, comic-relief dialogue takes place between Jordan and Anselmo about the placement of their official papers. It's necessary to carry official clearance papers for both sides when moving back and forth through the lines. In case of capture, the wrong ones must be swallowed.

To prevent a mixup, Jordan carries the Republican papers in his left breast pocket and the fascist papers in his right breast pocket.

Agustin, still a radical revolutionary (or still "illusioned," to use Pablo's viewpoint), complains that the Republic moves more to the "right" all the time. As evidence, he cites the fact that many Republicans are reinstating "Senor" and "Senora" to replace the equalizing term, "Comrade."

Agustin, Anselmo, and Robert Jordan present us with a variety of attitudes toward killing.

Agustin positively relishes the idea. He can't wait to get to it.

Anselmo, as we've seen, has killed because it was "necessary," but he regrets his actions. He openly opposes Agustin and maintains that none of the enemy should be shot. They should be reformed by work but not killed. He gives his position a philosophical backing: "Thus we will never have a Republic." By this expression, he seems to mean that killing simply for the satisfaction of wiping out the enemy will violate the very principles of individual human worth that the Republicans are supposed to stand for.

Jordan, by his own admission, is more like Agustin than Anselmo. He reflects, "We do it coldly but they do not," meaning that the partizans kill methodically, without emotion, but the Spanish have inherited their hot blood for killing. When they accepted Christianity, this urge was only suppressed, not wiped out. He even describes it as their "extra sacrament."

NOTE: In Roman Catholic theology, a sacrament is an action or event in which a believer encounters God. Baptism is the prime example. In this meeting, the believer's life is changed, enriched, made more meaningful. Hemingway's description of killing as "their extra sacrament" (the Catholic faith observes seven) is both eloquent and (to a Spanish Catholic) sacrilegious.

Then Jordan admits to himself that he likes to kill. Hemingway raises an important issue when he has Jordan say "...admit that you have liked to kill as all who are soldiers by choice have enjoyed it at some time whether they lie about it or not." Many readers point to such statements as proof that Hemingway endorsed warfare by talking of the "enjoyment" of it. Others contend that he is simply being frank about a reaction to war that has been well documented. How do you feel about Jordan's thoughts? Does Hemingway make war attractive in any way in For Whom the Bell Tolls? Or is it a frightening picture, made all the more terrible by the leading character admitting that there is pleasure to be had in taking the life of another?

Jordan cautions himself not to think of Anselmo as a typical Spaniard because Anselmo is a Christian, "something very rare in Catholic countries." This is a slight and/or sly jab at religion and particularly at Catholicism in Spain.

Again Hemingway is criticizing something he himself belonged to or supported. Previously, you've seen him present the Republic unfavorably in several instances. Now he does the same with the Catholic faith of which he was at least technically a member. (Hemingway was baptized a Catholic in Italy after sustaining such severe wounds in World War I that it seemed he might not survive. He remained nominally Catholic throughout his life and was buried in a Catholic ceremony at Ketchum, Idaho.)


The enemy soldiers have gone; they didn't even know they were being watched. Now the band is having breakfast. There's a cheerful, lighthearted atmosphere, and the meal features such unlikely breakfast foods as wine and onions.

The breakfast scene at the guerrilla hideout seems like the scene at the campaign headquarters of a candidate who knows he or she is likely to lose. The defeat hasn't officially occurred yet, so the participants decide to make the best of their situation.

Then from a distance comes the sound of automatic rifle fire. They all realize what this means. El Sordo and his men have been detected and are defending themselves. Agustin wants to go to their aid immediately. Jordan says no: "We stay here."


In Chapter 25, Hemingway hints even more strongly- through the characters themselves- at the probability of death for the band.

Primitivo can curse. That's nothing new to you by now. Most of the characters in this novel are blessed with very earthy, colorful tongues. But Primitivo's present cursing is not the nonchalant foul mouth of a man who disagrees with somebody.

His cursing is deliberate, serious, directed at the enemy. The group can hear the battle sounds of El Sordo's band being massacred. And so Primitivo curses and cries. Pilar is more hardened. She talks to Primitivo with contempt for such feelings and for wanting to go to El Sordo's aid. And then she says that Primitivo will die soon enough here with his own band- why make an unnecessary trip to die with others?

But Pilar comes down from her pedestal when an enemy plane roars overhead. Fearfully, she refers to it as the "bad luck bird." "For each one there is something," she says. "For me it is those." Do you also have a weak spot- a sight or a sound that automatically brings a pang of fear or at least uneasiness?

It's time to prepare the noon meal. The hares would taste better if they were cooked tomorrow or the next day, but Pilar says they might as well eat them today. And Jordan agrees. It's clear that they are aware of the possibility that none of them will still be around tomorrow.


This chapter opens with a powerful consideration of the theme of killing and in so doing illustrates Robert Jordan's change in attitude.

That morning, Jordan had killed a young Nationalist cavalryman, an insignificant incident in military terms, and to Jordan, involving simply another one of the enemy.

But now Jordan is looking through the young man's papers. There's a letter from his sister, with news of his parents and his village. A second letter is from the soldier's fiance, frantic with worry about his safety.

Suddenly Robert Jordan doesn't want to read any more of the man's letters. They're painful proof that this was not just another one of the faceless "them." This was a man- with a mother, a father, a sister, and a girl he loved.

Jordan reflects, in a line characteristic of Hemingway's irony, that you never kill anyone you want to kill in a war.

The dead soldier's letters lead Jordan into a lengthy interior monologue. Does he have a right to kill? Of course not. But he "must"- "necessary evil" again.

He has killed more than twenty people so far. Only two of them were fascists, so far as he knows. Thus, he concludes, he has actually been killing the very people he likes and wants to help: ordinary Spanish citizens.

But they oppose the cause. The cause is right. So he must kill in order to prevent something worse from happening. That bit of theory doesn't relieve his mounting guilt either. He tells himself to stop this train of thought. It's going to keep him from being a coldly efficient soldier.

What does Robert Jordan believe in? Not all the things he claims to believe, so that he can justify being here in this war, killing people. He finally admits this to himself.

Is Robert Jordan, the idealistic liberal and highly educated American partizan, really Robert Jordan, the hypocrite? Not too long ago, he reflected that secretly he enjoyed killing.

Then he says that above all else, love is the most important thing to a human being, whether it lasts for a long life or for just a day. Does he really believe that- or is he trying to make himself feel better about the next twenty-four hours?


Up to this point scenes in which Robert Jordan is present have dominated the novel. The few exceptions include the scene in which Pablo talks to his horses at the end of Chapter 5 and the chapter in which Anselmo reflects on the enemy soldiers in the mill followed by a brief look inside the mill itself to listen to them. But Chapter 27 belongs completely to El Sordo.

This other guerrilla leader, so unlike Pablo, went to steal horses for the retreat after the bridge is blown up. The snow enabled the Nationalists to follow the guerrillas, and now they've been forced to make a defense on a hill.

There are five men left on the hilltop. Four are wounded, including El Sordo himself. They're in pain, and El Sordo ironically refers to death as an aspirin. He has shot to death one of the wounded horses and used the body to plug the gap between two rocks so that he can fire over it at the enemy.

Joaquin, the youngest in the group and the only remaining idealist, parrots the Communist slogan: "Hold out and fortify and you will win." The slogan evokes an expletive from one of his less "illusioned" comrades.

Joaquin tries another, "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees," but gets the same response.

Joaquin is quoting Dolores Ibarruri, a Communist heroine known as La Pasionaria. Always dressed in black, she made passionate pro-Republic speeches in Madrid, urging the people to resist Nationalist attempts to capture the city. "It is better to die..." began one of her most famous exhortations. She was greatly admired by the Loyalists. Yet the theme of hypocrisy emerges here when one of the guerrillas maintains that her own son is safely away in the Soviet Union.

El Sordo's men have killed some of the Nationalists who foolishly tried to storm the hill, but the guerrillas are doomed and know it. They can hold out for a while; however, the enemy needs only to bring a trench mortar (a short cannon for firing shells at a high angle) or send planes, and the battle will be over quickly.

Hemingway gives us an earthy image of the hill on which El Sordo and his men have been forced to make a defense. To El Sordo it looks like a chancre (an ulcer caused by syphilis) with themselves as the pus.

Dying is easy to El Sordo. He does not fear it. He can accept it. But he hates it. He has no glorious sacrificial view of death. Perhaps such a view can come only from those engaged in the theory of revolution- not from those engaged in the devastating details of waging such a war.

El Sordo tricks the enemy into thinking the men on the hill have committed suicide. The Nationalist soldiers try to determine if this is the case by baiting them with increasingly gross insults. Their captain (Hemingway lets us know he is not quite rational) stands atop a boulder in the open and dares someone to kill him.

No response.

The captain then strides up the hill. El Sordo is sad that only one enemy soldier will be killed by his ploy, but at least it's a major officer. Referring to his enemy as Comrade Voyager (on the journey to death), El Sordo shoots him. The Nationalists resume firing on the hill. But now the planes come too, and El Sordo begins his last stand. Hemingway's description makes it one of the most powerful episodes in the novel. Along with the rest of this chapter, it overflows with the themes of For Whom the Bell Tolls.

The droning of the planes has weakened the young Joaquin's idealistic bravado, but he still recites the slogans of La Pasionaria- until the planes get close.

Then Joaquin, the officially atheistic Communist, switches to the Hail Mary! When the planes are actually overhead, he interrupts his Hail Mary and begins the Act of Contrition, a prayer expressing sorrow for sin.

But the machine gun is roaring over his head and the enemy planes are roaring over the hill and Joaquin cannot remember the Act of Contrition. All he can remember is the final phrase of the Hail Mary: "...and at the hour of our death." Many readers see Joaquin's plight as one of the most moving in the entire novel. He is a classic victim of the Spanish Civil War, loyal to the Republican cause but still tied to his Catholic roots.

The planes do their job well. Very quickly there is no one left alive on the hill except an unconscious Joaquin. With the captain dead, Lieutenant Berrendo is in charge of the Nationalist troops on the hill. Within a few paragraphs, Berrendo displays a conflicting spectrum of conduct ranging from decency to butchery.

Finding Joaquin still alive, Berrendo makes the sign of the cross and "gently" shoots him. This may be seen as a humane act by the Lieutenant. But then he orders his men to cut the heads from the dead bodies and put them in a poncho to bring back for purposes of "proof and identification."

He prays for the soul of one of his own soldiers before leaving the scene because he doesn't want to see the beheading he himself has ordered.


This short chapter stands as an epilogue to the previous one. It's the aftermath of El Sordo's doomed stand. Hemingway gives you a chance to think about it.

The Nationalist cavalry pass in front of Robert Jordan's eyes again. Jordan sees a long poncho "bulging as a pod bulges with peas." We know what's in there although Jordan doesn't yet.

Hemingway gives us another insight into the complex character of Lieutenant Berrendo. He feels distaste for what's just happened, yet he basically enjoys military maneuvers. He says a prayer to the Virgin Mary for his dead friend Julian.

Anselmo, returning from his duty of tallying vehicle movement, passes the hill where El Sordo made his final stand and sees the headless bodies. And now Anselmo prays, for the first time since the start of the movement; it is the same prayer Lieutenant Berrendo just said!


This chapter introduces one of the final strands in the latter part of the novel: the mission of Andres to deliver Jordan's letter to Golz.

Jordan and Pablo are sitting across a table from each other. Jordan is making notes; Pablo is getting drunk. It looks like business as usual.

But these aren't ordinary notes. Jordan is writing to Golz to inform him that the fascists know of the upcoming offensive. He feels it will not succeed or will not be worth the price. But he doesn't want to lose face. Golz must know that Jordan's reservations about the attack do not come from cowardice or timidity. We realize again that Jordan himself doesn't know what the overall plan is- and that it's possible the plan isn't even meant to succeed.

Andres is selected to carry Jordan's communication across enemy lines to the Republican headquarters.

NOTE: The Military Information Service, represented by the S.I.M. seal that Jordan puts on his letter, was not a particularly admirable arm of the Republic. Organized to investigate deserters and opponents of the Republic, it became controlled by communists. Its success relied greatly on secret prisons and torture chambers.


The buildup to the final action is interrupted in Chapter 30, which is devoted primarily to Robert Jordan's personal history.

Andres has been gone three hours. Now we learn why Jordan has sent the message to Golz: Anselmo had brought information about a massive buildup of enemy equipment that was not supposed to be in the area at all.

Jordan greatly admires his grandfather, an excellent soldier who had fought in the U.S. Civil War. In fact, the grandfather is his masculine "father image." His own father committed suicide with the officer's pistol that belonged to Jordan's grandfather. Thus the weapon went, in Jordan's opinion, from noble to cowardly use. Afterwards, Jordan dropped it in a deep lake.

Jordan sees his father as a coward, first for being henpecked by Jordan's mother, but primarily for having committed suicide. In his thoughts he refers to his father as "that one" and "that other one that misused the gun."

Remember that Hemingway's own father committed suicide with a firearm. His father was suffering from both physical and financial problems, and at the time Hemingway did not display any condemnation or disgust at his father's action (although later he spoke of his father's "cowardice" as "the worst luck any man could have").

In an earthy reflection that might have come from one of the Spanish peasants he's working with, Jordan speculates that "the good juice" came through to him only after passing through his father. Then he cautions himself to count on good juice only if he's proved it by the end of tomorrow.

Even Jordan can see some irony in his situation. He admires his grandfather, who was so conservative that he never associated with Democrats- yet Jordan himself has been offered a chance to study at the Lenin Institute in Moscow!


On this third night, Maria is unable to make love. She feels pain, which she attributes to "the things [that] were done" by her Nationalist captors. Instead of making love, they make plans to go to Madrid. They spin elaborately whimsical dreams of how they'll spend a month in a hotel room.

Many people have done what Maria and Robert Jordan are doing: planning things that will never happen. Can you remember a time when you've done the same thing- talked with somebody about a future that was either impossible or very unlikely?

At first Jordan enjoys the fantasizing. Then he realizes he's simply lying. He continues for Maria's sake, but it's no longer enjoyable.

Pilar has been fantasizing too, whether for her own sake or Maria's, by preparing Maria for her marriage role when she and Jordan return to the United States to live.

Are men dominant in For Whom the Bell Tolls? Some readers argue that Pilar disproves this. Others feel that she is only a rare exception. She leads only because Pablo has relinquished his natural dominance by drunkenness and cowardice. Yet this same strong, unmistakably-in-charge Pilar instructs Maria in wifely duties that many readers find subservient.

Although Jordan generally does not act in an excessively male-dominant manner, at times he is certainly condescending and talks down to Maria as though she were a child.

How does Jordan's behavior strike you? If you're female, does such behavior by a man bother you or do you accept it as simply part of the culture and the times? If you're male, do you find yourself wishing that man-woman relationships were like Jordan and Maria's- with the man dominant- or is it better when both partners are more equal?

Maria's father had been a Republican and the mayor of their village. Maria describes the execution of her parents by the Nationalists and her subsequent capture and rape. The story angers Jordan, and he's glad they'll be killing tomorrow.

And then he indulges in strange reasoning: when the Nationalists, the "flowers of Spanish chivalry," raped Maria, they knew better but acted deliberately and on purpose. His side has done very bad things too... but out of ignorance (or so he claims).

Is this the thinking of a mature college professor or of a little child? ("I couldn't help it, but he did it on purpose!") Is Robert Jordan a mixture of both?

Then he decides that being killed tomorrow doesn't matter as long as the bridge gets blown properly. Maybe he has experienced all of his life in these last three days.


For the second time, Hemingway presents a complete chapter without Robert Jordan. The scene is Gaylord's, the Madrid hotel occupied by communist partizans and people of similar beliefs. These are the people who preach a classless society with no special advantages to any privileged group. They've come to Spain to help bring power and complete equality to the common people. Do they look and act like austere, dedicated freedom fighters? Not exactly. They eat well, drink well, and do not lack for sexual diversion. Living in the midst of a besieged capital city, they're enjoying parties. The contrast with the situation of people like Jordan and Maria is striking.

News of their Loyalist offensive scheduled for the following morning has spread throughout the area. The reaction at Gaylord's to this inexcusable, potentially fatal leak in security is laughter!

Once again we have to wonder why Hemingway painted his own side so bleakly. Remember that he was writing after the war had been lost by the Republicans, whom he favored. Perhaps he wanted to show that a noble cause died at the hands of less-than-noble leaders. In any case, here he describes one of the Republican inner circles as a group of overstuffed, self-important oafs who throw parties in a time of peril and use unfounded rumors to buoy their confidence.

An exception is the Soviet journalist Karkov, who may represent Hemingway's own feelings. After talking with a few people at this pre-attack celebration, he retires to his room at Gaylord's, disgusted.


It's 2:00 A.M., the middle of Jordan's third night. Pilar wakes him with bad news. Pablo has gone, deserted. That in itself isn't so bad; maybe they'll be better off without him. But Pablo took the detonation devices that Jordan needs to blow up the bridge. That is disastrous. Pilar is apologetic and guilt-ridden. She feels she has failed Jordan and the Republic miserably.

You learn something about Pilar here. Pablo may have discarded illusions about the cause long ago. And Jordan may be swiftly moving in the direction of losing his. But to Pilar, the ideal of the Republic is still very real. At first Jordan is upset with her. Then he realizes that he cannot afford "the luxury of being bitter." He says he'll find other ways to detonate the explosives. "It is nothing."

He has to improvise the detonation of a major demolition with makeshift materials, and he has to come up with the ideas for it within a few hours. Considering the situation, Jordan's remarkably calm.


Suspense builds in this chapter as Jordan prepares to carry off his mission with improvised explosive devices and Andres moves to warn General Golz.

On his way to deliver Jordan's message to Golz, Andres looks at haystacks in a field, there since the beginning of the fighting. The hay is worthless now. Are the stacks symbolic of normal life in Spain right now, left to rot by the fighting? Being a true Republican, of course, Andres blames it on the Nationalists with the ingrained slogan: "What barbarians they are!"

A partridge whirring at his feet prompts thoughts of what life could be like if there were no war: he could get the eggs and hatch partridges. His brother Eladio and he could gather crayfish. Life could be good without the war.

His pastoral musings turn more philosophical. Why is he on this side in the war? Because his father was. If his father's political views had been different, he and Eladio would be fascists!

Have you inherited any loyalties? For example, do you favor one political party or another basically because your parents did? Unthinking acceptance of anything and everything simply because Mom or Dad said so is not the hallmark of an independent adult. But should parents deliberately not try to transmit values they consider important? That hardly seems right either. The reflections of Andres can help us think about this ever-present dilemma. How far should parents go in trying to instill values in children?


Maria is asleep. Jordan is furious with himself for not remembering to be on guard when he saw Pablo's friendliness, the sign of imminent betrayal. The exploder and the detonators will be hard to replace with improvised materials. In fact, the whole operation may now be impossible. Jordan flies into a rage in which he attacks everything, particularly Spain and Spaniards.

But after realizing he is being unjust, his anger fades. He says to a still-sleeping Maria that he's figured out how to improvise the detonation. And then he echoes Pilar by saying, "We'll be killed but we'll blow the bridge." He considers Maria as his wife, and his wedding present is that she has been able to sleep this night without worrying.

The chapter ends with Robert Jordan the soldier counting the minutes until the offensive begins, while Robert Jordan the lover holds Maria close to him.


Andres is having his problems- but not with the enemy. He made it through their lines with ease. His problem is with Republican soldiers at their checkpoint.

He can't convince them that he's on their side and that he's carrying an important message for General Golz. Of course, they can't be blamed for being skeptical, for enforcing a sensible degree of security. But that's not what they're really doing. One soldier suggests tossing a bomb at him as "the soundest way to deal with the whole thing."

Andres has encountered some of the radical anarchists fighting for the Republic. In a sense they're little boys playing at war. As long as they destroy something or somebody (it makes little difference what), they feel they've accomplished something.

By mouthing some anarchist slogans, Andres manages to get to them without being shot. The bomb advocate then becomes maudlin, embraces Andres, and says he's "very content" that nothing happened to his "brother."

After more bumbling scrutiny, the officer agrees to lead the way to the commander. After Andres has been walking behind him in the dark for several minutes, the officer belatedly decides it might be a good idea to take the gun from Andres, whom he still doesn't completely trust. With such soldiers on the side of the Republic, no wonder Jordan is depressed.


In Chapter 37, Jordan and Maria share an episode of lovemaking that touches each of them to the center of their being.

Examine the paragraph that begins, "Then they were together..." Some readers think it tries to parallel the rise and fall of intensity during lovemaking itself. Beyond question, it lyrically enforces Hemingway's idea of the meaning and value of the present moment.

Jordan displays a humility you may find surprising. He thanks Maria, not just for their lovemaking but for having taught him so much. Jordan, the college professor, admits that he really didn't know much about life until he came here. Now at least he has learned a few things.


This chapter offers several surprises. We see Jordan in an unusual mood, and the expedition to blow up the bridge gets a strange boost from- of all people Pablo.

It's 2:50 A.M. on his fourth day when Robert Jordan enters the cave. Pilar is attending to breakfast, and the men are generally irritable. Jordan is too, now that the time has come. Looking over his resources, he doesn't think the operation can work. There aren't enough men to take both the posts at the bridge. He's angry with many things, including himself for having spent the night with Maria instead of scouring the countryside for additional volunteers.

Pilar tries to reassure him that all will go well, and adds, "It is for this that we are born." Joaquin, you will remember, was saying similar things up until his last moments.

Then Pablo enters the cave. His explanation for leaving? He had had a moment of weakness but couldn't stand the loneliness of being a deserter. With him he's brought five volunteers and their horses. Unfortunately, he hasn't brought the exploder and the detonators. He threw them into the river during his moment of weakness.

Pilar alternately welcomes him and compares him to Judas. As for Pablo, he doesn't grovel; he doesn't even ask for forgiveness. He does, of course, ask for a drink.

They're ready to begin the operation.


The band is on its way. Pablo seems worried about two things: the horses needed for the retreat and the fact that the men he's recruited think he is in charge. Jordan humors him on both counts.

NOTE: Jordan makes two religious allusions (to conversion and canonizing) in reference to Pablo's return. He compares it to the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). (Hemingway incorrectly cites Tarsus, Paul's birthplace, as the destination when the conversion occurred.) Canonization is the process in the Roman Catholic church by which a deceased person is declared a saint.

On the way to the bridge, Jordan muses on the idea that he himself is nothing, death is nothing. On the other hand, he has now learned that he plus another person could be everything.

But that's the exception, he tells himself. And even though the exception has happened, he can't afford to think about it now. The qualities of Jordan the lover- gentleness and sentimentality, for instance- apparently will not serve the needs of Jordan the soldier.


This chapter is another installment in the story of Andres as he is hampered by his own people. You will remember he had made swift progress through enemy territory. It's his own people who still continue to slow him down.

Again, if one of Hemingway's goals in For Whom the Bell Tolls was to show that a noble cause died at the hands of self-interested leaders, this chapter is one of his most successful, devastating efforts. The scene is populated by selfish and short-sighted military men.

First there's the pompous, suspicious company commander who escorts Andres to battalion headquarters. Then there's the self-important Gomez, a former barber now a battalion commander, who insists on personally driving Andres to brigade headquarters. Finally, there's Lieutenant-Colonel Miranda, whose only ambition is to finish the war with the same rank. He is supported in this vital role by whiskey, sodium bicarbonate, cigarettes, and a pregnant mistress.

Miranda issues official clearance papers for Andres and asks Gomez to take Andres on his motorcycle to General Golz.


The operation begins in the dark of early morning. The band has arrived at the bridge and is about to break up into various details.

As they shake hands in parting, Pablo's hand feels strangely good to Jordan, as though he were a real comrade.

With Pilar, Jordan trades some genial insults.

With Maria, the good-bye is awkward. As Jordan bends to give her a final kiss, his pack filled with war materials bumps the back of his head and makes his forehead bump hers. Other than that, their farewell is pared to the bone: "Good-bye, rabbit." "Good-bye, my Roberto."

Pablo and his five men have assumed the job El Sordo's band would have done. They leave to take care of the post on the other side of the bridge. As Jordan, Agustin and Anselmo start down the hill, they review their plans. Anselmo will go to the other side of the bridge to set the detonation assembly there. Jordan will shoot the sentry at this end of the bridge. Anselmo is then to do the same at his end. Agustin is to cover them both. Jordan again gives Anselmo instructions at what part of the man's body to aim, depending upon the man's position.

To remove some of Anselmo's guilt about killing, Jordan makes it clear that he is ordering it. Thus Anselmo can say to himself that he was only following orders. The orders came from a leader of the cause; the cause is right and good. Therefore, Anselmo did not do a bad thing; at least he cannot be held responsible. Jordan's sensitivity to the old man's plight is a further indication that his understanding of those around him has increased considerably in the course of the novel.


This second-to-last chapter drives home the incompetence and futility that have characterized the cause for which Robert Jordan is risking his life and his newly discovered future with Maria.

The Republican offensive is moving through the night in one direction as Gomez carries Andres on his motorcycle in the other direction toward headquarters. Hemingway paints a scene like a slapstick sequence from an old silent movie. One truck rams into the rear of another at a control point, creating a massive bottleneck. Truck after truck in the convoy pulls up and stops so close to the one in front of it that none can move, and the smashed vehicle in the original accident can't be removed from the road. An officer tries to run to the end of the line to tell the last truck to back up- but trucks keep arriving faster than he can run, and the end of the line moves farther away from him.

The mighty Republican army is on the move, so to speak. Its big top-secret offensive is getting in gear!

But Andres rides past this ridiculous confusion in childlike hero worship. "Look at the army that has been builded!" he thinks exultantly to himself.

Finally, after some more delays, they arrive at headquarters. Just then a staff car pulls up and out of it steps a man whom Gomez recognizes: the famous Andre Marty! This legendary leader will certainly get the message through to Golz without any more red tape. So Gomez thinks as Marty reads the dispatch.

Instead, Marty has them arrested.

What Gomez doesn't know is that the great Comrade Marty has become an incompetent shell of a leader. He is inclined to execute people he thinks are traitors. Even the corporal refers to Andre Marty as "the crazy."

Hemingway gives us a brilliant picture of the tortured reasoning in what's left of Andre Marty's mind. Marty decides from their story that Golz is a traitor and that this is really a fascist communication.

We learn later that Marty often doesn't even understand the war maps he "studies." He simply points a finger and gives directions. His puppets agree and dispatch troops to their death carrying out his militarily absurd orders.

Marty was a real historical character, a French communist who commanded the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway felt contempt for him in real life and paints him as uncomplimentarily as possible in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Many people agreed with Hemingway's opinion of Marty. But not all. After For Whom the Bell Tolls was published, an open letter to Hemingway bearing several signatures accused him of libeling Marty (and La Pasionaria). It didn't, of course, change Hemingway's opinion. He wrote a particularly bitter reply to one of the signers saying, "You have your Marty [Andre Marty] and I've married my Marty [Martha Gellhorn, his third wife and a noted writer] and we'll see who does the most for the world in the end."

Karkov, the Soviet journalist, shows up (through the efforts of the corporal) to save Gomez and Andre. There's a dramatic battle of words (and relative status) between Karkov and Marty, but the Soviet is one of the few people not intimidated by the supposedly legendary figure.

Karkov wins. Gomez and Andres are released. It's nearing daybreak now.

Jordan's dispatch goes to Duval, Golz's chief of staff, but he doesn't have sufficient authority or information to cancel the attack. However, he doesn't want to send men to their death if the offensive is expected by the enemy. Finally, he is able to contact Golz and transmit Jordan's message. Now you learn the truth. The attack is not a holding action. It's the real thing.

But the huge offensive the Republic has mounted will find no targets. The enemy won't be where they were supposed to be. They've heard. They've gone from the slopes and the ridges. Instead they'll be waiting for the attackers.

But nothing can stop the orders. There will be tragedy... and many dead Loyalist soldiers.

Golz, in the very moment he receives the news, looks up at his planes beginning the unstoppable, futile, destined-to-be disastrous attack. He sees his thundering, silvery-gleaming power streaking across the sky, and he's proud of how it could and should have been.

Hemingway has spent a great deal of time leading up to the following, final chapter. In it, Robert Jordan and a makeshift band of peasant volunteers will attempt to blow up a bridge behind enemy lines.

Before you read or reread this final chapter, think of how Hemingway has prepared you for it. How is it different from the climax of other war and/or adventure stories you have read? What's at stake in this story besides the victory in a test of military expertise?

Are you resentful that Jordan has to do this at all? Do you wish you could call out to him and say, "Stop! It isn't worth it!"? Are you angry that Jordan is still doggedly pursuing his "duty," even though it now seems a waste? Or do you feel that he put himself in the situation, so it's his problem and he must accept whatever happens? In either case, do you see his actions as noble and honorable?


The final, lengthy chapter of For Whom the Bell Tolls is devoted almost exclusively to action. Hemingway has completed his philosophizing. He now leaves it to you to gather the thematic threads and weave them into the story's final scenes as you learn the fate of the bridge, of the guerrilla band, and of Robert Jordan.

As Jordan sets out to blow up the bridge, he knows that the Republican offensive is unlikely to be successful. Subconsciously, he's known that for quite some time, and he now admits it. He admits that victory for the cause is several years away. It can't be expected with this bridge, this offensive. It'll take better equipment for one thing. Portable short-wave radios would have helped in this particular operation, he muses. But he's going to give this operation his all anyway, since what will happen in the future can depend on what is done today. How do you feel about his attitude? You might compare your feelings going into an activity that you were virtually positive would not be successful. Did you try your best to succeed despite the odds? Or did you simply try to avoid getting hurt or totally disgraced- and then wait for "next time?"

Jordan watches the changing of the sentries at each end of the bridge. He sees the new sentry at his end, sleepy and rolling a cigarette. Jordan decides he won't look at him again.

Even here, Hemingway raises the theme of the individual person. Why won't Jordan look again at the sentry? Maybe he doesn't care to see the man as a man like himself, not simply as "one of them." That would be extremely uncomfortable. It might make him hesitate. At this point, Jordan the soldier cannot afford to hesitate.

He hears the bombs- the signal for him to begin.

The sentry hears them too, stands up, and comes out of his sentry box. It's the last thing he does; Jordan is a very good shot. Anselmo, at the other end of the bridge, has done his job too, although not quite as coldly. The big difference, when they meet at the center, is that Anselmo has tears for what he's done. Jordan doesn't, but notices Anselmo's tears and remarks to himself, "Goddam good face." The old man is left to comfort himself very briefly with, "We have to kill them."

It's time for Jordan the demolition expert to prove his stuff. And he does. Remember he has to improvise, because Pablo threw out the detonation devices.

But what does he think of while he's hanging on the bridge, improvising a way to blow it up and bring victory to the great cause? His mind leaps from one subject to the next- Anselmo's killing of the enemy soldier, a trout in the water below, the colors of the hillside. He even plays word games as he associates his name with that of the Jordan River and the old hymn, "Roll, Jordan roll." He cautions himself to "pull yourself together." Hemingway captures very well the intense pressure Jordan must be undergoing as he waits for whatever will happen next.

In the meantime, two of the band will not see the hillside turn completely green. Eladio has been shot in the head. Fernando is lying fatally wounded on the hillside. Hemingway paints a moving picture of Fernando's loyalty and willingness to serve even to the death.

Pilar is becoming impatient with Jordan's slowness in bringing about the actual demolition. Jordan himself isn't too happy with its progress and wishes there were more time. He's playing out more wire toward the opposite end of the bridge when he hears firing from that end.

He wishes it were Pablo, but it isn't. It's the Nationalists. Jordan is desperate for time now. He needs only a few more seconds. He hears the truck coming; then he sees it; then he shouts to Anselmo, "Blow her!"

"...and then it commenced to rain pieces of steel."

The aftermath: the center section of the bridge is gone. So is Anselmo, killed by a piece of steel from the blast. Fernando on the nearby hillside is unconscious, with little life left.

Pilar congratulates Jordan, but he is in no mood for congratulations. Hemingway has an explanation for this: "In him, too, was despair from the sorrow that soldiers turn to hatred in order that they may continue to be soldiers." Sorrow to despair to hatred... so that the cycle can continue.

Then the scene shifts to Maria, as she holds the horses for the retreat. She follows the pattern of Joaquin and Anselmo: when danger is imminent (in this case, as she sees it, more to Jordan than to herself), she prays- "automatically," Hemingway tells us.

It's the type of prayer sometimes called a bartering with God. She promises (in this case the Virgin Mary) she'll do "anything thou sayest ever" as long as Jordan returns safe from the bridge.

And then the bridge explodes.

Pilar shouts to her that her "Ingles" is all right.

Watching the planes in the sky, Jordan knows that things are going wrong, and he feels a sense of unreality. Four days ago everything was okay. He was the American partizan, here to do a demolition for the sake of the Republicans just as he had done several times before. Now he almost can't comprehend what he's become involved in.

Look at the line "It was as though you had thrown a stone and the stone made a ripple and the ripple returned roaring and toppling as a tidal wave." This image, and those that immediately follow- the echo, the striking of one man- emphasize Hemingway's theme of interdependency. Just as one act on Jordan's part has resulted in a number of other acts that affect all those around him, so the actions of everyone affect many other people. What may seem minor can have a monumental impact.

Pablo reappears, scrambling across the bridgeless gorge. There will be plenty of horses now, he announces. All of his recently recruited volunteers are dead. He has killed them for their horses so that his original band of guerrillas can escape. His justification for shooting? "They were not of our band."

Jordan and Maria share a limited but intense reunion at the scene of the horses Maria had been watching.

It's time for the escape. Pablo has the plan: they will ride down the slope to the road and cross it one at a time. Crossing the road will be dangerous because they'll be within range of the enemy tank up by the bridge. But it's the only way. After they have crossed the road and ridden up into the timber of the opposite slope, they can head for the Gredos Mountains and safety.

Pablo and the others, including Maria, make the crossing. They draw fire but make it safely. Jordan makes it across the road too. Then, as his horse is laboring up the slope, there's "a banging acrid smelling clang like a boiler being ripped apart."

The enemy tank has had a lucky shot. Aiming into the timber, it has found a target- but not Robert Jordan. His horse has been hit and has fallen on him. In the fall, Jordan's thigh is so badly broken that the leg swivels in all directions like a piece of loose string. The broken edge of the bone is nearly through the skin.

Primitivo and Agustin drag him further up to safety. Pilar assures him that they can bind up the injury and he can ride one of the pack horses. But Pablo shakes his head- meaning it won't work. Jordan can't ride the horse and make it. Jordan nods agreement.

Pablo is a realist now. Has he, in fact, been the realist all along? In spite of his weakness for wine, horses, and a relatively comfortable life at the hideout, has he seen some things more clearly than the other people have?

Jordan and Pablo converse briefly. Both are aware of the crucial shortage of time. Both know that Jordan and Maria must say a final good-bye. But Maria will not want to leave her man behind. Jordan instructs Pablo on how to handle her.

"We will not be going to Madrid," he tells Maria.

Of course they won't. But how long have you known or suspected that Jordan and Maria's "storybook" romance would not be a "lived happily ever after" tale of a college professor and his lovely Spanish wife?

Maria will not leave until he commands her to do so. He explains that he will live on in her, that he will go on to Madrid in her: "Thou art all there will be of me."

Pilar and Pablo take her away. A final time, just before she disappears from sight, she begs to stay, and again he repeats, "I am with thee... We are both there."

The last of the band to say good-bye is Agustin. Even this hardened, foul-mouthed peasant is crying. He asks if Jordan wants to be shot. Jordan declines. He will stay there on the hillside with the one small machine gun and try to be useful. -

NOTE: As he lies there, Jordan's mind wanders through a variety of subjects: the past three days, his life in general, his grandfather, the fate of his comrades now fleeing to another retreat. As he tries to endure the increasing pain, he even allows a bit of humor to enter his thoughts, as he wishes briefly that he had brought a spare leg.

Throughout the interior monologue, the central theme that emerges is "No man is an island." Jordan has chosen to stay behind and serve as a temporary obstacle to the approaching enemy in order to help the others, especially Maria. At one point he says to himself, "You can do nothing for yourself, but perhaps you can do something for another." In that simple statement, Jordan reveals that he has moved from thinking mainly about the Republican cause to thinking about the well-being of another individual.

The cause is still important, to be sure, but it now shares a place in his heart and his consciousness with the realization that human beings are equally as important. The fate of one man is interlocked with the fate of others.

With immense effort, Jordan manages to turn his body over and around so that he's lying on his belly, facing downhill, in a position to be "useful" with his machine gun when the enemy appears on the road below.

The broken leg, which had been almost numb at first, now begins to pain Jordan terribly and brings the prospect of suicide to mind. He weighs the reasons for and against it. Basically, it seems cowardly and reminds him of his father.

But several times he feels himself losing consciousness from the pain. If enemy soldiers find him unconscious, they will revive him and probably torture him to gain information. That possibility seems to make suicide the lesser of two evils.

Again and again he changes his mind. Suicide would be acceptable... then, no it wouldn't- not as long as there's something left that you can do.

He keeps hanging on and hoping the enemy will come soon. And they do. Hemingway says that Robert Jordan's luck held very good. The Nationalist soldiers are on the trail of Pablo and his band. Holding them up or causing confusion by killing the officer is one final thing Jordan can do. But this time it's not so much to aid the Republic. It's to buy time for Maria and the others.

The officer comes into view. In a final piece of irony, it's Lieutenant Berrendo- the man who didn't climb El Sordo's hill because he was positive someone was alive up there. He will pass within twenty yards of Robert Jordan.

Robert Jordan lies, just as he did in the opening scene of the story, on the pine-needled forest floor of the Spanish mountains.

NOTE: At first, Hemingway was somewhat dissatisfied with the ending of the book at Chapter 43, and wrote an epilogue of two short chapters. One featured a meeting between Karkov and Golz in which they discussed, among other things, Jordan's blowing up the bridge and his disappearance. The other described Andres returning to the former hideout of Pablo's band, where he gazes down at the wrecked bridge. Later Hemingway decided these chapters were unnecessary.



ECC [For Whom the Bell Tolls Contents] []

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