The Republican military bureaucracy slows Andrés’s progress considerably. Andrés meets Captain Gomez, the battalion commander of the company Andrés encountered at the checkpoint. Gomez escorts Andrés to the brigade command office in his motorcycle. They pass war-ravaged trees on their way.
At the brigade command office, Gomez requests to speak to a superior, Lieutenant-Colonel Miranda. An apathetic subordinate officer says that Miranda is sleeping and refuses to wake him up until Gomez threatens the officer with a gun. A short time later, Miranda walks into the room and orders his subordinate officer to type up a letter of safe conduct for Andrés. Miranda orders Gomez to escort Andrés to General Golz’s headquarters.
The guerrilla fighters reach the place where they plan to leave their horses. The horses are to be Maria’s responsibility during the operation. Robert Jordan once again asks Pilar whether she understands what she is supposed to do, which greatly irritates her. He says goodbye to Pablo and is surprised by Pablo’s firm handshake. Robert Jordan thinks that perhaps all allies, like he and Pablo, hate each other deep down.
As Robert Jordan awkwardly says goodbye to Maria, he has a sense of déjà vu and feels very young. He is reminded of going away to school for the first time. He first felt very young and scared, but then, embarrassed by his father’s tearful good-bye, felt very old.
Robert Jordan, Anselmo, and Agustín separate from the rest of the group and head toward the bridge. Robert Jordan helps Agustín set up the machine gun and advises Anselmo about how to shoot one of the sentries. Robert Jordan takes his position and waits for daylight.
A truck accident delays Andrés and Gomez on their journey to General Golz’s headquarters. When they finally arrive, Gomez recognizes André Marty, a well-known military advisor, and asks him for help in locating General Golz. But Marty, who has become somewhat paranoid during the war, is suspicious and orders Andrés and Gomez arrested as Fascists.
The narrator interjects to tell us that Marty, supported by the flawed wartime bureaucratic system, has launched a number of ill-advised combat missions, much to General Golz’s dismay. The narrator adds, however, that the military machine is so poorly organized that it is unlikely that the Republican offensive could have been stopped even if Andrés had not been delayed.
Robert Jordan’s friend Karkov finds out about the arrest, confronts Marty, and uses his power as a well-connected journalist to send Andrés and Gomez to headquarters. At last, Robert Jordan’s dispatch reaches Duval, Golz’s chief of staff. Duval considers calling off the Republican offensive even though he doesn’t officially have the authority to do so, but ultimately he decides against it because he doesn’t know how this offensive fits into the bigger picture of the war. By the time Golz sees the dispatch and learns that his attack will fail, it is too late and the bombing has already begun.
Hemingway continues to criticize the Republican leadership, now turning his focus toward the inefficiency of their bureaucracy. He implies, in the chapters that chronicle Andrés’s mission, that the eventual Republican defeat was at least partly the fault of the Republicans’ poor organization. In the course of his quest, Andrés is delayed by apathy, suspicion, and personal vendetta—all of which are made possible by the inefficiency and corruption of the Republican military. Ironically, Andrés travels faster behind enemy lines than within Republican territory, where the Republican military organization hinders rather than helps its own cause. Lieutenant-Colonel Miranda is more committed to the bureaucratic system than to the cause that the system was designed to serve—an attitude that hinders Andrés under the guise of helping him. Above all, André Marty (a real historical figure who was the Political Commissar of the International Brigades, a coalition of foreign volunteers), comes across as stupid, paranoid, insecure, and corrupt. Because the influential Marty is in a position to do the most damage, he receives Hemingway’s most scathing critique. But even the journalist Karkov, in many ways an admirable character, falls prey to political factionism. The conflict between Karkov and Marty seems to be as personal as it is political.
Just as the impersonal bureaucracy menaces Andrés’s mission, it also menaces the simple, organic world of the guerrilleros. As the wartime bureaucratic structures take control of towns and cities, the local population is either swept up in the changes or left behind. Some alter their lives, while others, like much of the gypsy population, move in circles outside mainstream society. In either case, life close to nature becomes impossible, and the development of military bureaucracy heralds the end of an era. Like the Fascist planes, the military bureaucracy menaces both the Republic and the lifestyle of its citizens.
The two interweaving narratives of this section—Andrés’s quest to deliver the message and Robert Jordan’s quest to blow the bridge—mirror and reinforce each other. At approximately the same time in the night that Pablo’s reappearance boosts Robert Jordan’s cause (Chapter Thirty-eight), Karkov unexpectedly aids Andrés’s mission (Chapter Forty-two). Furthermore, the pattern of events that take place during Andrés’s mission in Chapter Forty-two—a halting struggle, temporary triumph, and final letdown—foreshadows the pattern of events that occur when Robert Jordan attempts to blow up the bridge in Chapter Forty-three. Hemingway structures these two sets of events to cycle, one after the other, for dramatic and atmospheric effect. By the time we read it, the story that unfolds in the final chapter has already been told.