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For Whom The Bell Tolls

Ernest Hemingway

Chapter Forty-three

Chapters Forty–Forty-two

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

He was completely integrated now and he took a good long look at everything.

(See Important Quotations Explained)

From his position on the ground, Robert Jordan watches the dawn, observes a squirrel, and smells the pine trees. He recognizes one of the sentries on the bridge from surveying the site earlier.

The bombing—the cue for blowing up the bridge—begins. Robert Jordan and Anselmo shoot the two sentries on the bridge and affix the dynamite to the near end of the bridge. As Robert Jordan goes to attach the dynamite to the far end, Pilar returns with her group. Eladio has been shot through the head and Fernando mortally wounded. At Fernando’s request, Primitivo and Rafael leave Fernando with a rifle near the bridge.

Anselmo feels “one with” the world as he waits for Robert Jordan to finish the setup on the other side of the bridge. They detonate the dynamite just as a truck prepares to cross the bridge. Anselmo is killed by a flying block of steel. In the aftermath of the explosion, Robert Jordan feels angry, especially at Anselmo’s death. Speaking to Pilar, he gradually lets go of his anger.

Meanwhile, Maria watches the horses. The animals sense her nervousness and become nervous themselves. Maria prays for Robert Jordan’s safe return and is relieved when she hears Pilar shout that he is safe. Robert Jordan checks in with Agustín, who has been manning the machine gun. Pablo returns alone and says that his other men are dead. Agustín accuses Pablo of shooting the other men for their horses, and Pablo does not deny it.

The men return to Maria and the horses. Robert Jordan embraces her, realizing that, for the first time in his life, he has been able to hold onto his feelings for a woman during battle. They mount the horses, and Pablo prepares to lead them to the Gredos mountains. Robert Jordan mounts the horse of the cavalryman he killed the previous day. He rides last in the caravan, directly behind Maria.

As they cross the main road, a Fascist bullet hits Robert Jordan’s horse, which tramples on Robert Jordan’s left leg, breaking it. Realizing that he will have to stay behind, Robert Jordan talks to Pablo and tells him to use his head. Then Robert Jordan speaks to Maria, and tells her that although he must stay behind, when she leaves he will be with her. Agustín offers to shoot him out of mercy, but Robert Jordan refuses and asks him to take care of Maria.

Alone, Robert Jordan waits for the Fascists to come. He is sorry that he must die but grateful for how much he has learned and how much he has lived in the last three days. His leg begins to hurt, and he briefly contemplates suicide. He convinces himself to hold on until he can shoot some of the Fascists to buy the guerrilleros some getaway time.

As Robert Jordan begins to pass out, he finally sees the approaching Fascist cavalry patrol, led by Lieutenant Berrendo, the man who ordered the beheading of El Sordo’s men. Feeling “completely integrated” into his world—the road, the sky, the pine needles—Robert Jordan takes aim, waits for Berrendo to ride closer, and feels his heart beat against the forest floor.

Analysis

The final chapter of For Whom the Bell Tolls resolves the many tensions with which Robert Jordan struggles throughout the novel. We have seen Robert Jordan demonstrate a tension between intuition and skepticism. Although he frequently claims not to believe in signs and portents, he plays games with himself, identifying certain events as good or bad omens. In the final chapter of the novel, he acknowledges that the gypsies “see something. Or they feel something. Like a bird dog.” It seems that he finally agrees with Pilar that the world is more mysterious than his cold reasoning can explain. Similarly, the tension between feeling and duty, which Hemingway portrays through Robert Jordan’s rejection of Maria whenever he thinks about his mission, is resolved as Robert Jordan embraces Maria during battle. As women, Maria and Pilar are associated, both traditionally and in For Whom the Bell Tolls, with intuitive feeling—they are represented by the heart. Skepticism and work, traditionally the domain of men, are associated with thought, represented by the head. Over the course of the novel, Robert Jordan gradually integrates these forces of heart and head in order to become a complete person. The resolution culminates in Hemingway’s description of Robert Jordan as “completely integrated.” His tensions are resolved, the clamor of constant self-questioning in his mind ceases, and he is at finally at peace with his world.

Robert Jordan’s physical position at the very end of the novel symbolizes his relationship with the land. He lies on the ground, literally embracing his beloved Spanish landscape. He loves the physical earth, especially the pine needles he has noticed and smelled from the opening of the novel. He loves the country, which he has worked to defend from what he sees as the Fascist menace. And he loves the land as a representation of the simpler, earthier, more traditional, intuitive, and natural lifestyle that the land supports—and that Pilar, as a superstitious female gypsy, embodies. Several times throughout the novel, Hemingway uses the image of Robert Jordan lying on the earth to highlight these associations. Literally and figuratively, Robert Jordan’s heart beats with the earth.

Furthermore, Robert Jordan’s position at the very end of the novel is almost identical to his position at the very beginning, which reveals the novel’s circular structure and highlights how Robert Jordan has changed during the course of the story. The novel opens with Robert Jordan “[lying] flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest” and closes with him feeling “his heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest.” The two phrases are almost identical, which implies that we can view the course of the novel as one cycle in Robert Jordan’s life, one spin on the “wheel of human conflict” that Robert Jordan imagines after his second confrontation with Pablo. The new element at the end of the novel is Robert Jordan’s beating heart, which he has figuratively discovered through his relationship with Maria and the guerrilleros. Hemingway describes the change in his protagonist as Robert Jordan greets Maria after blowing the bridge, saying, “He had never thought that you could know that there was a woman if there was battle.” Unlike earlier instances in which he pushes Maria away when he is busy thinking about his mission, at the end of the novel, Robert Jordan is able to embrace Maria during the course of the battle. Hemingway encapsulates Robert Jordan’s new ability to love while living through the image of the beating heart that closes the novel.

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