Skip over navigation

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Ernest Hemingway

Chapters Three–Seven

Epigraph and Chapters One–Two

Chapters Eight–Thirteen

Summary: Chapter Three

Robert Jordan and Anselmo scout out the bridge. Robert Jordan watches a sentry on the bridge through binoculars and notes that he has a “peasant face.” Fascist planes fly overhead, but Robert Jordan lets Anselmo think that they are Republican planes. The two men discuss war and religion. Anselmo likes to hunt but hates killing people, whereas Robert Jordan hates killing animals but is willing to kill people when required. They recall that gypsies and Native Americans both view bears as man’s brothers. Anselmo says that he misses believing in God. Robert Jordan silently resents his mission and thinks about Maria.

On the way back, Robert Jordan and Anselmo meet Agustín, another of Pablo’s band, who stands guard but has forgotten his half of the password. Agustín cautions Robert Jordan to watch his explosives. When they are alone again, Anselmo says that Agustín is trustworthy, but Pablo is “bad.”

Summary: Chapter Four

Back at camp, Robert Jordan brings his backpacks into the cave, where the atmosphere is tense. Pablo says that there is little wine left, so Robert Jordan drinks from his own flask of absinthe. Robert Jordan meets three more band members, Primitivo and the brothers Andrés and Eladio.

Pablo announces that he refuses to blow up the bridge. Robert Jordan replies that he and Anselmo will do it alone. Pilar announces that she supports the bridge operation because she supports the Republic. The men back Pilar, and she says that she is the real leader of the group. Pablo gives in sullenly. Robert Jordan shows the others his plans for the bridge. Looking at Pablo, Pilar is momentarily filled with sorrow and foreboding.

Summary: Chapter Five

After dinner, Robert Jordan steps outside the cave into the night air. Inside, Rafael sings a song making fun of Catalans (members of a Spanish ethnic subgroup) but Pablo interrupts him. Rafael joins Robert Jordan outside and says that Robert Jordan should have killed Pablo during the confrontation earlier. Robert Jordan says that he considered it but did not want to risk alienating the other band members.

Meanwhile, Pablo fondly confides in one of his horses. The narrator notes that the horse does not understand what Pablo says.

Summary: Chapter Six

Back inside the cave, Pilar says that Robert Jordan is too serious. He replies that he is anti-Fascist rather than Communist. Then, he seems uncomfortable discussing his father’s suicide. Maria admits that she is attracted to Robert Jordan, and he strokes her head. In private, he asks Pilar whether he should have killed Pablo. She assures him Pablo is no longer dangerous.

Summary: Chapter Seven

Robert Jordan sleeps in a robe outside the cave. Around one o’clock in the morning, Maria wakes him and slips in with him under the robe. He tries to kiss her, but she is nervous. She says she should not sleep with him if he does not love her. He says that he loves her, and she says that she loves him. Maria tells Robert Jordan that she was raped several times, but that Pilar told her that having sex with someone she loved would heal her memory of the rape. He shows her how to kiss, and they make love.

Analysis: Chapters Three–Seven

For Whom the Bell Tolls is preoccupied with signs and omens, and this section reveals several instances of foreshadowing that both heighten the drama and set the tone. Agustín’s warning to Robert Jordan to pay close attention to his packs explicitly increases the suspense and foreshadows Pablo’s later betrayal. In contrast, Pilar’s sense of sadness upon looking at Pablo after the men have sworn their allegiance to her establishes mood in a less specific manner. Both types of foreshadowing establish an atmosphere of foreboding for the future, and both make future events appear predictable and inevitable. In particular, Pilar’s sense of sadness is rooted in the idea that human nature does not change and the idea that history repeats itself. This sense of predictability and repetitiveness contributes to the grim, ominous mood that pervades the novel.

The poignant scene between Pablo and his horse sheds more light on the opposition between Robert Jordan’s sense of community and Pablo’s isolation. Misunderstood and lonely, Pablo complains to and seeks comfort from his horse, a creature that belongs to the natural world and remains untainted by the petty struggles of humans. As we might expect, and as the narrator subsequently reveals, the horse does not understand Pablo. The narrator drives home Pablo’s isolation with the revelation that the horse actually finds Pablo bothersome and wishes he would go away. Whereas Pablo fails in his attempt to communicate with his horse using words, Robert Jordan is successful in his nearly wordless communication with Maria. Robert Jordan eases the pain of Maria’s past sexual trauma, whereas the horse does nothing to ease Pablo’s emotional burden.

Hemingway cleanly divides his moral world into characters who are “good,” such as Robert Jordan, Anselmo, Pilar, and Agustín; and those who are “bad,” such as Pablo. Because Hemingway reiterates these classifications many times through many different characters, we can rely on it to infer that “good” qualities include competence, steady nerves, honesty with oneself, and loyalty. On the other hand, “bad” qualities include fear, greed, pessimism, and self-delusion. Two characters—Rafael and Maria—notably escape this moral classification. Both Rafael, a full-blooded gypsy, and Maria, a young woman, belong to groups that Spanish society marginalized at the time. Rafael is repeatedly characterized as well-meaning but “worthless,” which puts his character in an ambiguous middle ground. Similarly, Maria comes across as a somewhat weak and flimsy character, in part because she is a naïve young woman. In this way, Hemingway’s seemingly rigid moral classifications exclude people who exist only on the margins of the world he portrays.

Robert Jordan, in particular, conforms to a character type that recurs throughout Hemingway’s novels—a character commonly referred to as the “code hero” because he follows the Hemingway moral code. The code hero’s most prominent characteristic is his ability to exhibit what Hemingway called “grace under pressure.” The code hero lives life for the present and takes his pleasure in the physical world of food, sex, and nature. He is a man of action rather than thought, and his greatest triumph is conquering his fear of death and nothingness (which some critics term nada after the Spanish word for “nothing”). Robert Jordan’s appreciation for nature and physical experiences—the smell of the pine trees, the taste of absinthe that evokes Paris, his coupling with Maria—indicates that he fits the code hero type, at least to some degree. For the time being, however, we see that Robert Jordan experiences many unresolved tensions that he tries to work through in his head. At this point, it is unclear whether he is a man of thought or action.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!

Follow Us