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Pablo, the exasperating leader of the guerrilla band,
is a complex character and an unpredictable force in the novel—a
man who is difficult to like but ultimately difficult to condemn
unwaveringly. Pablo and Robert Jordan view each other with mutual
suspicion and dislike from the start: Pablo adamantly opposes the
bridge operation and views Robert Jordan as a threat to the guerrilleros’ safety,
while Robert Jordan senses that Pablo will betray the guerrilleros
and sabotage the mission. Hemingway uses a variety of unflattering
imagery to highlight Pablo’s uncooperative and confrontational nature,
often comparing Pablo to a bull, a boar, and other stubborn and
In virtually all of his actions, Pablo displays a selfish
lack of restraint, an irresponsible individualism that contrasts
with Robert Jordan’s pragmatic and morally motivated outlook. Pablo
rashly follows his impulses, whether in the cruel slaughter of the
Fascists in his hometown or in the theft of Robert Jordan’s explosives. Although
this self-indulgence made Pablo a strong and courageous fighter
when he was younger, it now proves a liability, for it sows dissent
within the guerrilla band and jeopardizes the mission. As Pilar
says, Pablo once would have sacrificed anything for the Republican
cause but has “gone bad” as the war has dragged on and now wavers
in his loyalties.
Despite Pablo’s disagreeable characteristics, however,
he is not an evil man, and we cannot label him a villain. Although
he is stubborn, rash, and sometimes brutal, Pablo displays a clear
sense of conscience and realizes when he has done something wrong.
He wishes he could bring back to life the Fascists he massacred
in his town, and he characterizes his theft of Robert Jordan’s explosives
as a “moment of weakness.” At the same time, however, it is impossible
to ignore the fact that Pablo feels remorse over a deed only after it’s
too late to do anything about it. Above all, Pablo fears death and is
exhausted with the war. He simply wants the war to end so that he may
live a peaceful life in the country along with Pilar and his horses—a
sentiment that is difficult to judge harshly. Ironically, it is Pablo,
not Robert Jordan, who survives at the end of the novel. However,
although Pablo stays alive, he does so without the moral strength
that Robert Jordan maintains and develops throughout For Whom
the Bell Tolls.
Ace your assignments with our guide to For Whom The Bell Tolls!