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Arguably the most colorful and likable character in For
Whom the Bell Tolls, Pilar embodies the earthiness, strength,
and wisdom of the Spanish peasantry. A large, robust, part-gypsy
woman, Pilar exercises great influence over the band of guerrilleros—in
fact, we quickly become aware that Pablo leads the band in name
only. The strong and stable Pilar provides the motivating force
behind many of the novel’s events. She pushes Robert Jordan and
Maria’s romance, commands the allegiance of the guerrilla fighters,
and organizes the guerrilleros’ brief alliance with El Sordo. She
acts as the support structure for the camp as she unites the band
of guerrilla fighters into a family, cooks for all, and sews Robert
Jordan’s packs. In short, Pilar manipulates the most important characters
in For Whom the Bell Tolls and sets in place many
of the encounters that drive the plot.
Pilar, though practical, often relies on intuitive, mystical,
gypsy folk wisdom. Shrewd and worldly-wise, she claims a deep connection
to the primitive forces of fate. She claims to be able to smell death,
and she describes the smell in repulsively naturalistic detail. She
reads palms and interprets sexual experiences. Despite Robert Jordan’s
cynicism, Pilar’s predictions do come true. Pilar exhibits the inevitable
sadness that comes with knowledge: “Neither bull force nor bull
courage lasted, she knew now, and what did last? I last. . . . But
for what?” In the end, the only aspect of Pilar’s personality that
seems not to show wisdom is her unswerving commitment to and belief
in the Republican side, which ultimately loses the war.
Ace your assignments with our guide to For Whom The Bell Tolls!