An American volunteer for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War and the protagonist of For Whom the Bell Tolls. Robert Jordan is pragmatic, very good at what he does, and never lets his emotions interfere with his work. He appreciates physical pleasures like smelling pine trees, drinking absinthe, and having sex. At the same time, he is conflicted about his role within the war and within the larger world. Interior dialogues in which he argues with himself about these conflicts constitute a significant part of the novel. Over the course of the novel, he gradually resolves these tensions and learns to integrate his rational, thinking side with his intuitive, feeling side.
The leader of the guerrilla camp. Pablo is an individualist who feels responsible only to himself. Hemingway often compares him to a bull, a boar, and other burly, stubborn, and unpleasant animals. Pablo used to be a great fighter and a great man but has now started drinking and has “gone bad,” as many characters remark. Tired of the war and attached to his horses, Pablo is ready to betray the Republican cause at the start of the novel.
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Pablo’s part-gypsy “woman.” Pilar means “pillar” in Spanish, and indeed, the fiercely patriotic, stocky, and steadfast Pilar is—if not the absolute leader—the support center of the guerrilla group. Pilar keeps the hearth, fights in battle, mothers Robert Jordan, and bullies Pablo and Rafael. She has an intuitive, mystical connection to deeper truths about the working of the world.
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A young woman with Pablo’s band who falls in love with Robert Jordan. The victim of rape at the hands of Fascists who took over her town, Maria is frequently described by means of earth imagery. Hemingway compares her movements to a colt’s, and Robert Jordan affectionately calls her “Rabbit.”
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An old, trustworthy guerrilla fighter. For Robert Jordan, Anselmo represents all that is good about Spaniards. He lives close to the land, is loyal, follows directions, and stays where he is told. He likes to hunt but has not developed a taste for the kill and hates killing people. Anselmo has stopped praying ever since the Communists banned organized religion but admits that he misses it.
A trustworthy and high-spirited guerrilla fighter. Agustín, who mans the machine gun, curses frequently and is secretly in love with Maria.
A guerrilla fighter in his mid-thirties. Short and with a lazy eye, Fernando is dignified and literal-minded, embraces bureaucracy, and is easily offended by vulgarities. These factors, combined with his lack of a sense of humor, make Fernando the frequent target of Pilar’s jokes.
An elderly guerrilla fighter. Despite his gray hair and broken nose, Primitivo has not learned the cynicism needed for survival in the war. His name, which means “primitive,” evokes his idealism as well as the basic, earthy lifestyle of all the guerrilleros.
A gypsy member of the guerrilla band. Frequently described as well-meaning but “worthless,” Rafael proves his worthlessness by leaving his lookout post at a crucial moment. He is a foil for the trustworthy Anselmo, who does not leave his post on the previous night despite the cold and the snow. Rafael has few loyalties and does not believe in political causes.
One of the guerrilla fighters, in his late twenties. Andrés comes into conflict with the Republican leaders’ bureaucracy in his attempt to deliver Robert Jordan’s dispatch to the Republican command. Andrés serves also a foil to Pablo: although both Andrés and Pablo enjoy killing in an almost sexual way, Andrés has had the opportunity to satisfy that thirst through his experience with bull-baiting during a town fiesta. As a result, unlike Pablo, Andrés has learned to identify and control his desire to kill.
Andrés’s older brother and another of the guerrilla fighters. The jumpy Eladio plays a relatively minor role in the novel. His most noticeable feature is that Robert Jordan repeatedly forgets his name. His death at the end of the novel attracts little notice.
The leader of a guerrilla band that operates near Pablo’s. Short, heavy, and gray-haired, El Sordo (Spanish for “the deaf one”) is a man of few words. Like Robert Jordan, he is excited by a successful kill and is sad to die.
One of the members of El Sordo’s band. Joaquín originally wanted to be bullfighter but was too scared. He lost most of his family at the hands of the Fascists and cries when he talks about them. Joaquín buys into the Republicans’ propaganda but turns back to religion at the moment of his death, illustrating the emptiness of political rhetoric in times of true crisis.
The Russian general, allied with the Republicans, who assigns Robert Jordan the bridge-blowing mission. Robert Jordan says that Golz is the best general he has served under, but the Republican military bureaucracy impedes all of Golz’s operations. Golz believes that thinking is useless because it breaks down resolve and impedes action.
A Russian guerrilla operative who once worked with Pablo’s band to blow up a train. Although Kashkin never appears in the novel, he is a foil for Robert Jordan. Unlike Robert Jordan, Kashkin was openly nervous.
A well-connected foreign correspondent for the Russian newspaper Pravda and Robert Jordan’s friend in Madrid. Karkov, the most intelligent man Robert Jordan knows, teaches Robert Jordan about the harsh realities of wartime politics. Karkov believes that abstract philosophy is superior to action and intuition.
A former barber and now commander of the battalion that Andrés first reaches after crossing the Republican lines. Gomez romanticizes the idea of guerrilla warfare and escorts Andrés to several commanders, trying to reach General Golz.
A Republican staff office brigade commander. Miranda’s only goal in the war is not to be demoted from his current rank. He is one of many examples of apathetic or inept Republican commanders who contribute to the eventual Republican defeat.
The French Commissar of the International Brigades, the troops of foreign volunteers who serve on the Republican side in the war. Marty has become blinded by political paranoia and is convinced that he is surrounded by enemies.
A devoutly Catholic Fascist officer who orders the beheading of El Sordo’s men. Berrendo’s sorrow for his dead friend, his awareness of the useless horror of war, and his tendency toward introspection make him a sympathetic character. Hemingway’s portrayal of Berrendo underscores the fact that the enemy side is not faceless but composed of real individuals who also make real and difficult decisions.
An overconfident Fascist commander in charge of taking El Sordo’s hill. Moro serves as a foil for the more introspective Lieutenant Berrendo.
Pilar’s former lover, a bullfighter who died from complications from wounds received in a bullfight. Short, sad-eyed, and sullen, Finito was brave in the ring in spite of his fear of bulls. Finito, who appears in the novel only in Pilar’s flashbacks, exemplifies the courage of Hemingway’s code hero and Hemingway’s deep respect for the bullfighting profession.
A weak, religious man who could not stand up to his aggressive wife and eventually committed suicide. His father’s weakness is a constant source of embarrassment to Robert Jordan.
A veteran of the American Civil War and a member of the Republican National Committee. Robert Jordan feels more closely related to his grandfather than to his father.