Summary: Chapter Thirty-four

Andrés rides through the night to deliver Robert Jordan’s dispatch to General Golz. He thinks about his feeling of relief when Robert Jordan asked him to deliver his message—relief because killing thrills Andrés in a way that embarrasses him. He remembers having the same feeling of exhilaration and embarrassment on his town’s annual bull-baiting day, in which, by tradition, he was expected to bite the bull by the ear. He also remembers feeling the same sense of relief if the bull-baiting ever was canceled. Andrés arrives at a checkpoint.

Summary: Chapter Thirty-five

Robert Jordan lies next to Maria, seething with anger at Pablo and reproaching himself for letting Pablo steal from his packs. He forces himself to let go of his anger. Calm, he thinks about how to blow up the bridge without enough people, horses, or weapons, and now without the mechanism for properly detonating the dynamite. Robert Jordan whispers to the sleeping Maria that they can still finish the mission. They will all be killed, he thinks, but they will complete their task. He tells Maria that a good night’s sleep will be her wedding present.

Summary: Chapter Thirty-six

At the checkpoint, the guards challenge, insult, and threaten to shoot Andrés. After much wrangling, Andrés finally convinces them that his mission is legitimate. One of the guards takes Andrés’s gun and escorts him down the hill.

Summary: Chapter Thirty-seven

Robert Jordan and Maria lie in bed just before three in the morning. He licks her ear, and she wakes up. They make love, and once again they experience a simultaneous orgasm and feel the earth move. Maria calls this state “la gloria.” They talk about how lucky they are to have found each other. Robert Jordan thinks that these people—Maria, Pilar, Anselmo, Agustín—are his family, and that he has been here at the fort his whole life. He thinks about how much he has learned.

Summary: Chapter Thirty-eight

Before dawn, the guerrilla fighters eat breakfast and nervously prepare for the attack later that day. Robert Jordan plans to use hand grenades to make up for the stolen explosives. He thinks that they have too few men and that the attack will fail. He struggles to overcome his anger at Pablo. Pilar tells Robert Jordan that she cares about him very much and that he should forget about how troubled she seemed after reading his palm.

Pablo suddenly returns to the camp. He has thrown the explosives he stole into the river but has brought five men with their horses from neighboring guerrilla bands. He explains that he left in a moment of weakness and that he felt great loneliness after he threw the explosives in the river. Although Pilar compares Pablo to Judas Iscariot (the biblical apostle who betrays Jesus), both Pilar and Robert Jordan are relieved that Pablo has returned.

Summary: Chapter Thirty-nine

Having packed up the camp, the guerrilla fighters begin to take their positions for the bridge operation. Though Robert Jordan doesn’t believe in luck, he takes Pablo’s return as a positive sign. He engages in brief conversations with Pablo and Maria. Pilar recognizes and greets two of the five men that have come with Pablo.

Analysis: Chapters Thirty-four–Thirty-nine

Robert Jordan’s competent behavior under difficult circumstances in this section fits him in to a line of Hemingway protagonists who exhibit what Hemingway calls “grace under pressure.” Nowhere more than here does Robert Jordan display this virtue of the code hero. With Pablo gone and the explosives stolen, Robert Jordan manages to control his anger and apply himself to solving the new, more difficult problem of destroying the bridge with less manpower and fewer explosives. Always supremely pragmatic, Robert Jordan neither dwells on the past nor fears the future but instead concentrates on the present situation. This focus on the present allows him to savor fully the physical pleasures that fate grants him—the smell of pine trees, the taste of absinthe, sex with Maria. It also enables him not to fear death, which is the code hero’s true antagonist. Ultimately, Robert Jordan’s level-headedness is the only force that holds the guerrilleros together in the face of daunting odds.

The words “now” and “one,” which dominate Robert Jordan’s consciousness during his lovemaking with Maria on the morning of the attack, point to his appreciation of life in the present and the wholeness of their communion with each other. The present “now” is the only time that he has with Maria, for they barely have a past, and the future is uncertain. Robert Jordan frequently thinks that he is living his whole, full life in the seventy hours portrayed in For Whom the Bell Tolls. When focusing on the present, Robert Jordan sees the “now” as representing “now and before and always.” He stops thinking about the future and the probability of his death—in a sense, he transcends death and becomes temporarily immortal. This immortality becomes possible through Maria’s idea that Robert Jordan and she are “one” person. And indeed, the word “one” pervades their conversation after sex. Robert Jordan and Maria’s communion is complete, blessed and sealed by the natural forces that move the earth. Robert Jordan’s new feelings—his growing thoughts about the concept of “now” and his feeling of being “one” with Maria—are rather non-scientific and non-rational. As the novel draws to its close, we see that Robert Jordan gradually moves toward accepting and embracing Pilar’s brand of mysticism and supernatural wisdom.

Hemingway’s description of Andrés baiting the bull emphasizes the connection between death and sex in the novel. Andrés remembers how “he lay on the hot, dusty, bristly, tossing slope of the muscle, the ear clenched tight in his teeth, and drove his knife again and again and again into the swelling, tossing bulge of the neck that was now spouting hot on his fist.” The strong sexual overtones are unmistakable, especially in “spouting hot” and “again and again and again,” which echoes the rhythm of the passages about Robert Jordan and Maria’s lovemaking. The high that Andrés experiences after bull-baiting is a sexual one, which explains both its addictiveness and the sense of shame that accompanies it. Importantly, the realm in which Andrés gained his experience in killing—bull-baiting—was a relatively controlled environment. The experience of killing under his belt, Andrés knows how to recognize the urge to kill and consequently how to control it. But Pablo’s first experience with killing was the massacre of the Fascists in his town. He never had the opportunity to face his cruelty in a controlled environment and never learned to control his passions, which makes him dangerous. In connecting bloodlust and sexual lust in this manner throughout the novel, Hemingway implies that the desire for violence is as common a sensation as sexual desire—a bold statement about human nature.