For Whom the Bell Tolls By Ernest Hemingway Summary and Analysis Chapters 14-21

Though the main part of Chapter 14 is taken up by Pilar's story of the bullfighter, her tale is sandwiched between two important scenes. Pablo assumes that the blowing up of the bridge will be called off, and he tells Jordan that he need not go for the scouts because they will come in out of the snow even though they were ordered to wait for Jordan to come to them. Jordan curses his bad luck but indicates that the job will proceed as planned, anyhow. He is inclined to believe that Pablo is right about the scouts; the whole war is being fought in just such a lackadaisical way after all. The second scene comes at the end of the chapter when the gypsy does, indeed, leave his post and return to the cave. Nor, since he is cold and hungry, will he go with Jordan to show him where Anselmo is.

Pilar's story is itself important because it gives additional background material about life before the movement. Bullfighting is one of the few ways in which a man could raise himself above his station. Pilar's friend paid a dreadful price, however. Though almost dying of consumption, he feels that he must stay in the tavern to satisfy his fans. But when, at the climax of the evening, they unveil the mounted bull's head, the bullfighter is horror-stricken. His courage, drained away by his illness and injuries, has finally left him.

In Chapter 15, the reader finds Anselmo, who, uncharacteristically for most of the guerillas and soldiers, has stayed at his post waiting for Jordan. He thinks of all the people whose lives are disrupted or ended by the war. He does not want to kill. All day he has been watching the fascist guards and he feels a close identification with them. He feels that he could walk over to the mill where the guards are and that they would welcome him, except that they have orders to challenge all travelers. "It is only orders that come between us," he thinks. "Those men are not fascists. . . . They are poor men as we are." Then Hemingway takes the reader across the road and into the mill to witness the conversation between the fascist soldiers. Indeed, they are just the kind of people that Anselmo has thought they were.

While Chapters 16 and 17 serve mainly to bring the serious problem of Pablo to a temporary head, they also furnish the reader additional information which he has not previously had. Primitivo's questions about America, for instance, demonstrate the nature of some of Spain's political problems. Jordan's answers, in turn, show his feeling that the fascistic ills of the world will someday have to be corrected.

The fact is also brought out that Jordan was an instructor of Spanish in America. And Fernando, who symbolizes the formality and prudishness of the lower-middle-class Spaniard of that time, provides comic relief to the scene when he complains at length that a foreigner should not be allowed to teach Spanish.

In Chapter 17, the decision to kill Pablo is made and abandoned when Pablo returns in a friendly and cooperative mood. Pilar indicates to Jordan that Pablo's change of heart has undoubtedly come about because he overheard the plans to kill him. But when Pablo points out that he is the only one who can lead them to safety after the bridge, the assassination is tacitly canceled. However, Pablo still remains a real threat to the success of the operation.

The student will probably have noticed by now that Hemingway seldom allows one of his scenes to have only a single purpose. This multiplicity of purpose is evident in Chapter 18, the basic ingredient of which is Jordan's thoughts about Gaylord's. The flashback reveals Jordan's disillusionment at finding so much cynicism in the meeting place of the communists. He discovers that the emotional appeal of the Cause is ridiculed by those whose job it is to make the appeal. He learns that the leaders of the movement, who were supposed to have been peasants who rose to command at the hour of need, were really members of an earlier revolution who had fled Spain and been trained in Russia for the next revolution. And he discovers that those who naively believe in the humanitarian doctrines of communism are laughed at, but that they are catered to so long as they are useful.

In the beginning, Jordan hates the lying and cynicism, but he comes to realize the necessity for it. He feels that he has progressed through the three Hegelian steps from "thesis" to "antithesis" to "synthesis," but this is not true. He is not fully aware, at this point in the book, that he is still what Pablo has called him a short time earlier, one of the "illusioned ones."

In addition to the main idea of this chapter, Hemingway gives the reader additional bits of information, some of which has been given before and is here simply being re-emphasized. We find, for instance, that Jordan is enough of a writer to have had a book published. We are told again that he was a college teacher, and that he may not be able to teach again because of his political sympathies. And, in the scene involving the armored car, we see again the unwillingness of the peasants to die for the Cause.

The primary purpose of Chapter 19 is, of course, obvious. The problem of Pablo has been temporarily resolved, and Hemingway does not want his reader to become too contented, so he reintroduces the theme of mysticism, which bears along with it the premonition of tragedy.

The theme of mysticism is one of the most fascinating of the minor (but important) themes which run through For Whom the Bell Tolls. It is first encountered on the second page of the text when Jordan feels that it is a "bad sign" that he has forgotten Anselmo's name. And it reappears again and again throughout the book, first as part of the "Kashkin theme" and again in relation to what Pilar has seen in Jordan's palm. In Chapter 19, the idea is brought out overtly by Hemingway and discussed openly by his characters.

The highly superstitious nature of gypsies is well known, of course, so the supernatural beliefs of Pilar and Rafael are understandable. But what of the others? None of the rest of the band, except Pablo, dismisses the idea of mysticism as summarily as does Jordan. Hemingway seems here to be emphasizing again the proneness of these people to mystical belief, especially at a time when the mysticism of their church has been denied them by the revolution.

The conversation in Chapter 19 has had its effect on Jordan. His momentary detour into homesickness and the urgency of his desire for Maria show that he is afraid that they have little time left. The fear is shown again when Jordan awakes in the night and holds her tightly, as though he were afraid of losing her.

Chapter 21 is devoted primarily to physical action; Jordan's fears seem to be turning into reality. But he is now the soldier, no longer the lover, as he dispatches the men and weapons strategically. Nevertheless, Hemingway takes another opportunity to bring in the mystical-religious theme again. He does this by having Maria ask about the medal worn by the cavalryman whom Jordan has just shot. Then Jordan has to take the time to assure her that he had not aimed at the Sacred Heart badge worn by the soldier.

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