The appearance of the unusually large number of enemy aircraft at the beginning of Chapter 8 serves two purposes. The fact that there are many enemy planes in the area indicates that the fascists either know about the planned communist offensive or are planning an attack of their own in the sector. The large number of planes serves, by contrast, to point out the fact that the fascists are being much better supplied with weapons than are the communists.
Whether the planes mean that a fascist offensive is coming or that the fascists know a communist offensive is coming, the situation has become critical. Fernando's arrival with rumors of a Loyalist attack is further proof that the fascists are expecting that attack. Jordan is appalled at this inexcusable leak in security. Jordan's thoughts about the lackadaisical way in which the Spaniards are running their war (and here we must remember that it is not really the Spaniards who are running it) are interrupted by Pilar's reminiscing about the "good old days" in Valencia. One gets the feeling in this scene that these people would almost prefer a more "usual" kind of existence, even under the fascists, to fighting in this war for their own liberation.
Several themes which have already made their appearance are brought back into view in Chapter 9. The fact that the enemy is better equipped is re-emphasized by Jordan's explanation that their side does not have enough planes to start an offensive. The religious theme is also reintroduced, though it is just barely touched upon as Pilar says that God still exists even though they have tried to abolish him.
Jordan's battle within himself has now passed the beginning stage. He speaks to Pilar of "duty," but he acknowledges that he cares very much for Maria, and he is still worried about what it was that Pilar saw when she read his palm.
Pablo's sudden deterioration is mentioned again, but we find that he may regain a great deal of his importance after all since he is the best equipped to get them away safely after the bridge has been blown.
Here, too, as in previous chapters and in the chapters to come, there is much lip service paid to the idea that "we must win." But it is hardly more than lip service. It is obvious that the enemy is better equipped. It is obvious that they cannot be defeated. It is obvious that the war is "an idiocy without bounds." And it is becoming less and less obvious to all of them that it is worth their lives and the lives of others like them.
Chapter 10 serves one major purpose in the book, and that is to demonstrate that the "good guys" display just as much cruelty in a war as do the "bad guys." In masterly fashion, Hemingway shows also, in this chapter, that both sides are made up of individual human beings with their individual hopes, fears, and desires. Among the Loyalists in Pilar's story are those who do not like what is going on and do not want any of the captives killed, but many of these are afraid not to participate for fear of being brought under suspicion themselves. There are those who succumb to the mob hysteria and become raving beasts out for blood, and there are those, like Pablo, who enjoy the massacre immensely. Among the Monarchists in Pilar's story are those who cringe before their captors and plead for mercy. There are those who, in a horror-induced catatonic state, do not seem to understand what has happened or why they are being so treated. And there are those who face their captors scornfully and defiantly shout insults at their executioners.
Nearly every possible human reaction to the situation described by Pilar is artfully brought out here by Hemingway. How better could he emphasize the fact that, whether Monarchist or Loyalist, it is those whom the Spanish themselves would call la gente (the people) who are involved in the struggle?
Chapter 11 is devoted to filling in some of the blank spaces left in earlier chapters. The reader learns more of the details of the rescue of Maria. He learns, too, the details of Kashkin's death. He also gets further information about the danger connected with blowing up the bridge. The reader, however, is not left for long to feel sorry for the poor fascists whose murders Pilar described in the previous chapter. Jordan's thoughts, upon hearing of the death of Joaquin's family, serve to enlighten the reader as to the cruel practices of the Monarchists.
The Kashkin theme, which, by comparing Jordan with his predecessor, carries a tone of premonition, makes another appearance here. In fact, Pilar brings Kashkin into the conversation because of this tone. She feels that Jordan has bragged too much about what he and his kind have done in the war, so she "takes him down a peg" by reminding him of the similarity between himself and Kashkin.
Chapter 12, by dramatizing Pilar's mood, "sets the reader up" for Jordan's thoughts in the first part of the next chapter.
The discussion with El Sordo has made Pilar realize the real seriousness and danger of the bridge operation; this is the reason for her sudden ill temper. Jordan knows that Pablo's sullenness upon hearing of the bridge operation was based on his immediate understanding of the danger involved. He also has seen that El Sordo, too, grasped the real nature of the problem very quickly. And now, he realizes, Pilar has come to understand.
The love theme, played mostly in little pianissimo snatches in earlier chapters, swells to a crescendo in Chapter 13. Jordan wants to live. He wants to live out a normal life with Maria as his wife. He does not want to die for a Cause. What are they fighting against, anyway? They are fighting against just exactly those things which they are doing themselves — things they were forced to do if they were to stand any chance of winning.
Jordan argues bitterly with himself. It is true that they are doing many of the things which they condemned in their enemies, but in this case the enemies were the leaders of Spain. Then he realizes that the phrase "enemies of the people" is one of the stock phrases of the communists. He has associated with the communists so closely and for so long that he has started using the clichés easily and uncritically. This disgusts him, for now he has no politics. His love for Maria (and he admits to himself now that, for the first time, he is truly in love) has made him see the situation clearly.
Besides revealing further details of Jordan's personal background, his lengthy consideration of his position brings out one of the two instances of irony in the chapter. When has he met the person whom he can truly love? Seventy-two hours before he must blow up a bridge in an unnecessarily dangerous manner and, probably, die. The other instance of irony comes at the end of the chapter when it becomes obvious that, even though it is May, it is going to snow. Not only must the guerillas retreat in daylight, but their tracks will be easily followed.