Summary and Analysis
From this point to the end of the book, Hemingway develops two stories at the same time. Chapter 33 and subsequent alternate chapters carry the story of Jordan (except that Chapters 37-39 are all focused on Jordan). Chapter 34 and its succeeding alternate ones (with the exception mentioned above) carry the story of Andres, who is trying to get Jordan's message through to Golz. This plot device is the same one of "proximity" which Hemingway has used in Chapters 31 and 32. Here, however, he is not using the juxtaposition simply for its ironic effect but has added the quality of suspense.
Jordan awakes, still in his hopeful frame of mind, thinking that it is Maria's hand which is shaking him. But he returns to reality rapidly when he learns that Pablo has vanished. The trusted Pilar has failed him. Jordan rebukes her, but then he comforts her by assuring her that he can find another way to set off the explosion.
In Chapter 34, we discover that Andres is aware of what it is that he is fighting for. But he is relieved that he has been given the message to carry and will probably not get back in time for the fighting. He compares his relief to that which he had felt in his boyhood when he had awakened on fiesta day to find that it was raining and that the bull-baiting would be canceled. Not that he was not brave at the bull-baiting. In fact, he had been nicknamed "Bulldog" because he always grabbed the bull's ear and bit it during the final rush on the bull.
Andres does not lack courage, but he is here exemplifying one of the major ideas which has been brought out again and again in the book. He does not wish to die for the Cause. He does not really care much about fighting for it. He realizes that his enemies are simply other men like himself and that they are his enemies only because of a trick of fate. He reminisces about the happy days with his brother during their youth, and he wishes he could return to them. Then he knows that he must try to get back in time to help his brother and the others.
In Chapter 35, Jordan is furious with himself for having forgotten what he had known back in the first chapter — that Pablo would only be friendly in order to betray him.
And he is furious with Spain and with every Spaniard on either side. They are selfish, egotistical, treacherous, cowardly, undisciplined. But as his rage becomes more and more exaggerated, he realizes that he is being unjust. He decides that the situation is not as bad as he had thought. They will be killed, but they will blow the bridge.
The final sentence of the chapter is another excellent example of Hemingway's use of irony. Jordan lies by the sleeping Maria, holding her lightly and feeling the life in her, but at the same time he is keeping track of the time on his wrist watch.
After reading Chapter 36, one might tend to think that Jordan had been somewhat hasty in the preceding chapter in deciding that his criticism of the Spaniards was unjust. The comic relief of the chapter is accomplished with typical Hemingway humor — there is a serious and very unfunny basis underlying it. While Andres is trying desperately to get Jordan's message to Golz in time for the attack to be canceled, the soldiers on guard waste time arguing about whether it would not be simpler to just go ahead and kill him.
Andres is accustomed to the ignorance of the soldiers because he had encountered it on his other trips through the lines. He is exasperated, however, when the officer displays the same ignorance. All of this, of course, is simply another example of the haphazard way in which the war is being run. If the soldiers were seriously interested in the war, instead of making a dramatic game of it, they would certainly not treat a courier in such a manner. Hemingway shows this ignorance and lack of seriousness most pointedly in the last scene of the chapter. For it is only after Andres has walked behind him for some distance that the officer remembers to take Andres' gun from him.
Chapter 37 shows Jordan's and Maria's last intimate moments together. Jordan feels that he has lived his entire life at this place.
The guerillas are his brothers, his oldest friends; Maria is his wife, his sister, his daughter. Maria, trying to act as a wife would act, tells Jordan that she would like to be by his side in the coming battle. She says, though, that she will help him in any way that he thinks is best.
The scene in the cave at the beginning of Chapter 38 is not a happy one. The men's nerves are taut in anticipation of the fight, and they are making jibing remarks and snapping at each other. Nor is Jordan very happy. The plan which he had concocted during the night does not seem so good now that morning approaches. He snaps angrily at Pilar when she tries to tell him that her palm reading is gypsy nonsense. Then he talks to some of the other men and agrees that he is as nervous as they are.
For the last several chapters, the situation has been growing progressively worse. And this is probably the darkest hour of the book. Jordan does not have enough men to overcome the enemy guard posts, he no longer has the equipment necessary to blow the bridge properly, and he has very little hope that Golz will cancel the attack even if Andres reaches him in time.
The reappearance of Pablo marks what seems to be a turning point in the book. Things immediately begin to look better. With the additional men and horses, the job does not look as impossible as it had seemed. And Pilar, for the first time, shows that Pablo's "going bad" had hurt her deeply. She loves him, and she is proud of him for having come back.
At the beginning of Chapter 39, we discover that Pablo has some pride left also. For he has told the new men that he is still leader of the band, and he asks Jordan not to say anything to "disillusion" them. Pablo's words have a curious effect on Jordan, however. He feels that Pablo's "conversion" is anything but complete. And he is reasonably sure that the man has some other trick up his sleeve.
Chapter 40 begins with the ironic observation that Andres had made his way comparatively rapidly through enemy territory, but had been slowed down once he was behind friendly lines. There, his progress is hampered by ignorance, stupidity, and lack of interest on the part of the soldiers he encounters. Nevertheless, the situation is still looking brighter. In spite of the lack of communication within the Loyalist army and the lack of interest in the war on the part of most of the soldiers — two problems with which the reader is already intimately familiar — Andres continues to make some progress. Finally, he finds two officers who do not fit the mold. They are sympathetic with Andres' problem, and they do everything in their power to aid him in the accomplishment of his mission.
In Chapter 41, everything is "organized confusion" as the pre-battle preparations are made. Jordan's nervousness is shown by his over-zealous repetition of the order that no one is to do anything until sounds of the offensive are heard. Pablo continues to present a problem, but Jordan washes his hands of the whole matter. He will leave on foot after the battle, he says, and the matter of the horses is Pablo's business. He thinks, though, that he is glad he does not know the five new men, whom Pablo will presumably kill for their horses after the battle.
Hemingway's planning is evident to the reader when he sees Jordan and Anselmo return to the spot from which they had earlier observed the bridge. Having already described the terrain, Hemingway does not now have to interrupt the reader's rising excitement with another description. All that he has to do to re-create the picture in the reader's mind is to insert a few reminders of the appearance of the position. At the same time, little by little, the reader is getting a clear idea of the manner in which the coming action will be handled by Jordan and the men.
Jordan temporarily forgets that Anselmo's conscience bothers him about the killing. Anselmo gives him a slight hint, however, and Jordan responds by "ordering" the old man to do what he has been told. Anselmo can thus, at least partially, excuse himself for the killing, since he will be acting under orders.
The next-to-last sentence of the chapter reminds the reader that even the fascists are human beings, living individuals. For Jordan, unable to see the firelight at times, realizes that this is because the man in the sentry box has moved and is standing in front of the brazier.
Irony is packed upon irony in Chapter 42. Despite brief delays, Andres is moving rapidly toward a meeting with Golz, and the reader's hopes continue to rise. When Andres and Gomez encounter another ignorant sentry who seems about to cause them further delay, they are relieved to see Comrade Marty drive up. Marty, a man who should be responsible as well as appreciative of the importance of Andres' mission, is instead a man driven insane by his own importance. He asserts this importance by having Andres and Gomez arrested, thereby causing enough delay so that the two men reach Golz' headquarters too late to see the general himself. Consequently, they have to give the dispatch to Golz' aide, Duval.
Though there is, possibly, still enough time to call off the offensive, Duval does not have enough information about the purpose of the attack to make him want to assume the responsibility for canceling it himself. By the time he reaches Golz on the telephone and discovers that the offensive is not simply a holding attack, it is too late to call it off.
So, here is the crowning irony of the book. Jordan must blow up a bridge, the destruction of which will be absolutely of no value. He must carry out his ineffectual assignment because of the ignorance, stupidity, indifference, and self-importance of people who should most logically have done all they could to help his courier get to his destination in time.
For Whom the Bell Tolls is a tragedy, as are all of Hemingway's novels. However, it is interesting to note in the last chapter how Hemingway's philosophy has developed. At the end of A Farewell to Arms, after Catherine's death, Frederick Henry walks back to his hotel in the rain, helpless and hopeless. At the end of To Have and Have Not, there is at least the implied hope that man will heed Harry Morgan's dying cry, "A man alone ain't got no bloody chance."
The end of For Whom the Bell Tolls shows the reader a more thoughtful and mature Hemingway at his best. The importance of the individual, mentioned in the "Ideology" section of these Notes, is brought out most vividly in Chapter 42. First, Jordan looks through his field glasses at the sentry and sees a human being — a fact which makes him decide not to look at the man again until the fighting begins. Then, Anselmo cries over the killing of the sentry at his end of the bridge. Finally comes the ultimate irony of the book. Jordan has done everything that he should have done in the way that it ought to have been done, and his mission has been successful. So far as the Cause for which he has been fighting is concerned, his death will serve no useful purpose. Realizing this, Jordan starts to commit suicide as his father had done. But he waits and will die, not for the Cause, but for the protection of an individual, Maria, the symbol of Love.