For Whom the Bell Tolls | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

Pilar, Maria, and Robert Jordan visit El Sordo and his band. They first meet up with Joaquín, who teases Maria about the fact that he helped to carry her from the train they blew up. He also relates that his parents were shot, his sister jailed, and his brother-in-law is likely dead. Pilar's story of death made Jordan see the deaths and experience the violence, where Joaquín's story is similar to those he has heard so much, just a list of who was shot—and then Joaquín tears up. Joaquín apologizes for bringing up family in front of Maria, but has to turn away because he is crying. Maria is moved by Joaquín's tears and puts her arms around him, kissing him "as a brother" and telling him he has a family with their band. He is embarrassed and apologizes. He is even more embarrassed when Pilar says she will kiss him, and this makes Pilar angry.

They meet up with El Sordo and send Maria away while they discuss business. Weirdly he speaks pidgin (a simplified version of a language) Spanish with Jordan, who wonders if this is to make foreigners understand. They discuss how many men and horses they have, and realize they are short on men and shorter on horses. Pilar and El Sordo try to figure out where their groups will flee to after the bridge is blown, and he suggests Gredos, but she wants to go to the Republic. Jordan notices that his language changes with Pilar. Jordan says they would be better off at Gredos, and Pilar breaks into a "flood of obscene invective." She tells Jordan to "leave us others alone here to decide what part of these hills we'll die in." She isn't all that kind to Maria, either, who hears her being insulting. Then El Sordo says that blowing the bridge in daylight is too dangerous, but Jordan says he will be shot if they do it any other way, so El Sordo agrees to do it the way Jordan must. Pilar deeply wants to return to the Republic: El Sordo says, "Let us win this and it will all be Republic."

Analysis

Readers are introduced to El Sordo, a man deaf in one ear (hence his name, which means "the deaf one"). El Sordo treats Robert Jordan like a foreigner, unsure of his ability to communicate, by speaking stilted Spanish, but when he speaks with Pilar, he changes to fluent Spanish. Jordan finds this odd, but eventually El Sordo reverts completely to fluent Spanish as it becomes clear that Jordan is competent.

The setup of the bridge mission, however, is as disastrous as Jordan suspected it would be. El Sordo is not able to get as many men as they thought, and only half as many horses as men. In addition El Sordo says it is far better and safer to blow the bridge in the middle of the night. But Jordan can't go against General Golz's orders, even though Golz knows this mission is doomed. Jordan says the mission is simple "on paper," and El Sordo knows at that point that Jordan is well aware of the craziness of the mission. El Sordo says they should execute the mission on paper, then. But he agrees to help anyway, as it is for the Republic.

El Sordo's reactions to Jordan change throughout the visit according to how Pilar treats him and how he responds. When Jordan risks having his head torn off verbally by continuing to mention Gredos, El Sordo grins and begins to treat Jordan as an equal. Risking a dressing-down by Pilar shows that Jordan is part of the family and is much loved by Pilar. This acceptance earns Jordan the respect of El Sordo.

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