For Whom the Bell Tolls | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Chapter 18 | Summary



Robert Jordan plans the bridge attack while Pablo supposedly plans the escape, but is actually getting very drunk. Jordan begins to think to himself about his plan to just blow up the bridge and then go back and ask for three days in Madrid. He wanted to stay in a hotel, and go to Gaylord's, a restaurant where he spent time with his friend Karkov, with whom he talked about what he would do after the war. He had been certain that being a Communist, he would not get a teaching job in the United States nor get his job back in Spain, so Karkov suggested he come to Russia. Jordan had met peasant leaders of the revolution there, and met Lister, Campesino, and Modesto, among others. This was when he still had the feeling of being in a "brotherhood with the others who were engaged in" war. After six months that feeling faded away. He learned from Karkov the cynicism and the lying that had to occur out of necessity in wars. Karkov had reminded Jordan that there were Fascists behind the Republican lines just as he was behind Fascist lines. Jordan decides he should write a book when the war is over, but he realizes he will have to be a better writer in order to express the complexities of this particular war.


Robert Jordan experiences a long daydream, thinking to himself what his goals were before he met Maria, and what they are now. He is reminded of his time with Karkov, and how much simpler his ideas about war were, as well as how proud he felt of himself when he was able to get through battles. Now he just wants to blow the bridge and get out. He doesn't want to have the safety of Pablo's band on his shoulders.

Hemingway uses this interior monologue, as he has in previous chapters, to reveal the conflict in Jordan's mind about being friendly with the people he is staying with. Jordan is realizing that his relationships with Pablo's band, and especially his relationship with Maria, is making it difficult to stick to his mission without modifying it in order to keep these people safe. But he can't just ditch them, either. Still an evening with Pablo makes him feel like he is making a mistake, trusting anyone.

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