For Whom the Bell Tolls | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Chapter 20 | Summary



Robert Jordan goes outside to go to bed, and makes a bed of pine boughs to put his sleeping robe on. He waits for Maria to come to bed, and meanwhile, thinks of Pilar and her description of the smell of death as he smells the crushed pine needles below him. He thinks of all of the smells he loves, the pine included. As he waits he begins to panic that Maria isn't going to come to bed, and wonders if he was wrong about this love. But in a while Maria comes running to the robe, wearing nothing but her wedding shirt. They talk about how they feel as if they are one, and share a heart. Maria says she would be Jordan if she could, she loves him so much. They make love, and then sleep, but Jordan wakes up feeling as if he is about to lose her, and holds her tightly, "feeling she was all of life there was and it was true."


Again the dialogue between Maria and Robert Jordan serves to express their love and tenderness for each other without actually describing the act of making love. Hemingway's technique of using dialogue in this way makes the love scenes in this novel even more effective and moving than if they were detailed descriptions of the act itself. Instead of describing what the characters do, he has their words to each other tell the story of their love. The sleeping robe is again a symbol of comfort and love, and Hemingway combines it with the pine symbol, another representation of shelter.

The pressure of what is going to unfold the day of the bridge blowup is getting to Jordan and affecting his thinking. Jordan's fear that Maria won't arrive that night comes back in his fear that she is "being taken from him." It is interesting to note that although he told Pilar he doesn't believe a man knows what is going to happen to him, this feeling of dread foreshadows the losses he will feel later in the novel.

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