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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Chapter 23 | Summary



Four horsemen ride past, following the tracks of Pablo's horse. They stop and look directly where the machine gun is hidden. They are close enough for Agustín to shoot them, and he wants to but Robert Jordan puts his hand on his shoulder to signal not to shoot. When they leave, Agustín asks why they didn't just shoot them. Jordan says they don't know what the sound of the shots would bring. Sure enough, soon after, 20 cavalrymen come through on the same trail. When all is clear, Jordan tells Anselmo to find a good post and report on movement on the road. Jordan has to remind himself not to idolize Anselmo for not wanting to shoot people, and he discovers that half of the sweating Agustín did was not fear but a desire to kill.


The description of the cavalrymen and how much detail can be seen helps to give the reader a sense of what Robert Jordan and Agustín are feeling as they hide and hold their fire. Agustín, who has never been very good at keeping his mouth shut, is also not very good at thinking ahead when it comes to defensive moves.

Jordan's self-talk in his head is also revealing. He has to admit to himself that he, too, has been corrupted by the desire to kill, and his efforts to stay cold have not succeeded.

Anselmo says that he thinks he should go into La Granja, and Jordan wonders what the chances are that Pablo has been caught. The fact that he wishes he hadn't said anything shows that he knows Pablo was right about the bridge orders being an impossible mission, and is finally forced to admit to himself that Pablo is extremely smart. Jordan has to use Anselmo's request to shift the subject and hope the others aren't offended.

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