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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Chapter 27 | Summary



This chapter relates the battle against El Sordo on the hill where he and his men are hiding. The horses are dead or wounded, and the reader finds out that El Sordo was only able to steal three horses. Only five men have reached the top of the hill and three are wounded, including El Sordo. Joaquín keeps spouting slogans from La Pasionaria, his Communist idol, and another of Sordo's men tells him that La Pasionaria has hidden a son in Russia to keep him safe. Joaquín doesn't believe him. One of the men insults Pilar for not coming to save them, but El Sordo says she couldn't help them, as they are surrounded by about 150 men. The Fascists below start to insult them to try to get them to shoot, but they stay silent. Captain Mora forces a sniper to go up to look, though the sniper is afraid. Nothing happens and the sniper returns. Finally the captain orders Lieutenant Berrendo to go up there with him, but Berrendo refuses, so the captain goes up alone. El Sordo shoots him, to have that be the last thing he does rather than hear all of the insults. Then the planes arrive and bomb the hillside, and everyone but Joaquín dies. Berrendo goes up and gently shoots Joaquín in the back of the head to end his suffering. He gives the orders to cut the heads off of the victims but can't bear to see it happen.


The description of the positioning and the troops surrounding El Sordo make it clear that Pilar and Robert Jordan were wise not to help El Sordo. He has put himself in a hopeless situation, and he makes the best of it by shooting the foulmouthed Captain Mora before he and the others are bombed by the planes.

It is remarkable to read that El Sordo is laughing at the Fascists who have been yelling at him and his band to shoot them. He has known from the start that the discovery of the tracks the stolen horses made was his downfall, and he knows what he would do if he were on the other side, so he expects to die. He wishes he hadn't chosen this particular hill to die on, but he makes the best of it by humoring himself.

Joaquín's insistence on spouting La Pasionaria slogans causes the other men to tease him, but interestingly he is the last to die. Berrendo shows a tenderness in trying to ease his misery quickly and without him seeing it happen. Berrendo is also horrified by what he has to do to prove the battle has been won: taking heads feels wrong to him.

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