For Whom the Bell Tolls | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

Robert Jordan and Anselmo go to check out the bridge, and Jordan makes sketches so that he knows exactly how to set up the explosives when the time comes. He and Anselmo see planes overhead, and they both tell each other that they are Republican planes to make themselves feel better, but it is actually a Fascist patrol and Jordan knows it. After Jordan makes his sketches, they figure out how many men are at the bridge and where they are stationed. Anselmo says that Jordan should hunt with him when the war is over, and he admits to Jordan that he doesn't like killing people at all.

Once the men are done at the bridge, they run into Agustín on the way to the camp. Agustín stops them, and Jordan introduces himself. Jordan is somewhat horrified at the fact that Agustín can't say a full sentence without including a particular unprintable obscenity, but Agustín says that's just the way he speaks. As Anselmo and Jordan come to the cave, Anselmo tells Jordan that Agustín is foulmouthed but is a very good man. He says that Pilar and Agustín are both trustworthy enough to guard Jordan's explosives, and that Jordan must make sure they are guarded at all times, because Pablo has turned bad and is not to be trusted. Anselmo tells Jordan that El Sordo is "as good as the other is bad," but they have no choice but to deal with Pablo, because this is his country.

Analysis

Hemingway uses dialogue and gestures to develop Anselmo's character as well as that of Robert Jordan. Anselmo has had to kill people before, but he is a gentle person and is deeply affected every time he has to kill a man. When he pulls his finger across his throat to signify that they are going to have to kill the sentry in order to wire the bridge, Jordan nods and smiles, but Anselmo doesn't return the smile. To Anselmo there is nothing to smile about: killing another man is a sin. Jordan has no such qualms about killing people, or so he thinks. As the novel progresses and he develops relationships with the people in his band, he is going to have to reevaluate how cold he can be.

Agustín is a funny and caring person, but it's hard to tell just by listening to him. By this time the reader will have noticed that Hemingway has the Spanish characters in this novel, as well as Robert Jordan, use the translations of the informal Spanish "you," as "thee" and "thou," and Agustín is no exception. It sounds weirdly formal to the English speaker, but Hemingway wanted to distinguish between the informal and the polite second person in Spanish, and needed words that were clearly singular rather than plural. Hemingway also uses the literal English translations of Spanish idioms for swear phrases to give the reader an idea of just how insulting the Spanish language can be. Finally Hemingway uses literal translations of Spanish phrasing into English to transmit the flavor of the language and the character of the people.

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