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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Chapter 39 | Summary



Pablo tells Robert Jordan the men he has brought with him are not so great but he has horses. Pilar asks him about the men, and Pablo can't help but be honest with her, so he doesn't correct her when she says he has some "bobos" or idiots with him. Pablo has lied to these men about the mission, telling them the operation will be a sure success, but he only said this to get them to agree to come with the horses. He tells Jordan not to let them know of his fears.

As Jordan is preparing himself for the mission, Pablo reiterates they have enough horses now, and Jordan suddenly realizes what he is getting at: that he has the men just for the horses. Jordan realizes that Pablo hasn't made a complete turnaround, and is still just as ruthless as ever in battle, taking what he needs without regard for human life. This makes Jordan extremely uncomfortable. Jordan then checks in with Maria, who says she is not worried about the mission. She goes with Rafael and the horses.


It is clear Pablo is up to something with the horses when he lets on the men accompanying him aren't really so great. Pilar seems to have figured out exactly what he's doing, which shows her intimate knowledge of his ruthless character, which she has experienced before. Pilar knows Pablo so well that she knows what steps he will take next. The only thing he has ever done that surprised her was coming back after stealing the equipment.

Pablo is in charge of the men and horses that he brought, leading them down near where El Sordo met his end, and Jordan suspects that Pablo is going to pull something sneaky and underhanded. However he has faith that whatever it is, it will be to the benefit of his own band, as ugly as he knows it's going to be. This shows that while Robert Jordan also knows Pablo well enough to realize he's uncaring about anyone but his band, he also knows Pablo is completely loyal to Pilar and won't do anything to disappoint her. Meanwhile Maria's lack of fear brings up the theme of courage once again, and proves she trusts Jordan to do what is necessary. Of course she may not know all of the details about what is necessary, and if she did, she might have acted differently, but in her state of complete trust, she's setting aside what she knows about the horrors of war in order to make this mission run more smoothly and give Jordan the faith in himself that he needs to go on.

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