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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Chapter 43 | Summary



At the beginning of this chapter, Anselmo and Robert Jordan both kill guards, and the bombs are falling from the Republican planes. Anselmo and Jordan wire the bridge, and Jordan is shaking, trying to rush. The remainder of Pilar's band comes up the road, and Fernando has been shot. Anselmo has to pull his wire when a truck comes down the road, but when he does, the pieces of steel fly everywhere and one hits Anselmo, killing him. Jordan is furious with Pablo for having created a situation where they had to be so close to blow the bridge, but Pilar tells him he has to stay calm. He calms down and he and the rest wait for Pablo to come with the horses. Pablo comes running down the road, shooting behind him. There is a small tank coming down the road. Jordan shoots at it, and then he, Pablo, and Agustín run up the hill, as Jordan shouts for Pilar to come. It turns out that Pablo has shot all of the men he brought in order to take their horses. Pilar and Maria arrive, and Pablo is now in charge of getting them to safety.

As they are riding away, they are shot at by a machine gun and Jordan's horse is hit. It falls and Jordan is pinned underneath, his leg broken. The horse stands up and is hit again, and sits down to die. Primitivo and Agustín drag Jordan up the slope, and Maria is there, asking him what has happened. Pilar insists they can bind his leg, but Pablo shakes his head, and Jordan nods at Pablo. He speaks with him privately, saying that he will talk with Maria but she is to go with the band. Pilar slits the trouser leg and sees how bad the break is. Jordan tells Maria that she can't stay with him, and since he is her, he will be with her always. He says, "Thou art me too now. Thou art all there will be of me." Pilar leads her away and puts her on a horse as she cries and protests. Agustín asks if Jordan wants to be shot, but Jordan says no, and they say goodbye as Agustín cries. Jordan positions himself behind a tree and waits for the cavalry to go by, so that he can hit at least one officer, and hopefully make a difference.


The tragedy of this love story unfolds at last. Robert Jordan's leg is broken so badly that he can't move, and he refuses to let Maria stay with him, because he knows her life will be in danger if she does. His insistence is the most loving thing he can do for her. She ends up going with Pablo and Pilar, but can't stop begging him to let her stay with him. Pilar has to lead her away, and she is still shouting to Jordan even as she mounts the horse. Jordan's lies to her are clearly lies, at this point, and she realizes it. She is losing her beloved, for good.

Even foulmouthed Agustín is in tears as he leaves Jordan under the tree. His love for Jordan shows in his offer to do the unthinkable: end Jordan's life for him so that he won't suffer through either a slow death under the tree or torture at the hands of the Fascists. But Jordan refuses, and his stubbornness is a relic of his anger at his father for ending his life and not facing difficulties. This stubbornness costs him all of the close relationships he has just formed.

Once Pablo's band leaves, Jordan's self-talk becomes frantic as the crushed nerve in his leg begins to regain its sensation of pain, and he tries to think of the group—where they are going, how they are faring, envisioning them safe, but he can't do it. It's just too painful, and he realizes that he has lost all of them because of his own inability to transcend his anger and fear of intimacy. The fact that he is able to think of doing some good by taking out an officer before he passes out from the pain is remarkable, and the novel ends with him waiting to pull the trigger.

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