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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Chapter 6 | Summary



Chapter 6 opens inside the cave with Robert Jordan sitting next to the fire, talking to Pilar and Maria. Pilar wonders why El Sordo hasn't come to the cave, and tells Jordan that they must go see him the next day. Maria asks if she can come, and Pilar says she can. Pilar then asks Jordan what he thinks of Maria's looks. Jordan says, "To me she seems very well." Maria suggests that he needs to be fairly drunk on wine to see her as beautiful, but he tells her he already does see her that way. Pilar is impressed by this talk, but then jokes and calls him "Don Roberto," which he takes offense to. Pilar teases him for not being able to joke, saying that she can joke about anything, and Maria says it's because he's a Communist. But Jordan says he's not, he's an anti-Fascist.

They talk about republicanism, and Jordan tells them that his father killed himself to avoid being tortured. Maria becomes emotional, and wishes her father had the same option. She thinks this is why she and Jordan have clicked. Jordan touches her hair and says he has wanted to do that all day. Pilar suggests that if Jordan is going to sleep outside, she should sleep with his materials beside her. Jordan asks to speak with her privately, and tells her that Rafael urged him to kill Pablo. Pilar tells Jordan that he did right by ignoring Rafael's request, and it isn't necessary to kill Pablo: in fact his restraint has ensured that he is safe with the band. She sends him to bed.


Pilar, realizing that there is a connection between Robert Jordan and Maria, encourages Jordan to see Maria as beautiful, which he already does. He runs his hand over Maria's shorn head, and it affects him deeply, partly because she has just told him that her father did not have the means to kill himself to avoid torture as Jordan's father did, but also because he's in love with her. Hemingway uses gestures and connections between the two characters to show the development of their feelings for each other.

Hemingway also uses Pilar's joking as a way to show how the Spanish use humor in nearly every situation. Jordan is offended at her using "Don" jokingly as an honorific, because its roots are in the Church and royalty, and he believes that it isn't appropriate given who they are fighting. Pilar explains to him that the Spanish have joked about their old flag and now they joke the same way about their new one, but he's not buying it. There is a cultural difference between them, as well as a difference in age: Jordan is younger, and Pilar's years of experience have taught her when to joke and when to hold back. Pilar doesn't really hold back very much, though: she's a straightforward woman who speaks her mind no matter what the outcome might be.

When Jordan and Pilar speak alone for a minute, Pilar tells Jordan that he did the right thing by not acting against Pablo. As Jordan had suspected, although he doesn't fully understand its extent, he would have damaged his ability to work with this band of guerrillas to accomplish his mission. Jordan fears that he has been weak, but Pilar tells him he has "passed all capacity for danger" meaning that the fact that he restrained himself elevates him in their eyes. This level of respect will come into play later in the novel.

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