For Whom the Bell Tolls | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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Course Hero, "For Whom the Bell Tolls Study Guide," September 29, 2016, accessed April 24, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/For-Whom-the-Bell-Tolls/.

For Whom the Bell Tolls | Plot Summary

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Summary

The First Day

For Whom the Bell Tolls is set in May 1937 in the mountains of Spain during the Spanish Civil War. American Robert Jordan, an explosives specialist, is a volunteer with the International Brigade and takes orders from Golz, a Russian general doing his best to stage attacks with limited support from his superiors. Golz has ordered Jordan to blow up a bridge near Segovia with the help of guerrilla forces hiding in the mountains nearby. Anselmo, an old guerrilla, guides Jordan through the mountains to meet up with Pablo, the leader of one of the guerrilla bands. Pablo is a heavy drinker who speaks his mind rudely and does not want to risk the lives of his band by engaging in what he thinks is a foolhardy mission.

Jordan and Anselmo go to Pablo's camp where they meet Pilar, Pablo's wife, and the six remaining guerrillas of varying age and ability. The camp is in a well-hidden cave that is up the mountain from the steel bridge that traverses the gorge. There is also a young woman named Maria whose family was killed by the Nationalists and who was brutally raped before being rescued. Maria and Jordan immediately lock eyes, and Jordan falls for her. Meanwhile Pilar and the other guerrillas are on board for blowing up the bridge, and Pilar forces Pablo to agree to it. Pilar, the real leader of the guerrilla band, tells Jordan that El Sordo, the leader of another band, will be there that evening and can help. Anselmo and Jordan go to the bridge to plan out their attack. That night after dinner it is clear that El Sordo is not coming, so Jordan goes to bed. Maria joins him later under his sleeping robe, and they make love.

The Second Day

The next morning Pilar takes Jordan to see El Sordo, and Maria accompanies them. El Sordo agrees to help with the bridge plan, though he feels that it is dangerous to do so in daylight as Fascists could discover them. Jordan agrees, but he has to go by Golz's plan, which is to wait for the Republicans to attack before blowing the bridge. On the way back to the camp, Pilar sits down to nap, and Jordan and Maria make love in the woods. Maria tells Pilar later that the earth moved for her, and Pilar says that only happens three times in a lifetime. Pilar teases Jordan asking if it moved for him too, and he says it did.

When they are back at the camp, a drunk Pablo begins to harangue Jordan, and several of the guerrillas try to goad him into provoking Jordan to kill him, because they want him dead but don't want to do it themselves. Agustín, the foul-mouthed guerrilla who also loves Maria, hits Pablo but that still doesn't move him. Pablo wanders off, and when he comes back, suddenly he has changed his mind and wants to help. Jordan is suspicious. Maria and Jordan make love that night and decide they are husband and wife, one body.

The Third Day

Jordan wakes up and discovers a Fascist cavalryman has found their camp and he shoots him, waking the camp. Later that morning he can hear Fascist troops attacking El Sordo's band in the hills and realizes that the Fascists know about their plan, hence the early attack. He is convinced that they have to cancel the bridge operation and the Republicans have to put off their attack. The Fascist planes arrive, dropping bombs on El Sordo's hill. It's clear that El Sordo's band are all dead, and Jordan now knows that he must get word to Golz. Andrés, who is the fastest and quite intelligent, is sent to tell Golz to cancel the attack, but Gomez takes him to various stations. No one will lead him directly to Golz. That night Jordan and Maria fantasize about their married life in Madrid, but Jordan feels the pressure of losing everything he has. Still he feels that with Maria, his life has been complete, even if only for a few days.

The Last Day

At two in the morning, Pilar tells Jordan that Pablo has disappeared, taking with him the means necessary to detonate the explosives. Jordan tries to put together a plan with what he has left, and he realizes he and Anselmo will have to wire the bridge using grenades under the cover of darkness. They rise before dawn, and Pablo, who feels bad about what he did, returns with five men on horses to make up for the fact that he tossed the explosives into a river. He still hates Jordan for making them go through with this operation, but he's willing to help again in order to stay with Pilar. Jordan and Anselmo blow the bridge, and Anselmo dies in the explosion. Jordan is astonished he has lived through it.

Meanwhile Gomez and Andrés meet Miranda who sends them to André Marty, a crazy and paranoid French commissar. Marty stops them from getting to Golz on time, but Karkov steps in and forces his hand, because he knows Jordan and knows of the operation. When they finally reach Golz, it's too late to stop the Republican attack. Later that morning Pablo comes back from fighting, bringing horses. He shot their riders, members of his own party, to provide horses to help his remaining band members escape. Pablo, Pilar, Primitivo, Rafael, and Agustín ride with Maria and Jordan to escape, and they are shot at. No one but Jordan is hurt: Jordan's horse falls on him and breaks his leg so badly he can't move. Jordan decides that he must stay behind, so as not to hamper their progress, sending Maria to escape with Agustín, Primitivo, Rafael, Pablo, and Pilar. Maria tries to stay with Jordan, but he tells her he is with her wherever she goes, and he makes her leave. Jordan lies down in the pines and points his gun on the Fascists, hoping to at least make a little bit of a difference before he is caught.

For Whom the Bell Tolls Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action

Introduction

1 Golz orders Robert Jordan to blow up a bridge near Segovia.

Rising Action

2 Anselmo guides Robert Jordan to find Pablo in mountains.

3 Robert Jordan meets Pilar, Maria, and guerrillas at camp.

4 Pablo refuses to blow up the bridge, but Pilar will do it.

5 Robert Jordan and Anselmo scout the bridge to plan the job.

6 Robert Jordan and Maria make love under his sleeping robe.

7 Pilar takes Robert Jordan and Maria to meet El Sordo band.

8 Drunk Pablo berates Robert Jordan, who wants to kill Pablo.

9 Maria and Robert Jordan decide they are husband and wife.

10 Fascist planes bomb El Sordo and ruin the bridge plan.

Climax

11 Robert Jordan sends Andrés to have Golz cancel the attack.

Falling Action

12 Pablo throws out some explosives but feels bad and returns.

13 Robert Jordan and Anselmo blow the bridge, and Anselmo dies.

14 Most of Pablo's band dies; Robert Jordan breaks his leg.

Resolution

15 Robert Jordan stays, sending Maria with Agustín and Pilar.

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