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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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For Whom the Bell Tolls | Quotes


But of the killing of a man, who is a man as we are, there is nothing good that remains.

Anselmo, Chapter 3

Anselmo loves to hunt and feels a sense of pride when he is able to kill an animal, but he hates killing other men. He has done it, and he knows he has to do it to survive the war, but each time it hurts him deeply. He believes it is a sin to kill a man, and yet he is forced to commit this sin. He wishes that after the war he could be forgiven and never have to kill again. To kill a man, for Anselmo, is to kill one's own spirit, because the victim and his perpetrator are the same. There is never anything good about ending someone's life, and there is nothing to be learned from it.


'I love thee, Maria,' he said. 'And no one has done anything to thee. Thee, they cannot touch. No one has touched thee, little rabbit.'

Robert Jordan, Chapter 7

Robert Jordan feels deep love for Maria. Maria is afraid that the fact that she has been raped by several men will keep Jordan from loving her or cause him to use her for sex before abandoning her. Jordan wants her to know that inside she has not been touched, and nothing has been taken away from her that makes her who she is in spirit. He loves her for who she is, no matter what has happened before.


'Every one needs to talk to some one,' the woman said. 'Before we had religion and other nonsense. Now for every one there should be some one to whom one can speak frankly, for all the valor that one could have one becomes very alone.'

Pilar, Chapter 9

When Pilar sees the planes overhead, she understands deep down that she and her comrades are not going to be able to fight the enemy successfully. When things go bad, people have to be able to be honest with each other about it, because grinning and bearing it and pretending nothing is wrong, charging forward for the glory, in the end leaves one cold. It is isolating to not be able to be honest with one's comrades.


Look at the ugliness. Yet one has a feeling within one that blinds a man while he loves you. You, with that feeling, blind him, and blind yourself. Then one day, for no reason, he sees you ugly as you really are and he is not blind anymore and then you see yourself as ugly as he sees you and you lose your man and your feeling.

Pilar, Chapter 10

Pilar is described by many men as ugly, but she is a good woman, and men fall in love with her. She has been called ugly her whole life, and believes it is true, but she also feels inside that she is beautiful when a man loves her. And yet when that man suddenly decides he no longer loves her, he goes back to believing she is ugly and she believes it herself. It has been a source of sadness for Pilar and mirrors the hopelessness of being vulnerable and not succeeding in war.


Then just shut up about what we are to do afterwards, will you, Inglés? You go back to the Republic and you take your piece with you and leave us others alone here to decide what part of these hills we'll die in.

Pilar, Chapter 11

Robert Jordan has told Pilar that they should go to Gredos after the bridge business is done. Pilar completely loses her temper with Jordan, and even though she likes him, she has had enough of him telling her what she and her band should do, as if this foreigner knows her country better than she does. It should also be noted that she is not using the translation of the informal Spanish "you" that Hemingway has used up to that point, which gives the reader an idea of just how furious she is. Just before she says this quote, she lets fly a stream of insults and only by doing this does she regain some sense of friendliness toward Jordan. Friendly or not, this quote represents the way that foreign volunteers have stepped in to help in the war but really have no idea what they're doing, making for a very disorganized force against the Fascists.


The coming of the dark always made him feel lonely and tonight he felt so lonely that there was a hollowness in him as of hunger. In the old days he could help this loneliness by the saying of prayers and often coming home from hunting he would repeat a great number of the same prayer and it made him feel better. But he had not prayed once since the movement. He missed the prayers but he thought it would be unfair and hypocritical to say them and he did not wish to ask any favors or for any different treatment than all the men were receiving.

Narrator, Chapter 15

Anselmo and other formerly religious people on the Republican side felt lonely when it became necessary to give up religion in order to be part of the left-wing movement and fight against the Church. Some people still took comfort in their old ways but could not openly admit it. One could still be against the Church, but wish for the comfort that prayer used to give, and wish to atone for one's sins. In Anselmo's case he felt that killing was a sin, and he felt less lonely when he prayed, but now he had to cope with the loneliness and the loss of prayer—he had no choice.


'You heard me,' Pablo said. 'I would restore them all to life.'

Pablo, Chapter 16

Pablo has a dialogue with Agustín about the people he has been killed. Although Agustín shouts at him and reminds him that the victims were Fascists, even Pablo, a brutal murderer, has been affected by all of the killing he has done. As described by Pilar, he seemed cold and uncaring when he murdered an entire village of Fascists, but he is still haunted by the brutality of what he did, and the fact that it is wrong to kill a person is lodged deep inside of him. He will never forgive himself for that.


You learned the dry-mouthed, fear-purged, purging ecstasy of battle and you fought that summer and that fall for all the poor in the world, against all tyranny, for all the things you believed in and for the new world you had been educated into.

Robert Jordan, Chapter 18

When Robert Jordan first volunteered to fight, he was proud of what he did, and he was elated by his successes because the reasons for fighting were still clear to him. They had yet to be muddied by failure and by the knowledge that the force with whom he was fighting was undersupplied and told to embark on missions that were bound to fail.


But an army that is made up of good and bad elements cannot win a war. All must be brought to a certain level of political development; all must know why they are fighting, and its importance. All must believe in the fight they are to make and all must accept discipline. We are making a huge conscript army without the time to implant the discipline that a conscript army must have, to behave properly under fire. We call it a people's army but it will not have the assets of a true people's army and it will not have the iron discipline that a conscript army needs. You will see. It is a very dangerous procedure.

Karkov, Chapter 18

Karkov sums up one of the biggest problems the Republican side experienced in the Spanish Civil War: the problem of pulling together an organized army of volunteers from all over the world and making them act together on the same principles and with the same training. The effort was disorganized, and this disorganization cost the Republicans dearly.


But in the night he woke and held her tight as though she were all of life and it was being taken from him. He held her feeling she was all of life there was and it was true.

Narrator, Chapter 20

This quotation foreshadows the end of the novel, where Robert Jordan breaks his leg so badly that he can't move and must stay behind while Maria and the others escape. Readers don't know if Jordan will live or die, but the impression is that Maria and Jordan will never see each other again. Both Maria and Jordan mean everything to each other even if they are separated, as they have become one by declaring that they are husband and wife. In war it is hard to see what is most important because it is overshadowed by what must be done to survive, but Jordan knows that Maria is truly all of life for him. War is not life: war is death.


'Listen, old one,' Robert Jordan said. 'It is because of the lack of time that there has been informality. What we do not have is time. Tomorrow we must fight. To me that is nothing. But for the Maria and me it means that we must live all of our life in this time.'

Robert Jordan, Chapter 24

Robert Jordan responds to Agustín's questions about his love for Maria and his intentions. Agustín wants Jordan to know not only that he has cared for Maria a great deal as well, but that Maria would not give herself to Jordan lightly. He wants to make sure that Jordan knows this and is not abusing Maria's trust. Jordan responds that he will marry Maria, but that he and Maria have to live their entire life in a few days because it's probable that he will die the next day in the fighting.


Pilar spoke to Primitivo. 'Thou. Dost understand there was no intent to insult thee?' 'Ya lo sé,' said Primitivo. 'I have put up with worse than that from thee. Thou hast a vile tongue. But watch thy mouth, woman. Sordo was a good comrade of mine.' 'And not of mine?' Pilar asked him. 'Listen, flat face. In war one cannot say what one feels. We have enough of our own without taking Sordo's.'

Pilar, Chapter 25

This dialogue between Pilar and Primitivo comes while El Sordo's band is being attacked, and likely massacred, by a large group of Fascist cavalrymen. Primitivo is in tears and desperately wants to help El Sordo. Robert Jordan tells him that they can't do anything for El Sordo, but he keeps insisting. Pilar hears this and tells him he is crazy. He tells her she is being brutal about this situation, but she insists that she is keeping men who don't have the guts to stay out of the conflict safe. It is extremely hard to sit and listen to one's comrades being killed: the urge to save them is huge, but Primitivo has to be stronger than that and let it be. Good sense in war leaves no room for acting in sympathy when the danger is too great for everyone, and intervention will simply get more people in their band killed.


But I won't keep a count of people I have killed as though it were a trophy record or a disgusting business like notches in a gun, he told himself. I have a right to not keep count and I have a right to forget them. No, himself said. You have no right to forget anything. You have no right to shut your eyes to any of it nor any right to forget any of it nor to soften it nor to change it.

Robert Jordan, Chapter 26

Here Robert Jordan is trying to talk himself through having killed a young Fascist cavalryman in front of the camp, as he has read the papers that were in the young man's pocket, and it turns out that the man was from Navarra, Jordan's favorite place in Spain. He knows it is likely that this cavalryman wasn't a Fascist at heart, and the letters from his sister and his fiancée upset him greatly. He tries to remain cold, but in talking to himself, he is talking to his conscience, which tells him that he can never forget who he killed. He can never downplay what it means to have killed another human being, and he will never forget it, no matter how hard he tries.


What you have with Maria, whether it lasts just through today and a part of tomorrow, or whether it lasts for a long life is the most important thing that can happen to a human being. There will always be people who say it does not exist because they cannot have it. But I tell you it is true and that you have it and that you are lucky even if you die tomorrow.

Robert Jordan, Chapter 26

Again Robert Jordan is conferring with his conscience after having killed a cavalryman and read personal letters of his, and his conscience is berating him for not understanding what is important. What is most important to Jordan is not his role in the war but his love for Maria and her love for him. His conscience informs him that he is extremely lucky to have had this kind of love before he dies, because not everyone gets to experience this. Pilar has said this to both Maria and to Jordan when the couple made love in the woods and felt the earth move under them, the connection was so strong between them. It doesn't happen to everyone, but when it does, it is a blessing. Jordan is certain that he is going to die when he blows up the bridge, so he is trying to reconcile with his conscience before he loses it, so that he may appreciate what he has in the little time he has left.


I have fought for what I believe in for a year now. If we win here we will win everywhere. The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.

Robert Jordan, Chapter 43

Robert Jordan thinks to himself as he positions himself on the ground to aim into a clearing as the cavalrymen discover the gray horse without a rider. He has no idea if he will die there or not, but he knows it's a strong possibility. He could kill himself right there, as his father did to avoid being captured, but he doesn't want to do that. He wants to stay in the world, because he has finally seen what is worth living for. The band in the cave has been his family, in a short four days, and he has felt for all of them what he has never felt for anyone else in his life. He has especially changed with Maria, because he was able to feel love for her in a way that made him want to spend his life with her, to be part of her. The only way he can get her to go is to tell her he is with her, and that she is both of them wherever she goes.

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