The first chapter of For Whom the Bell Tolls introduces us to the protagonist, Robert Jordan, an American who joins the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War as a demolition expert. We first see him climbing a treacherous mountain path with his elderly, but incredibly strong, guide Anselmo. Robert Jordan emphasized that in war, there exist only those who can and cannot be trusted; he trusts everything about Anselmo except his judgement, which has not yet been tested and which Jordan reasons is "his own responsibility." Anselmo is a good guide and the job to which he leads him, to blow out a bridge, is like many others Jordan has performed, but for an undefined reason he is worried about "other things."
These worries seem to stem form the conversation Jordan has with General Golz before beginning on his mission, as the narrative immediately jumps to a flashback of Jordan receiving his orders. General Golz is a Russian officer sent to aid the Spanish communists directing the attack in which Jordan must destroy the bridge, and in a flashback scene we learn that the crucial mission is to be performed in an unorthodox fashion, and thus is highly dangerous. So too, Golz frustrations that his operations, strictly military test ground from his perspective, are always stalled or botched, may be the cause of Jordan's sense of trepidation. Golz is a direct contrast to Jordan's idealistic selflessness.
Anselmo leads Jordan to Pablo, the leader of the guerilla band whose aid Jordan enlists in the destruction of the bridge. Although Pablo mistrusts the foreign Jordan and is mentally and emotionally wearied from fighting and the threat of death, Anselmo convinces Pablo to help by intimating that Pablo has lost his willingness to fight- meaning to give up all he has- now that he has property, horses stolen from slain Monarchists. Now that Pablo has wealth he wants to enjoy life; devoting this life to a cause now comes at a much greater proce.
The chapter closes with Jordan mentally assessing Pablo, whose gloom is dangerous, he concludes, because "he is going bad fast and without hiding it." Jordan appears inclined to analyze and mentally prepare himself for future occurrences, as he reminds himself to beware if ever Pablo acts friendly, for then he will have made a decision for the worst. Jordan also notices that he too has been gloomy, which is unlike his usual joking self. Jordan admits to himself that he feels overwhelmed and wishes he were in gay spirits, as were General Golz and Anselmo. The best soldier, according to Jordan, is happy, because high spirits in the midst of combat is "like having immortality while you were still alive." Noticing how few happy soldiers were left, and dually noting that his own positive attitude, and thus chance for survival, were faltering, Jordan tells himself that he is not a thinker anymore, but merely a "bridge-blower."
An important theme in the first chapter is that of superstition. Robert Jordan is afraid when he forgets Anselmo's name, as he considers it a "bad sign." There is much foreboding in this chapter, as Jordan worries for an unknown cause and finds himself slipping into gloominess, which is unlike his nature.
Another important theme is the ironic and skeptical view of life, which is revealed by the cynicism of Jordan's comrades-in-arms. For example, in the scene in which Jordan and Golz discuss the proposed attack, the Russian general speaks mistrustfully of the Spanish because he knows they will interfere in the offensive, which he would like to use as a military maneuvering practice.
This cynicism is matched by Pablo, the Spanish guerilla leader who mistrusts Jordan, a foreigner who has come into his country to give him orders. Pablo has given up hope himself, yet resents the interference of an outsider into a war which is ostensibly being waged for the benefit of the underrepresented, like himself: "If they know we are here and they hunt for us with planes, they will find us. If they send Moors to hunt us out, they will find us and we must go. I am tired of all this. You hear? He turned to Robert Jordan. What right have you, a foreigner, to come to me and tell me what I must do?'" Pablo is not a selfless freedom fighter, but rather is only interested in the survival of himself and his group. Ironically, at the same time he manifests a defeatist attitude, as he feels it is futile to run and hide any longer, and will remain in the mountains until he is inevitably found and killed.
Another ironic twist in the character of Pablo is the fact that he recently acquired five beautiful horses- booty from the killing of two civil guardsmen from the Monarchist side. The fact that Pablo owns something of value for the first time in his life lessens his interest in the Loyalist cause. Thus, Hemingway compels the reader to think about the selflessness that one must have in order to make a political and military fight their life, and perhaps even their death. The figure of Pablo also introduces the important theme of the relationship between the downtrodden individuals for whom wars are supposedly fought and the higher political forces which actually control their destinies.
Hemingway's writing style is another important aspect to consider; although the main characters Jordan, Anselmo and Pablo are introduced, their characters are depicted very subtly through conversation, instead of narrative description. Indeed, from the verbal test Jordan undergoes when appraising Pablo's horses, we know that there already exists a personality conflict between the two characters.
Hemingway does provide physical descriptions of the characters. We know that Jordan is tall, lanky and fair, and that Anselmo is aging and strong. While these depictions are rather spare, especially in regards to facial characteristics, Hemingway portrays the faces of the more cantankerous characters, Golz and Pablo, vividly. Perhaps this is because much about a person, especially strong traits, are revealed in the face. Golz has a "strange white face that never tanned, his hawk eyes, the big nose and thin lips and shaven head crossed with wrinkles and with scars." Indeed, in this face the one reads the history of a keenly alert, willful man who lived to be a soldier.
Pablo's face is the portrait of the peasant who has seen much hardship: "his head was round and set close on his shoulders. His eyes were small and set too wide apart and his ears were small and set close to his head. He was a heavy man about five feet ten inches tall and his hands and feet were large. His nose had been broken and his mouth was cut at one corner and the line of the scar across the upper lip and lower jaw showed through the growth of beard over his face." Pablo's face not only holds the scars of battle but reveals that luxury and beauty are things that have not figured in his life experience. His apparent ugliness symbolizes the rough life and burdens endured by this peasant. So too, his small wide-set eyes are traditionally associated with mistrust, which is indeed the sentiment Jordan feels upon initially meeting Pablo.
Robert Jordan and Anselmo arrive at the guerillas' camp- a cave beneath a tree-covered valley that could not be spotted from the air. The gypsy Rafael guards the entrance to the cave. Despite his vulgar manner of speaking, Rafael appears high spirited, as he jokes about his gypsy heritage and how many meals he can eat in one day. Rafael draws a parallel between Jordan and "the other with the rare name." Kashkin, was captured upon completing his mission of blowing up a train and killed himself. Jordan reassures Rafael that he will not premeditate the outcome of battle and ask his men to kill him to escape the hands of the enemy, as his predecessor did.
Pablo and his men then sit down to a meal prepared by "the woman of Pablo," Pilar, and Maria, a girl they rescued from the train, which was carrying prisoners of war. Despite her cropped hair, which was shaved during her interment in the Fascist jail at Valladolid, and her unsure manner, she is beautiful. Throughout the dinner she gazes at Jordan steadily and smiles, leaving him with a "thickness in his throat" and an inability to speak. Pilar is described as very ugly, "barbarous" but very brave. She is more of a leader to the men than Pablo, for she lacks his fear of death. Since Pablo "went bad" and lost the courage and zeal he displayed at the beginning of the war, Pilar maintains the unity of his band. Pilar is a gypsy and, upon introductions, reads Jordan's palm. She refuses to tell Jordan what she saw, but makes Jordan promise that he will lead Maria to safety at a refugee home in Valencia after he completes his mission at the bridge.
The main theme of Chapter Two is the building sense of impending doom. First, the comparison of Kashkin and Jordan is unsettling. One wonders if Jordan too will become cowardly and fail in his mission. For the time being, Jordan remains firm in placing the Republic before all else, and does not even admit fear in his own intimate thoughts. He distances himself from Kashkin to convince both himself and others that he will not lose his ability to think like a soldier: "Poor old Kashkin, Robert Jordan thought. He must have been doing more harm than good around hereThey should have pulled him out. You can't have people around doing this sort of work and talking like that. That is not way to talk. Even if they accomplish their mission they are doing more harm than good, talking that sort of stuff."
The second bleak foreshadowing occurs when Pilar reads Jordan's palm and refuses to reveal his future. The reader knows her premonition is dark from the fact that she rises without smiling and tells him she saw "nothing," only that Jordan believes in his work. Her tone is bitter when she asks him how dangerous the bridge will be, thus increasing the text's sense of impending doom. After Jordan asks Pilar to reveal what she has seen a third time, she says, "I saw nothing. Go now to thy bridge." This important line reveals that Jordan's destiny, indeed his life, is inextricably linked to the outcome of the mission to blow the bridge.
Another important element to this chapter is the image of the "earth moving." Rafael tells Jordan the story of the blowing of the train. "at the moment of the explosion, the front wheels of the engine rose up and all of the earth seemed to rise in a great cloud of blackness and a roar and the engine rose high in the cloud of dirt of the wooden ties rising in the air as in a dream and then it fell onto its side like a great wounded animal." In this description, the earth moves in war and death; we will see in subsequent chapters that the Hemingway also writes of the "earth moving" in love. This passage also contains a notable simile, that of the hunted animal describing the military target. Throughout the story, many acts of war are compared to hunting animals; this technique makes sense when we consider the inherent dehumanization of one victim that is necessary for war. Also, Hemingway was an avid hunter and bullfighting aficionado; thus one must watch for subsequent metaphors comparing war to not only hunting, but also to the struggle between bull and matador.
Now that the main characters- Jordan, Pablo, Anselmo, Pilar, and Maria have been introduced, along with the unfolding of a private love affair and the public concern of the war, Hemingway focuses this chapter on furthering the mission to blow the bridge. Anselmo and Jordan go to inspect the bridge that lies over a deep gorge in a mountain stream. Jordan's internal observations reveal that "the problem of its demolition was not difficult." Happy to finally be about the task at hand, he happily makes a few sketches. He and Anselmo then speak of the plans to blow the bridge, and then discuss the similarities between Gypsies and American Indians. Specifically, they note how both groups "believe the bear to be a brother to man."
Upon their return to camp at nightfall, Agustin, another member of Pablo's band, greets Jordan and Anselmo at the mouth of the cave. Agustin has forgotten the password to the cave, revealing how tired he has become with fighting for the cause.
Agustin speaks in vulgar slang, but he nevertheless conveys two warnings to Jordan: one is that Pablo has "gone bad," or turned into a coward, and that it would be best to complete the bridge mission as soon as possible. The other warning is more prophetic, as he repeats that Jordan should "look after his stuff," meaning his explosives. Thus, the tension surrounding the bridge and Jordan's interaction with Pablo is heightened.
The character of Anselmo is important in this chapter as an anti-war and violence symbol. His story of hanging a bear claw on the door of his church ("On the dorr of the church of my village was nailed the paw of a bear that I killed") suggests that he reveres nature in the manner of a folk healer. Although he has killed this animal which he respects, ironically, Anselmo has never killed an enemy. His repugnance and hesitance at facing this possible task is Hemingway's means of introducing the moral dilemma of war. Jordan's explanation of why he hasn't minded killing in war shows how Jordan considers himself an instrument of the republican cause; thus, Jordan has the idealistic notion that his actions, even killing, are linked to the good of the common people. Thus, his character represents the ignorance, cloaked in the virtue of a worthy cause, of the harm war inflicts on individual lives.
The brief meeting with the peasant band member Agustin is also important, as the irony of this character's joking and vulgar manner not only provide comic relief, but ironically pinpoint the physical and mental weariness of the peasants fighting the war.
No analysis of Hemingway is complete without a portrait of his "code hero," indigenous to almost all of his novels. Indeed, Robert Jordan fulfills the standards with his dedication, manly skills, obedience to orders, and willingness to sacrifice for a cause. However, the Hemingway code hero also lives life through action and sensual pleasure and accepts the risk of death; we see the character of Jordan begin to subtly question his traditional standards. He resents "Golz's orders, and the necessity of them," when he sees that the bridge could be destroyed in a more orthodox, less dangerous manner. As quickly as they arise, Jordan disregards the thoughts that a cause may not be worth risking lives and reassures himself of his purpose.
Jordan's mantra: "the bridge can be the point on which the future of the human race can turn" is important for two reasons. One, it reaffirms the central theme of For Whom the Bell Tolls: the necessity for a republican soldier to believe that the cause for which he both kills and risks lives will benefit his countrymen. Second, the affirmation that each action man makes- such as blowing the bridge- will have great consequence is key to fulfilling the role of "code hero." However, it is important to notice that the verbs "can be" and "can turn" create an unsettling tone of doubt and foreboding. It is possible that the mission will fail, and more disastrous to the morale of the republican band- it is possible that the loss and risk of life affects nothing.
Pablo tells Jordan that he is "not for the bridge" and he will not help in such a risky mission. When Jordan and Anselmo say they can accomplish the mission without his help, Pablo says that as the leader of the band, he forbids the bridge to be blown. Pilar then speaks up and says that she is for the bridge and the Republic. The men support Pilar, and she becomes the real leader of the group. Pablo is visibly defeated, and he leaves the cave.
This chapter establishes the good-bad contrast between Jordan and Pablo. Indeed, one of the recurring themes of the novel is Pablo as a man "gone bad." We receive accounts of his past bravery and see his current cowardice, yet it is up to the reader to deduce why he underwent such a transformation.
An important characterization in this chapter is that of Pilar. Previously she was described as an ugly woman, but now as she asserts her willingness to lead and die for the Cause, she is transformed into its symbol. "Her face was lit by the fire and it was flushed and it shone warm and dark and handsome now in the firelight as it was meant to be." The depth of Pilar's belief in the Republic, and the nobleness of her character, shine through. Throughout the story, we will see that Pilar, more than any other character, shows no doubt about dying for the Cause.
After the confrontation, Jordan leaves the cave to clear his head and Rafael, the gypsy, follows him. He tells Jordan that he should provoke Pablo so not to assassinate him, but killing him was the only safe option: "Kill him. Do not let it become difficult."
Pablo then tries to engage Jordan in a reconciliatory conversation. He tells him to disregard Pilar's difficult manner, and states the obvious- that she is a good woman who is very loyal to the Republic. He further tells Jordan that he is glad he came, and to pay no attention to their argument. Pablo steps away to tend to the horses, and Jordan sends Rafael to tell Agustin, who is on guard-duty, what has happened. Thinking that Jordan will take this opportunity to kill Pablo, Rafael leaves satisfied.
Jordan then contemplates his options, and decides that his first priority is to the bridge, and that killing Pablo might actual damage the unity of the band. He is unsure of how Pilar would have reacted to the death, and he needs her support to sustain the unity of the band and complete the mission. He wishes that one of their own would kill Pablo instead of having it done by an outsider, but he knows that the only people who would are the woman or Anselmo, if it were necessary for the Republican cause. Jordan then comes to an important conclusion, that only Anselmo and Pilar "really believe in the Republic as far as I can see; but it is too early to know that yet." Jordan decides not to kill Pablo and returns to the cave. Pablo remains outside stroking his horse and praising his virtues to the insults of a "woman like a rock that is burning" and others.
An important metaphor in the scene between Jordan and Rafael is the owl. "As they spoke, the owl flew between the trees with the softness of all silence, dropping past them, then rising, the wings beating quickly, but with no noise of feathers moving as the bird hunted." This his how Jordan should hunt Pablo, swiftly and before more turmoil can be initiated. Rafael furthers the connection between Jordan and the predatory hunter when he says "Thus should men move." Jordan's decision not to kill Pablo shows that, although he will kill men for a cause, Jordan is not an instinctual killer. Thus, the question of the value of life and the justification for taking it is reasserted.
The final scene of this chapter, in which Pablo speaks sadly to his pony, subtly reveals why he has "gone bad." "Thou my big good little ponyThou with the big neck arching like the viaduct of my pueblothou art no woman nor a fool." For one, his tenderness towards the pony, contrasted with his brusque treatment of people, shows that war has isolated him from his fellow man. Moreover, he seeks affection and acceptance from one who will not judge him for his cowardice.
Another animal metaphor gives the reader new insights into the character of Pablo. Pablo is tired of leading and commanding respect; instead, he longs for the natural affection, such as bestowed by animals upon their masters. Pablo's praising of the pony also reveals that the leader is homesick. He no longer wants to fight for the cause, but rather would like to live to see the "viaduct" of his hometown once more. Finally, Pablo resents that Pilar and Jordan, both still willing to die and kill for the cause, will not listen to his valid arguments about the danger of the mission. Indeed, this sad scene shows Pablo to be a truly isolated figure. Hemingway goes so far as to portray the emotions of the horse to show how truly disliked and isolated Pablo is: "the man annoyed himthe horse went on grazing and was relieved now that the man did not bother him." Pablo is now a cynical realist, and thus can no longer justify dying for the Cause that has evidently destroyed his manhood. However, he still needs acceptance, and isolation from the rest of the band does not bode well for his mental stability or his future actions.
Jordan reenters the cave and speaks with Maria and Pilar. The three plan to climb up the mountain to enlist the help of the guerilla leader El Sordo, whose nickname means "the deaf one." Pilar goads Jordan into revealing his feelings for Maria by asking him how she looks to him and how he finds her. The young people openly flirt, and Pilar teasinly scolds Jordan and addresses him as Don Roberto. Jordan objects to being called Don Roberto, which leads to a discussion of his political views. He calls himself not a communist but an anti-fascist, and Pilar and Maria then both recount their Republican roots.
Maria tells them that her father was a life-long republican, and that is why he was shot. Jordan takes advantage of the similarities the girl sees between by saying "My father was also a republican all his life. Also my grandfather." It is clear that Jordan's attempts to remain focused only on his work have failed and that he returns the affections that Maria has willingly displayed from the onset. He strokes Maria on the head and their emotions are confirmed. Jordan tells Maria to step out and asks Pilar whether he was wrong to have let Pablo lived. Pilar understands the source of Pablo's enmity- he is disheartened and no longer wants to fight. Thus, she assures Jordan that Pablo will not threaten Jordan or his mission.
The fact that the peasant band members want to call Jordan "Don Roberto." Even though Pilar tells him that it is a joke, Jordan's "religious politics" remain firm. He says that "camarada to me is what all should be called with seriousness in this war. In the joking commences a rottenness." The word rotten is very important, as it reveals the negative aspects of the Republican cause; it is an ironic contrast that the peasants for whom the cause is meant to benefit do not take the matter as seriously as the foreigner.
The interaction between Maria and Jordan reinforces two themes surrounding their love affair. One is that they experienced love at first sight, which is necessary both in wartime and to facilitate a plot encompassing three days. Also, the fact that both young people have lost their fathers, despite the fact that Jordan's father committed suicide, links their destinies in Maria's mind. Thus, her premonitions are fulfilled by this coincidence ("then you and me we are the samenow I know why I have felt as I have"). Jordan, for his part, gives in to the impulses he has been denying all day: "he ran his hand over the top of her head. He had been wanting to do that all day and now he did it, he could feel his throat swelling."
Though Maria's love to this point could have been described as a young girl's fancy, the following lines make it clear that Maria's love for Jordan will save her from the aftermath of the horrors of her captivity. "He looked at her brown face and at the eyes that, since he had seen them, had never been as young as the rest of her face but that now were suddenly hungry and young and wanting." Maria herself is a mixture of immaturity and world-weariness, for she has experienced many of the horrors and few of the joys of life.
That night, while Jordan sleeps outside the cave, Maria runs, barefooted to his side. She does not need much persuasion to join him, and they are soon lying side by side. As Jordan removes her clothes, Maria makes him promise that he loves her; he says that he loves "his little rabbit" and asks her if she had ever been with another man. She answers no, but admits that "things were done to me." Maria tells him that she was raped by he fascists, and confesses that she has faith in what Pilar has told her: "She said that if nothing is done to oneself that one does not accept and that if I loved someone it would take it all away." They then confess their love for each other, and make love.
Pilar's suggestion to Maria shows that love is idealized in this novel as the balm to heal Maria's previous sexual trauma: "if we do everything together, the other maybe never will have been." There is also the theme of love at first sight, as Maria tells Jordan:
"I loved you when I saw you today and I loved you always but I never saw you before"
Maria is cleansed and made a woman by Jordan, and he is given true happiness by her.
Indeed, the rarity of their love is apparent when one analyzes the diction and syntax describing their lovemaking: "lightly, lovingly, exultingly, innerly happy and unthinking and untired and unworried and only feeling a great delight and he said My little rabbit. My darling. My sweet. My long lovely.'" The repetition of word structures and then sentence structures creates a catharsis. The alliteration patterns (repetition of words beginning in "l" and then "u") establish a rhythm alluding to their own physical interaction. It is important that the reader perceive that Jordan has lost control and given in to base emotion, which is generally against the mantra of dependability and rationality of the code hero. Thus, the reader must see if this newfound love creates moral conflicts with Jordan's duty to fulfill his mission to blow the bridge at all costs.