Jordan orders Agustin and Primitivo to prepare the tripod machine gun and shows them how to hide it beneath the snow. We learn that Rafael was on guard and left his post to hunt hares. Jordan, after scolding the gypsy, worries that the cavalry in the area will follow the tracks El Sordo and his men made while looking for horses. The band members tensely wait at their posts for more troops to appear. Agustin and Jordan discuss Pablo; although Agustin emphasizes what a skillful leader Pablo is, Jordan's resentment towards him dissuades him from admitting that Pablo is still a smart ally who could be of use to the mission.
This chapter heightens the dramatic tension that will only keep increasing throughout the development of the plot. The tense action of the band as they prepare for an attack is broken, however, by the comic relief supplied by the character of Rafael. He left his post as guard because he was hunting hares, which is an ironic commentary on the apathy and inefficiency of the peasant Loyalists trapped in the war. His description of what he found, two hares mating, is not only comic, but also is a parallel to Maria and Jordan. "You cannot imagine what a debauch they were engaged in." The fate of these lovers is not a good omen for the other couple in the snow. Also, the fact that Rafael followed their tracks foreshadows that the snow will reveal the men's tracks as well.
The Fascist cavalry pass by the camp without noticing the band. Thus, it is not necessary that they fire the machine gun and for the time being they are safe. Jordan must restrain Agustin, who is visibly sweating and smiling, from attacking the cavalry; this prompts a reflection on the corruption and bloodlust bred by war. When the cavalry is gone, Anselmo volunteers to sneak to the village of La Granja and see what he can find out about the Fascist's plans. Anselmo and Agustin argue about the fate of the Fascists should the Loyalists win the war. Anselmo reveals his pacifistic tendencies by saying that they should be allowed to reform.
Hemingway describes the irresistible desire to kill that comes from the corruption of human morality with a metaphor of animal sexuality. Agustin admits that "when I saw those four there and thought that we might kill them I was like a mare in the corral waiting for the stallion."
Typically, Hemingway uses religion to describe even the desire to kill. In the following passage, however, it is ironically a violent religious act, the "Auto de Fe" or Spanish Inquisition, that Jordan uses to describe the "corruption" of Agustin. "It is their extra sacramentthey are the people of the Auto de Fe, the act of faith." Thus, we see that Hemingway has a realistic view of Spain, both her contemporary and historical downfalls as well as greatness. Hemingway is even more ironic when he says that Anselmo, who objects to killing, is "a Christian. Something very rare in Catholic countries." It seems that the Inquisition could be a metaphor for the corruption that has rotted the Republican cause. The propaganda- whether religious or political doctrine- is euphemism or justification for the bloodshed of power struggles.
When the danger has passed, Jordan and Agustin have breakfast, during which they discuss Jordan's relationship with Maria. Agustin admits that he is in love with Maria and jealous that Pilar has given her to Jordan "as a present." Although the revolution has outlawed marriage, Agustin displays his respect for tradition when he agrees with Jordan that "it would be better" to be formally married.
Agustin then preps Jordan on the readiness of the band members to follow through with the mission. The bad seeds are naturally the dejected Pablo and the lazy gypsy, Rafael. The chapter closes when Jordan hears noise from the direction of El Sordo's. Agustin wants to ride for help, but Jordan knows they must stay there because their first duty is completing the bridge mission.
Time is an important theme in this chapter. War has made time short, and Hemingway constantly emphasizes this to justify the realism of his plot. Stressing how the revolution has changed the normal protocol explains Maria's forward behavior. Note the repetition of the very word "time" in Jordan's explanation: "It is because of the lack of timewhat we do not have is timewe must live all our life in this time."
The lack of time, coupled with the sounds of fighting in the background, creates a very tense mood. Hemingway uses irony to increase this dramatic tension by pinpointing the threat of death. Agustin's humor reveals that the peasant band knows their chances of surviving are slim: "the band of Sordo are as much better than we are as we are better than goat manure. Jordan does not look at imminent death so lightly, but rather his thoughts portray the horror of combat. For example, the description of the sound of the firing at El Sordo's is described in powerful, almost poetic, prose: "the precise, crackling, curling roll of automatic rifle fire." The contrast between Agustin's statement about the ability of El Sordo's band and the sound of their defeat heightens the irony of the moment.
Sounds of fighting can be heard from El Sordo's camp, and Primitivo tries to convince the band to help their comrades. Jordan refuses to help, however, as saving them now is a lost cause. Jordan knows he must live to complete his mission. He is able to accept death as a fact of war and tells Primitivo he must learn to do the same.
Jordan then reads a letter found on the body of the soldier he killed. He knows he takes an individual life with each kill he makes, and he doubts his own faith in the rightness of his actions. He decides that instead of the Cause, which he now doubts, he is fighting for the common Spanish people like those in the guerilla band.
In this chapter two recurring images- the snow and the planes- appear and fulfill the mystical premonitions from the beginning of the work. The tracks in the snow are what killed El Sordo's band: "they were lost when the snow stopped." So too, the planes fly by another time, and this time are likened to birds of bad luck by Pilar. Thus, as both superstition and logical reasoning are coming true, the planes represent certain doom.
Primitivo represents loyalty in this chapter, but Jordan has the sense and coldness that makes a successful soldier. "Such things happen in war," he says. However, Jordan's thoughts show that his beliefs are not as clear as they used to be.
Jordan then reads a letter found on the body of the soldier he killed. He knows he takes an individual life with each kill he makes, and he doubts his own faith in the rightness of his actions. He decides that instead of the Cause, which he now doubts, he is fighting for the common Spanish people like those in the guerilla band. The chapter ends when the planes reappear; the time is noted as three o'clock.
Jordan's inner monologue in this chapter casts full light on the duality of his conflicted personality that has been slowly developing throughout the text. He considers his ideas on war and politics in a rational sense. For example, he reminds himself pragmatically that he can discard what he does not believe in when he completes his mission. On the other hand, he takes a very sentimental view of love, which he says is "the most important thing that can happen to a human being."
Jordan seems to use his love to justify dying; having two days with Maria has now replaced the Marxist cause, his faith in which he now questions, as the sustaining force justifying his actions. Yet we must note that even love does not compel Jordan to stray from the duty of the code hero; he has merely found a new reason that validates his dying in Spain- it brought him to love.
Tension mounts further with another repetition of the ominous image of the planes overhead. Note the spare, poetical syntax with which Hemingway constructs this image of doom: "It was three o'clock. Then he heard the far-off, distant throbbing and, looking up, he saw the planes." The planes are "throbbing," thus almost living; this is ironic considering they are machines of death, and indicates that Jordan is resigning himself to his possible death. An important symbol is the time- three o'clock. Hemingway would not have linked this seemingly mundane detail to the dramatic passing of the planes unless it had a mystical connection with approaching death. Indeed it has, as three o'clock is a religious symbol, the hour at which Christ died on the cross, and thus implies impending martyrdom.
The scene now switches to the fighting at El Sordo's. A young member of his band, Joaquin, tries to motivate his comrades by repeating the communist slogans of the leader, La Pasionaria. The older and more realistic men tell the boy that peasants his age have been sent to the safety of Russia to study. Joaquin refuses to believe this, but adds that if it is true, he hopes that these lucky ones return to help the Cause. When the threat of death is imminent, Joaquin begins reciting Hail Marys instead.
This chapter is full of bitter irony revealing the useless bloodshed of the war. Joaquin's relapse into religion, for example, casts doubt upon the sustaining power of the communist Cause. The defeat of El Sordo is a very painful account to read, for we indeed see man at his worst. Knowing that they will soon be killed, El Sordo and his men spend their final moments trying to kill as many of their enemies as possible. This does little but spill more blood. Ironically, despite their efforts, they are killed quickly by the dropping of a bomb. They are unable to prove themselves as soldiers when an impersonal and inhuman force from above effortlessly destroys them.
Back at Jordan's camp, the band eats the stewed hares that Rafael has killed, and the silence of death from El Sordo's camp is sobering. The Nationalist Lieutenant Berrendo marches towards La Granja through the forest. He prays for the soul of his dead comrade. Anselmo is tallying the bodies at the camp, and sees the enemies take leave. As he returns down the hill, Anselmo prays for the first time since the beginning of the war.
The religious theme is continued in this chapter. The fact that men from both sides of the war pray simultaneously symbolizes their common ties. Hemingway describes the act of praying with beautiful religious imagery: "the light coming through the tree trunks in patches as it comes through the columns of a cathedral." Indeed, it seems that the forest is a metaphor for a house of worship; ironically, it is also the scene of slaughter.