The young man, whose name was Robert Jordan, was extremely hungry and he was worried. He was often hungry but he was not usually worried because he did not give any importance to what happened to himself and he knew from experience how simple it was to move behind the enemy lines in this country. It was as simple to move behind them as it was to cross through them, if you had a good guide. It was only giving importance to what happened to you if you were caught that made it difficult; that and deciding who to trust. (1.53)
Robert Jordan is an excellent soldier because he doesn't fear death. In part that's because he's pretty experienced and pretty sure of himself, but deep down it's because he doesn't really care what happens to himself. He doesn't have a reason for living besides the cause. It's as if he'd give his life because he's got nothing better to do.
They are awfully good horses, though, he thought, beautiful horses. I wonder what could make me feel the way those horses make Pablo feel. The old man was right. The horses made him rich and as soon as he was rich he wanted to enjoy life. Pretty soon he'll feel bad because he can't join the Jockey Club, I guess, he thought. (1.217)
In contrast to Robert Jordan, Pablo is desperately attached to his own life, and the horses he's acquired are his prized possession (remember, Pablo used to be a horse trainer). Because of that attachment, he's unwilling to risk his life. This is what lies at the roots of Pablo's "cowardice."
"I am afraid to die, Pilar," he said. Tengo miedo de morir. Dost thou understand?"
[…] "All my life I have had this sadness at intervals," the woman said. "But it is not like the sadness of Pablo. It does not affect my resolution." (9.63; 67)
Pablo's only direct admission of a fear of death – this is a moment when it's uniquely easy to sympathize with his character. That fear of death is called "sadness," but it's not necessarily easy to see how sadness is connected to fear. There seems to be more to Pablo's "sadness" than just not wanting the party to stop (i.e., it's not just that he wants to keep enjoying life). There's a hopelessness about it, which is why it leads to inaction. Pilar understands it, though unlike Pablo she is capable of resisting it. What has really caused it?
If he had known how many men in history have had to use a hill to die on it would not have cheered him any for, in the moment he was passing through, men are not impressed by what has happened to other men in similar circumstances any more than a widow of one day is helped by the knowledge that other loved husbands have died. Whether one has fear of it or not, one's death is difficult to accept. Sordo had accepted it, but there was no sweetness in its acceptance, even at fifty-two, with three wounds and surrounded on a hill. (27.62)
El Sordo's about to die, and here we see the thought expressed that dying is something one does alone. It doesn't matter to you that other people have died, or that they died in such and such a way, or for such and such a reason. All that matters is that you're dying. Any way you look at it, you're still faced with the same thing: ceasing to be. And whether or not you accept that (admit it to yourself honestly), it's not pleasant. El Sordo's attitude here is an example of Hemingway's (macho?) ideal of "taking it straight."
Dying was nothing and he had no picture of it nor fear of it in his mind. But living was a field of grain blowing in the wind on the side of a hill. Living was a hawk in the sky […] Living was a horse between your legs and a carbine under one leg and a hill and a valley and a stream with tress along it and the far side of the valley and the hills beyond. (27.64)
El Sordo's thinking that death isn't something mysterious: it's just nothingness. Period. Everything stops. That's part of what makes it so hard to imagine, and hard to accept. Any image or sense one might have of what it would be like, fearful or beautiful, would come from the living world that we've spent all of our existence in. There's a wistfulness here for nature and the vibrancy of natural life, which makes sense, given that El Sordo loves hunting and being "in the wild."
He looked very small dead, Robert Jordan thought. He looked small and gray-headed and Robert Jordan thought, I wonder how he ever carried such big loads if that is the size he really was. (43.128)
It's only when Robert Jordan sees Anselmo's dead body that he sees him as he physically really is: small and old-looking. When he was alive, his animation and personality (his "spirit"?) had changed the way he looked. But with death that animation has vanished, and Anselmo has in an instant become another inert thing. There's something very anticlimactic about death that way, which Hemingway's matter of fact prose conveys quite effectively.
Lying there, by Agustín, watching the planes going over, listening for firing behind him, watching the road below where he knew he would see something but not what it would be, he still felt nub with the surprise that he had not been killed at the bridge. He had accepted being killed so completely that all of this now seemed unreal. Shake out of that, he said to himself. Get rid of that. There is much, much, much to be done today. But it would not leave him and he felt, consciously, all of this becoming like a dream. (43.192)
In the face of expected death, Robert Jordan had begun to let go of life already as a reaction. Perhaps it is a way of making leaving it all psychologically easier? Since Robert Jordan didn't die, the world around him now feels unreal. It's interesting to note that Robert Jordan experiences the same sense of unreality, or of being lost in a dream, as a reaction to his love with Maria.
He looked down the hill slope again and he thought, I hate to leave it, is all. I hate to leave it very much and I hope I have done some good in it. I have tried to with what talent I had. (43.373)
The only thing that really bothers Robert Jordan about dying is leaving everything he cares about behind. And Robert Jordan now cares about a lot. Kind of a big change from the beginning of the book. That caring makes dying more painful. But it also gives a new resolve to his sacrifice. He is giving himself up for something (fill in the blank: his friends, the Republic, humanity, the world?) he appreciates much more than he did before.
Who do you suppose has it easier? The ones with religion or just taking it straight? It comforts them very much but we know there is no thing to fear. It's only the missing that's bad. Dying is only bad when it takes a long time and hurts so much that it humiliates you. That is where you have all the luck, see? You don't have any of that. (43.383)
Death doesn't pose that much of a problem for Robert Jordan, who "takes it straight" (very Hemingway male). The comforts of belief in an afterlife don't really matter to him, and add an unnecessary kind of uncertainty. Death is only particularly troublesome if it's painful and humiliating (he hasn't started feeling pain yet). Does one get the sense that he's trying to convince himself he believes this?
It's wonderful they've got away. I don't mind this at all now they are away. It is sort of the way I said. It really is very much that way. Look how different it would be if they were all scattered out across that hill where that gray horse is. (43.384)
Robert Jordan own death is made much easier to accept because his friends escaped. This in part because, by dying, he's helping them escape, so he can give his death a purpose. But there's something deeper: he feels that, so long as they live, a part of him will survive as well. That's "what he said" (to Maria), in case you're wondering.
"How many attacks have you seen and you ask me why? What is to guarantee that my orders are not changed? What is to guarantee that the attack is not annulled? What is to guarantee that the attack is not postponed? What is to guarantee that it starts within six hours of when it should start? Has any attack ever been as it should?"
"It will start on time if it is your attack," Robert Jordan said.
They are never my attacks," Golz said. "I make them, but they are not mine." (1.64-66)
Golz may be the general "responsible" for leading the offensive, but ultimately he has very little control over it. He's just kind of a guy in the middle of things. He didn't plan it after all, nor is he responsible for the larger plan of which it's a part. But besides that, any number of little or large things could go wrong, and he has no power over most of them. At some level, he's just got to hope for the best. You can look at this as an example of how what happens is war is beyond the control of those who fight in it.
"From a balcony some one cried out, 'Que pasa, cobardes? What is the matter, cowards?' and still Don Benito walked along between the men and nothing happened. Then I saw a man there men down from where I was standing and his face was working and he was biting his lips and his hands were white on his flail. I saw him looking toward Don Benito, watching him come on. And still nothing happened. Then, just before Don Benito came abreast of this man, the man raised his flail high so that it struck the man beside him and smashed a blow at Don Benito that hit him on the side of the head and Don Benito looked at him and the man struck again and shouted, 'That for you, Cabron,' and the blow hit Don Benito in the face and he raised his hands to his face and they beat him until he fell and the man who had struck him first called to others to help him and he pulled on the collar of Don Benito's shirt and others took hold of his arms and with his face in the dust of the plaza, they dragged him over the walk to the edge of the cliff and threw him over and into the river. And the man who hit him first was kneeling by the edge of the cliff looking over after him and saying, 'The Cabron! The Cabron! Oh, the Cabron!' He was a tenant of Don Benito and they had never gotten along together. There had been a dispute about a piece of land by the river that Don Benito had taken from this man and let to another and this man had long hated him." (10.159)
Pilar's telling her story about the massacre of the fascists sympathizers in her home town, and Don Benito, the mayor, is the first victim. The people of the town don't show any urge to kill Benito here. Even though he's the big fascist cheese of the town, no one steps forward to kill him – except some guy who's still bent out of shape about a petty dispute they had a long time ago, which he's never forgotten. That's enough to make him want to kill Benito, which the situation gives him the opportunity to do. And once he makes the first move, other people follow.
"Until Don Ricardo came out with that fierceness and calling those insults, many in the line would have given much, I am sure, never to have been in the line. And if any one had shouted from the line, 'Come, let us pardon the rest of them. Now they have had their lesson,' I am sure most would have agreed.
"But Don Ricardo with all his bravery did a great disservice to the others. For he aroused the men in the line and where, before, they were performing a duty and with no great taste for it, now they were angry, and the difference was apparent." (10.178-181)
As we saw with Benito, the common people of Pilar's town were not initially eager to do violence to the fascists, who are, after all, their own fellow townsmen. But all it took to rile them up into bloodlust were the insults of a single one of the fascists. After that, they can perceive all the rest of the fascists as their enemies.
"Because the people of this town are as kind as they can be cruel and they have a natural sense of justice and a desire to do that which is right. But cruelty had entered into the lines and also drunkenness or the beginning of drunkenness and the lines were not as they were when Don Benito had come out. I do not know how it is in other countries, and no one cares more for the pleasure of drinking than I do, but in Spain drunkenness, when produced by other elements than wine, is a thing of great ugliness and the people do things that they would not have done." (10. 232)
Pilar thinks the people of her town are equal parts good and bad, as Robert Jordan thinks about the Spanish in general (though at this level of generality, you could say it's true of all human beings). They are not cruel by default – they have what she describes as a "natural sense of justice." But they are capable of being incited to barbarity, at which point killing and causing pain in others become pleasure. So is it that normal, that decent people can be incited to barbarity? They can be antagonized (Don Ricardo's insults had that effect). But they can also lose control of themselves in some way, and fail to appreciate the seriousness of what they're doing (being around other people doing the same thing surely helps too). That's where alcohol comes in. Pilar hates it.
"'Did you like it, Pilar?' he [Pablo] asked finally with his mouth full of roast young goat. We were eating at the inn from where the busses leave and the room was crowded and people were singing and there was difficulty serving.
"'No,' I said. 'Except for Don Faustino, I did not like it.'"
" 'I liked it,' he said."
" 'All of it?' I asked him."
" 'All of it,' he said and cut himself a big piece of bread with his knife and commenced to mop up gravy with it. 'All of it, except the priest.'" (10.319-323)
Pilar found the massacre of the fascists sickening. Pablo relished every moment of it. Many characters express taking a pleasure in killing one point or another, but Pablo is the most extreme. The people killed weren't even combatants, and they were executed while defenseless, in a particularly brutal way. Should we make a monster of Pablo?
I wish that I were in my own house again and that this war were over. But you have no house now, he thought. We must win this war before you can ever return to your house. (15.11)
It might be hard to fathom why someone like Anselmo would fight. He doesn't like killing and seemed happy enough with life as it was before the war. One reason is that the war has taken away his home and made his former life impossible. Looked at one way, there's really no choice: he'll have to fight, and his side will have to win, if he ever wants to enjoy that life again. The loss of home, and the sense that there's nothing to do but fight, even if one has little desire to, is something felt by several of the characters.
"You know why we did not kill them, though?" Robert Jordan said quietly.
"Yes," Agustín said. "Yes. But the necessity was on me as it is on a mare in heat. You cannot know what it is if you have not felt it."
"You sweated enough," Robert Jordan said. "I thought it was fear."
"Fear, yes," Agustín said. "Fear and the other. And in this life there is no stronger thing than the other." (23.84-87)
Here's Agustín, a much more likeable fellow than Pablo, giving voice to that same powerful urge to kill. He thinks it's the strongest human impulse, and he faced a real struggle to restrain himself when offered the opportunity to kill fascists. That bloodlust can provide an energy and courage to fight which war might otherwise sap. It can also be disastrous, as it would have been if Agustín had not controlled it here.
It is doubtful the outcome of Andrés's mission would have been any different if he and Gomez had been allowed to proceed without Andre Marty's hindrance. There was no one at the front with sufficient authority to cancel the attack. The machinery had been in motion much too long for it to be stopped suddenly now. There is a great inertia about all military operations of any size. But once this inertia has been overcome and movement is under way they are almost as hard to arrest as to initiate. (42.111)
This passage echoes Golz's initial sentiment about the lack of control he had over his attack. A modern military operation is an enormous undertaking, slowed down by bureaucracy, and almost impossible to tweak once initiated.
In him, too, was the despair from the sorrow that soldiers turn to hatred in order that they may continue to be soldiers. Now it was over he was lonely, detached and unrelated and he hated everyone he saw. (43.148)
This passage echoes Golz's initial sentiment about the lack of control he had over his attack. A modern military operation is an enormous undertaking, slowed down by bureaucracy, and almost impossible to tweak once initiated.
In him, too, was the despair from the sorrow that soldiers turn to hatred in order that they may continue to be soldiers. Now it was over he was lonely, detached and unrelated and he hated everyone he saw. (43.148)
Here Hemingway is describing what Robert Jordan feels after he's just lost Anselmo. Its short but apt description of one of the ways a fighter can keep going in the otherwise unremittingly bleak situation of war: he can turn all of his losses into sources of rage. Note that Anselmo's death doesn't just turn Robert Jordan against the enemy – it turns him against everything around him. Why is that? Is it maybe because "the world" itself seems like a wicked place for allowing such a thing to happen?
Que puta es la Guerra," Agustín said. "War is bitchery." (43.364-365)
More literally. "What a whore is war." What more can we add to that? This is the last thought about "war" in the book – which is worth considering if you think the book somehow "romanticizes" war.
"You better not have any sometimes on this bridge. No, let us not talk any more about this bridge. You understand enough now about the bridge. We are very serious so we can make very strong jokes. Look, do you have many girls on the other side of the lines?"
"No, there is no time for girls."
"I do not agree. The more irregular the service, the more irregular the life. You have very irregular service. Also you need a haircut." (1.94-96)
Robert Jordan doesn't exactly start out looking for love. He doesn't want to worry about women. Boy is he in for a surprise. Golz isn't really urging him to look for love. For Golz, women (he refers to them in the plural) are just a distraction to keep one sane in war, probably kind of like food: one has a desire for sex, and needs to satisfy it every so often. With Maria Robert Jordan will find something very different.
She sat down opposite him and looked at him. He looked back at her and she smiled and folded her hands together over her knees. Her legs slanted long and clean from the open cuffs of the trousers as she sat with her hands across her knees and he could see the shape of her small up-tilted breasts under the gray shirt. Every time Robert Jordan looked at her could feel a thickness in his throat. (2.73)
No sooner does he meet Maria than Robert Jordan feels "funny" about her. What he's feeling seems to be almost entirely physical: he's attracted to Maria's physical appearance, and he himself is responding bodily (that thickness in the throat). It's striking how immediate, and powerful, the attraction is. But is there anything here to suggest "love"?
"Then you and me we are the same," Maria said. She put her hand on his arm and looked in his face. 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. (6.45)
This is the moment when it first dawns on Maria that she is "the same" as Robert Jordan, which is presumably what leads her to decide to sleep with him that night and convinces her that she wants to "be his woman." It's kind of hard to figure out exactly how she realizes this, since what seems to prompt her to this realization is small talk about how their dads died.
Now as they lay all that before had been shielded was unshielded. Where there had been roughness of fabric all was smooth with a smoothness and firm rounded pressing and a long warm coolness, cool outside and warm within, long and light and closely holding, closely held, lonely, hollow-making with contours, happy-making, young and loving and now all warmly smooth with a hollowing, chest-aching, tight-held loneliness that was such that Robert Jordan felt he could not stand it and he said, "Hast thou loved others?" (7.37)
This is the moment where the barriers come down for the first time. Robert Jordan is bowled over by intense emotion. Interesting that, in the midst of this pleasant entanglement of limbs, he feels lonely. It's presumably that which prompts him to ask whether Maria's been with other men, as if it would detract from his experience with her if she has. (Her answer is no, just in case you didn't see that one coming.)
You do not run onto something like that. Such things don't happen. Maybe it never did happen, he thought. Maybe you dreamed it or made it up and it never did happen. (11.85)
The experience of love is so new and powerful for Robert Jordan that he has difficulty convincing himself it wasn't all a dream. Something about it seems too magical to be real. Certainly in comparison to the dull, duty-bound world he lived in before. He shortly convinces himself it did happen by touching Maria and getting a smile out of her.
For him it was a dark passage which led to nowhere, then to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere, always and forever to nowhere, heavy on the elbows in the earth to nowhere, dark, never any end to nowhere, this time and again for always to nowhere, now not to be borne once again always and to nowhere, now beyond all bearing up, up, up and into nowhere, suddenly, scaldingly, holdingly all nowhere gone and time absolutely still and they were both there, time having stopped and he felt the earth move out and away from under them. (13. 8)
It's that passage that leads to nowhere. This is what Hemingway gives us the second time Robert Jordan and Maria have sex, that time the earth moves (and they make a big deal out of that). If you did want to write about an orgasm in 1940, it's not clear what options you had if you didn't want your book labeled "porno" (like A Farewell to Arms was – check out the "Sex Rating" in Shmoop's guide to https://www.shmoop.com/did-you-know/literature/ernest-hemingway/a-farewell-to-arms/sex-rating.html).
"Maria, I love thee and thou art so lovely and so wonderful and so beautiful and it does such things to me to be with thee that I feel as though I wanted to die when I am loving thee."
"Oh," she said. "I die each time. Do you not die?" (13.13-14)
Love and death. The two things that make any novel exciting, and they're tied together here. Come on, guys, we want more. What does it mean that you "die" each time?
"Now, feel. I am thee and thou art me and all of one is the other. And I love thee, oh, I love thee so. Are you not truly one? Canst thou not feel it?"
"Yes," he said, "it is true."
"And feel now. Thou hast no heart but mine."
"Nor any other legs, nor feet, nor of the body."
"But we are different," she said. "I would have us exactly the same."
"You do not mean that." (20.66-71)
Robert Jordan and Maria both feel that in some way they have fused into the same person, and are no longer separate from each other. This is the deep, profound truth which their relationship reveals, and of course it plays an important role at the end. We think it's interesting that Maria wishes they were exactly the same, though, while Robert Jordan wants them to remain different. She wants to be him, he wants to enjoy her, maybe? Hmmm…
"I love thee as I love all that we have fought for. I love thee as I love liberty and dignity and the rights of all men to work and not to be hungry." (31.96)
Maria now means to Robert Jordan as much as his cause and all the higher ideals he believes in. This creates a tension was not there before in his singular devotion to duty and his casual willingness to sacrifice himself. He's come a long way real fast. So much for not having time for girls.
"Listen to this well, rabbit," he said. He knew there was a great hurry and he was sweating very much, but this had to be said and understood. "Thou wilt go now, rabbit. But I go with thee. As long as there is one of us there is both of us. Do you understand?" (43.319)
In the end Robert Jordan tries to convince Maria to leave him behind by appealing to that sense of unity they'd both felt in their love. He also tells the same thing to himself to comfort himself as he waits alone to die. Death puts to the test all that nice talk of "being the same." It certainly doesn't seem to work very well on Maria.
"That I am a foreigner is not my fault. I would rather have been born here." (1.202)
You can't find a much clearer testimony than that to how much Robert Jordan loves and identifies with Spain. He wishes he were Spanish, as he tells Pablo early on to boost his cred.
"Thank you," Anselmo said to her and Robert Jordan realized suddenly that he and the girl were not alone and he realized too that it was hard for him to look at her because it made his voice change so. He was violating the second rule of the two rules for getting on well with people that speak Spanish; give the men tobacco and leave the women alone; and he realized, very suddenly, that he did not care. (2.98)
A short but revealing comment about Spanish machismo culture, and the way in which Spanish men tend to keep a hold on their women. Maria's approach of Robert Jordan is all the more striking in light of that. Robert Jordan apparently feels like enough of an insider to break that rule.
If it is true, as the gypsy says, that they expected me to kill Pablo then I should have done that. But it was never clear to me that they did expect that. For a stranger to kill where he must work with the people afterwards is very bad. (5.67)
Although not a comment on Robert Jordan's literal foreignness, this does reveal the way in which he feels like an outsider to the new group he's just met. They already have well established relationships, and he's just shown up. He doesn't yet know how to read them, or what it is he's actually expected to do.
"It is for that that you like it?" the woman asked Fernando.
"Yes," she said. "I see. The stew; as usual. Como siempre. Things are bad in the north; as usual. An offensive here; as usual. That troops come to hunt us out; as usual. You could serve as a monument to the usual."
"But the last two are only rumors, Pilar."
"Spain," the woman of Pablo said bitterly. Then turned to Robert Jordan. "Do they have people such as this in other countries?" (8.163-166).
The Spanish are apparently a people of habit, as Pilar bemoans. They like the usual. That might apply to something as trite as a stew, but you could also see it as an expression of the strong streak of traditionalism present in Spanish culture, as Hemingway represents it. Here, as in other places, Robert Jordan's status as a foreigner makes him a suitable audience for the thoughts his friends have about their own country, especially the less than positive ones. This is one of many remarks that shows Pilar's own conflicted opinion of her country.
He was lucky that he had lived parts of ten years in Spain before the war. They trusted you on the language, principally. They trusted you on understanding the language completely and speaking it idiomatically and having a knowledge of the different places. A Spaniard was only really loyal to his village in the end. First Spain of course, then his own tribe, then his province, then his village, his family and finally his trade. If you knew Spanish he was prejudiced in your favor, if you knew his province it was that much better, but if you knew his village and his trade your were in as far as any foreigner ever could be. He never felt like a foreigner in Spanish and they did not really treat him like a foreigner most of the time; only when they turned on you.
Of course they turned on you. They turned on you often but they always turned on everyone. They turned on themselves, too. (11.77-78)
This passage includes some of Robert Jordan's thoughts on fitting in with the Spanish. Apparently they're pretty tribal. Also frequently treacherous. Pablo's a quintessential Spaniard on both counts. That "tribalism" – the tendency to be loyal to relatively small groups (like towns or families) – plays a part in the book (as when Pablo kills another group to save his own), but was also one major historical problem for trying to unite Spaniards in large political or military movements. Besides all that, it's also worth observing that Robert Jordan thinks the most important part of fitting in is knowing the language.
And I have made a mistake, Robert Jordan thought to himself. I have told Spaniards we can do something better than they can when the rule is never to speak of your own exploits and abilities. When I should have flattered them I have told them what I think they should do and now they are furious. (11.330)
Here again we see Robert Jordan breaking one of those pesky rules on maintaining cordial relations with the Spaniards. The Spanish are a very proud people, as Pilar herself brings up on more than one occasion; that's another one of the traits that Robert Jordan (or maybe Hemingway) thinks defines them. Spanish pride can be difficult to deal with when it comes to honestly working out plans.
Who would imagine they would have whiskey up here, he thought. But La Granja was the most likely place in Spain to find it when you thought it over. Imagine Sordo getting a bottle for the visiting dynamiter and then remembering to bring it down and leave it. It wasn't just manners that they had. Manners would have been producing the bottle and having a formal drink. That was what the French would have done and then they would have saved what was left for another occasion. No, the true thoughtfulness of thinking the visitor would like it and then bringing it down for him to enjoy when you yourself were engaged in something where there was every reason to think of no one else but yourself and of nothing but the matter in hand – that was Spanish. One kind of Spanish, he thought. Remembering to bring the whiskey was one of the reasons you loved these people. Don't go romanticizing them, he thought. There are many sorts of Spanish as there are Americans. But still, bringing the whiskey was very handsome. (16.51)
One of the reasons Robert Jordan loves and admires the Spanish: their unique courtesy and hospitality, of which El Sordo is a prime example. Also in this passage, he recognizes a romanticizing tendency in himself – to think of "the Spanish" as all sharing one sort of character – and calls it into doubt. That doesn't prevent him from doing a lot more of it, though.
"Let me finish, you mule," Pilar said to him. "He teaches Spanish to Americans. North Americans."
"Can they not speak Spanish?" Fernando asked. "South Americans can." (16.171-2)
Kind of a dumb question? Many of the members of Pablo's band seem to know very little about where Robert Jordan comes from, which is pretty clear at various moments of this conversation. Note the difference between the main character, an American, who is almost entirely concerned with Spain, and the Spanish, who don't know anything about what's outside their own country.
Yes, Robert Jordan thought. We do it coldly but they do not, nor ever have. It is their extra sacrament. Their old one that they had before the new religion came from the far end of the Mediterranean, the one they have never abandoned but only suppressed and hidden to bring it out again in wars and inquisitions. They are the people of the Auto de Fe; the act of faith. Killing is something one must do, but ours are different from theirs. And you, he thought, you have never been corrupted by it? You never had it in the Sierra? Nor at Usera? Nor through all the time in Estremadura? Nor at any time? Que va, he told himself. At every train.
Stop making dubious literature about the Berbers and the old Iberians and admit that you have liked to kill as all who are soldiers by choice have enjoyed it at some time whether they lie about it or not. Anselmo does not like to because he is a hunter, not a soldier. Don't idealize him, either. Hunters kill animals and soldiers kill men. Don't lie to yourself, he thought. Nor make up literature about it. You have been tainted with it for a long time now. And do not think against Anselmo either. He is a Christian. Something very rare in Catholic countries. (23.88-89)
Robert Jordan is tempted to see a unique love of violence in Spaniards, one which has developed throughout the long history of Spain. It's become sacred and ritualized, and has often been connected with the Church. He also makes the observation that Spain, as a Catholic country, is not Christian – he thinks that Catholicism all too easily becomes a matter of superstition and ritual, and misses the moral core of Christian belief. Here again, though, Robert Jordan wonders whether he's being fair, or simply making the Spanish into some exotic "Other" – perhaps to conceal his own similarities to them.
Those are the flowers of Spanish chivalry. What a people they have been. What sons of bitches from Cortez, Pizarro, Menendez de Avila all down through Enrique Lister to Pablo. And what wonderful people. There is no finer and no worse people in the world. No kinder people and no crueler. And who understands them? Not me, because if I did I would forgive it all. To understand is to forgive. That's not true. Forgiveness has been exaggerated. Forgiveness is a Christian idea and Spain has never been a Christian country. It has always had its own special idol worship within the Church. Otra Virgen mas. I suppose that was why they had to destroy the virgins of their enemies. Surely it was deeper with them, with the Spanish religion fanatics, than it was with the people. The people had grown away from the Church because the Church was in the government and the government had always been rotten. This was the only country that the reformation never reached. They were paying for the Inquisition all right. (31.163)
Another reflection on the brutality of the Spanish and the way it was connected to the Spanish church. Robert Jordan seems to want to see the Civil War as a product of the romanticized or reverential (treating it as something sacred or "high") attitude towards violence natural to Spain's native population. That "no finer and no worse people in the world" bit is also the short story on of his love-hate relationship with Spain.
Tomorrow night they would be outside the Escorial in the dark along the road; the long lines of trucks loading the infantry in the darkness; the men, heavy loaded, climbing up into the trucks; the machine-gun sections lifting their guns into the trucks; the tanks being run up on the skids onto the long-bodied tank trucks; pulling the Division out to move them in the night for the attack on the pass. He would not think about that. That was not his business. That was Golz's business. He had only one thing to do and that was what he should think about and he must think it out clearly and take everything as it came along, and not to worry. To worry was as bad as to be afraid. It simply made things more difficult. (1.105)
When we first meet him, Robert Jordan is only concerned with performing his duty as a soldier in the Republican military effort. He judges everything by whether it helps him perform his duty or not. Thinking about things other than his particular mission, and worrying, do not help him perform his duty. It's as if he wants to be little more than a cog in the military operation.
"It should be of the highest interest," Anselmo said and hearing him say it honestly and clearly and with no pose, neither the English pose of understatement nor any Latin bravado, Robert Jordan thought he was very lucky to have this old man and having seen the bridge and worked out and simplified the problem it would have been to surprise the posts and blow it in a normal way, he resented Golz's orders, and the necessity for them. He resented them for what they could do to him and for what they could do to this old man. They were bad orders all right for those who would have to carry them out.
And that is not the way to think, he told himself, and there is not you, and there are no people that things must not happen to. Neither you nor this old man is anything. You are instruments to do your duty. (3.103-104)
Robert Jordan begins to feel the first twinges of a conflict with his sense of duty. He's started to care for Anselmo and doesn't want to put him in harm's way, as the bridge operation requires him to do. So he resents his orders. But notice how quickly he suppresses that feeling, and affirms that he and Anselmo are nothing but things to be used to accomplish duty.
"And you have no fear?"
"Not to die," he said truly.
"But other fears?"
"Only of not doing my duty as I should." (9.75-78)
Another window into the dull and duty-bound mind of Robert Jordan. If you're still not convinced that Robert Jordan really doesn't care about himself, or have a sense of self to speak of, this one should do the trick.
You went into it knowing what you were fighting for. You were fighting against exactly what you were doing and being forced into doing to have any chance of winning. So now he was compelled to use these people whom he liked as you should use troops toward whom you have no feeling at all if you were to be successful. (13.53)
Another moment of conflict in Robert Jordan. He comes to recognize that the way to be most successful in war is to treat the combatants at your disposal as if they were just tools, and to sacrifice them willingly whenever it would be most effective. That's how he feels he has to think as he plans his operation. Yet it's become impossible for him to look at the people around him as instruments, even though that's how he viewed himself only a day ago.
The Ingles told me to stay, he thought. Even now he may be on the way here, and, if I leave this place, he may lose himself in the snow searching for me. All through this war we have suffered from a lack of discipline and from the disobeying of orders and I will wait a while still for the Ingles. (15.5)
Of all the members of Pablo's party, Anselmo is the one with the strongest resolution and sense of discipline. That's what prompts him to stay in his position even as a snowstorm rages around him. Here he's also saying something more general about the war which is repeated throughout the book: that it's the lack of discipline in the war which has been the greatest downfall of the Republicans.
At either of those places you felt that you were taking part in a crusade. That was the only word for it although it was a word that had been so worn and abused that it no longer gave its true meaning. You felt, in spite of all bureaucracy and inefficiency and party strife, something that was like the feeling you expected to have and did not have when you made your first communion. It was a feeling of consecration to a duty toward all the oppressed of the world which would be as difficult and embarrassing to speak about as religious experience and yet it was authentic as the feeling you had when you heard Bach, or stood in Chartres Cathedral or the Cathedral at Leon and saw the light coming through the great windows; or when you saw Mantegna and Greco and Brueghel in the Prado. It gave you a part in something that you could believe in wholly and completely and in which you felt an absolute brotherhood with the others who were engaged in it. It was something that you had never known before but that you had experienced now and you gave such importance to it and the reasons for it that your own death seemed of complete unimportance; only a thing to be avoided because it would interfere with the performance of your duty. But the best thing was that there was something you could do about this feeling and this necessity too. You could fight. (18.53)
Robert Jordan was quite the passionate communist (if not in party affiliation, at least in spirit) earlier in the war, and this turns out to be the root of that overwhelming sense of duty he has. He straight up admits that he served his cause as if it were a religion, and was uplifted by it. It gave him a sense of belonging to something "higher." We wonder: even though he describes this in the past tense, as if he's gotten over it, has he really?
"In your work you are supposed to be very reliable. I must talk to you sometime to see how you are in your mind. It is regrettable that we never speak seriously."
"My mind is in suspension until we win the war," Robert Jordan said.
"Then perhaps you will not need it for a long time. But you should be careful to exercise it a little." (18.135-137)
It's as if Robert Jordan just cuts himself up – "mutilates" himself – to make sure he can perform optimally. If his mind would be a hindrance, out it goes. Karkov doesn't dig that so much: he urges Robert Jordan to keep using his mind to some degree. No great surprise – Karkov is the one who wants to educate Robert Jordan.
Yet we had stopped them both times with the very same troops. We never could have stopped them if they had pulled both drives at once. Don't worry, he told himself. Look at the miracles that have happened before this. Either you will have to blow that bridge in the morning or you will not have to. But do not start deceiving yourself into thinking you won't have to blow it. You will blow it one day or you will blow it another. Or if it is not this bridge it will be some other bridge. It is not you who decides what shall be done. You follow orders. Follow them and do not try to think beyond them. (30.5)
Even this late in the game, Robert Jordan is still pulled to make following orders unthinkingly his highest priority. He's raised some legitimate questions about whether the attack will actually happen, or whether it will even succeed. But it doesn't seriously occur to him to give up on his orders.
Trying to take them both will never work. Pablo knew that all the time. I suppose he always intended to muck off but he knew we were cooked when Sordo was attacked. You can't base an operation on the presumption that miracles are going to happen. You will kill them all off and not even get your bridge blown if you have nothing better than what you have now. You will kill off Pilar, Anselmo, Agustín, Primitivo, this jumpy Eladio, the worthless gypsy and old Fernando, and you won't get your bridge blown. Do you suppose there will be a miracle and Golz will get the message from Andrés and stop it? If there isn't, you are going to kill them all off with those orders. Maria too. You'll kill her too with those orders. Can't you even get her out of it? God damn Pablo to hell, he thought. (38.42)
After Pablo's stolen the detonators and El Sordo's men have been killed, things look really hopeless for the mission. Robert Jordan still feels compelled to go ahead with it. But what point will it serve if it will fail and they'll almost certainly all die? This is the point at which Robert Jordan has the most reason to turn his back on his "duty." Does it seem like he's going to? It's lucky Pablo shows up before Robert Jordan has to make a decision.
Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today. It's been that way all this year. It's been that way so many times. All of this war is that way. (43.5)
Even if it's cliché enough to come from any Hollywood war movie, it's still a great quote – we had to put it in. It also gives a clearer expression of Robert Jordan's sense of duty than almost any other passage in the book. Robert Jordan feels as if every action one takes in the war is world-changing, because even if small it could be the difference between success and failure in some part of the war (a battle or an offensive). And that part of the war could make the difference in a larger part (a campaign). And so on…Man, talk about having the weight of the world on your shoulders.
"I will learn from Pilar what I should do to take care of a man well and those things I will do," Maria said. "Then, as I learn, I will discover things for myself and other things you can tell me." (13.95)
Ugh! Maria is playing the totally servile female to her "man" Robert Jordan here. And no one seems to have a problem with this (including Hemingway?)
"Surely," Robert Jordan said. But oh boy, he thought, oh Pablo, oh Pilar, oh Maria, oh you two brothers in the corner whose names I've forgotten and must remember, but I get tired of it sometimes. Of it and of you and of me and of the war and why in all why did it have to snow now? That's too bloody much. No, it's not. Nothing is too bloody much. You just have to take it and fight out of it and now stop prima-donnaing and accept the fact that it is snowing as you did a moment ago and the next thing is to check with your gypsy and pick up your old man. But to snow! Now in this month. Cut it out, he said to himself. Cut it out and take it. (14.59)
Cut it out and take it…that's basically what defines a real man a la Hemingway, isn't it? You've got to take it like it is ("take it straight"), and nothing's supposed to be too much to take. This is one of the first places we see Robert Jordan seriously lose his cool and have to try to live by that rule.
"Of course he was tubercular," Pilar said, standing there with the big wooden stirring spoon in her hand. He was short of stature and he had a thin voice and much fear of bulls. Never have I seen a man with more fear before the bullfight and never have I seen a man with less fear in the ring. "You," she said to Pablo. "You are afraid to die now. You think that is something of importance. But Finito was afraid all the time and in the ring he was like a lion." (14.82)
Here Pilar's expressing her own ideal of a man: not somebody who doesn't feel fear, but somebody who feels fear intensely, yet is able to overcome it and perform as if it weren't there. More generally, too, she admires the way Finito overcame his other limitations, his height and his sickliness.
"I liked you better when you were barbarous," the woman said. "Of all men the drunkard is the foulest. The thief when he is not stealing is like another. The extortioner does not practice in the home. The murderer when he is at home can wash his hands. But the drunkard stinks and vomits in his own bed and dissolves his organs in alcohol." (16.135)
According to Pilar, a barbarian is a fine kind of guy, but a drunkard is not. Sorry, Pablo. In Pilar's mind, any nasty sort of man you might think of can still be normal when he returns to his woman, but the drunkard simply isn't himself. Presumably also she views alcoholism as a way of escaping reality, which is cowardly and distinctly unmanly. Notice that the drunkard is also the textbook case of somebody not in control of himself.
Gaylord's was good and sound and what he needed. At the start he knew enough to accept the necessity for all the deception and what he learned at Gaylord's only strengthened him in his belief in the things that he did hold to be true. He liked to know how it really was; not how it was supposed to be. (18.38)
For Robert Jordan (and Hemingway himself, we presume), it's important to "take it straight" – to see things as they are and deal with them, rather than view them through rose-colored glasses. The destruction of Robert Jordan's early idealism was an important part of his maturing into a man. He may also be saying that knowing the world in all its ugly, messy, chaotic reality can strengthen your appreciation for the ideals you do hold, since you are all the more motivated to make them a reality. Or something like that.
"Thou must act like a man," she said to Primitivo. "A grown man. You with your gray hairs and all."
"Don't joke with me," Primitivo said sullenly. "If a man has a little heart and a little imagination – "
"He should learn to control them," Pilar said. (22.72-74)
Pilar's criticizing Primitivo's masculinity here, since he can't seem to control himself. What he wants to do is rush off and be a hero by helping his friends at El Sordo's. But it would be hopeless. So, heroism, if unrealistic = not manly. Rather than being noble, it reflects a lack of self-control. But then, Pilar seems to be in the business of criticizing men for their lack of masculinity…
Then, as he thought, he realized that if there was any such thing as ever meeting, both he and his grandfather would be acutely embarrassed by the presence of his father. Any one has a right to do it, he thought. But it isn't a good thing to do. I understand it, but I do not approve of it. Lache was the word. But you do understand it? Sure I understand it but. Yes, but. You have to be awfully occupied with yourself to do a thing like that.
Aw hell, I wish Grandfather was here, he thought. For about an hour anyway. Maybe he sent me what little I have through that other one that misused the gun. Maybe that is the only communication that we have. But, damn it. Truly damn it, but I wish the time-lag wasn't so long so that I could have learned from him what the other one never had to teach me. (30.25-26)
Ah, a little glance into the psychology of Robert Jordan. His grandfather is the iconic man in his family, whereas his father, because of his suicide, is a disgrace to him. His grandfather was a hardened soldier, so it's understandable he would feel drawn to him in his situation. Apparently he's inclined to the idea that he inherited his grandfather's qualities, because they skipped a generation with his father. He killed himself, which was cowardly and selfish. But is it really that his father was a coward that bothers Robert Jordan, or that his father left him behind? (That must be why he's "selfish," right?)
You're shaking, like a Goddamn woman. What the hell is the matter with you? You're trying to do it too fast. I'll be that Goddamn woman up above isn't shaking. That Pilar. Maybe she is too. She sounds as though she were in plenty trouble. She'll shake if she gets in enough. Like everybody bloody else. (43.31)
Whoa, whoa, whoa, Robert Jordan. What language! Can he really be calling himself a woman because he's shaking? Well, yes and no. The irony here is that he acknowledges Pilar to be more man (by that standard, anyway) than he is. Although his last gesture seems to be admitting that everyone shakes. Is there any point to distinguishing men and women on that count at all then?
You're not so good at this, Jordan, he said. Not so good at this. And who is so good at this? I don't know and I don't really care right now. But you are not. (43.391)
Robert Jordan thinks he should be good at dying, which in this case means both not being upset at having to die and handling his growing pain. But he's not optimal at either, and as the pain grows, he's more and more tempted to kill himself. His question's legitimate, though: could anyone really be expected to do a better job? Should he really be judged lacking by his own standards of manliness, or are those standards the problem?
"I put great illusion in the Republic. I believe firmly in the Republic and I have faith. I believe in it with fervor as those who have religious faith believe in mysteries." (9.69)
Pilar wears her impassioned patriotism on her sleeve, to say the least. It seems to be her strongest motivation, what really keeps her going in the war. Perhaps her "faith" is also what gives her the energy to overcome the sadness she describes elsewhere. This isn't the last time that politics will be considered as an equivalent or a substitute for religion. We find it interesting that Pilar has the self-awareness to understand that patriotism plays this role for her, even calling it an "illusion." Does that mean she recognizes the Republic she believes in is not the Republic as it really is?
No. There was nothing to be gained by leaving them alone. Except that all people should be left alone and you should interfere with no one. So he believed that, did he? Yes, he believed that. And what about a planned society and the rest of it? That was for the others to do. He had something else to do after this war. He fought now in this war because it had started in a country that he loved and he believed in the Republic and that if it were destroyed life would be unbearable for all those people who believed in it. He was under Communist discipline for the duration of the war. Here in Spain the Communists offered the best discipline and the soundest and sanest for the prosecution of the war. He accepted their discipline for the duration of the war because, in the conduct of the war, they were the only party whose program and whose discipline he could respect. (13.59)
Here we get the basics of Robert Jordan's current political motivations. He's not so much an ideologue or a believer in any definite political system or vision – including Communism – as a guy who just loves Spain and the Republic. The Republic's a free government, as opposed to the alternative, fascism. Politically, freedom is Jordan's highest priority; he ends up sounding here like a "liberal" (someone whose essential commitment is the freedom of the individual) without any more particular political commitments. Even if he only follows the communists because of their "discipline," does that seem at odds with his liberalism?
To be bigoted you have to be absolutely sure that you are right and nothing makes that surety and righteousness like continence. Continence is the foe of heresy.
When you were drunk or when you committed either fornication or adultery you recognized your own personal fallibility of that so mutable substitute for the apostles' creed, the party line. Down with Bohemianism, the sin of Mayakovsky. (13.62-3)
Robert Jordan draws an interesting link here between rigid belief in an ideology and the suppression of more ecstatic or "sinful" kinds of activity (depending on how you look at it) – sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll, basically. He's in good company there (1984, anyone?). What is it that ties all of those things together and makes them an enemy to ideology? His answer is intriguing: they cause you to lose control of yourself, which makes it harder to look at yourself as "pure" or always right. And once that happens, it's harder not to sympathize with everybody else (including the enemies of whatever "bigotry" you happen to subscribe to). In any case, Robert Jordan has himself in mind here, since Maria has just posed a pretty serious challenge to his "continence." (Note: Mayakovsky was a 19th century Russian poet and revolutionary political figure.)
Then he stood there against the tree stamping his feet softly and he did not think any more about the bridge. 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.
No, he thought, I am lonely. But so are all the soldiers and the wives of all the soldiers and all those who have lost families or parents. I have no wife, but I am glad that she died before the movement. She would not have understood it. I have no children and I never will have any children. I am lonely in the day when I am not working but when the dark comes it is a time of great loneliness. But one thing I have that no man nor any God can take from me and that is that I have worked well for the Republic. I have worked hard for the good that we will all share later. (15.53-54)
Anselmo isn't so different from Pilar in some respects: like her, his patriotism for the Republic serves as a substitute for religious faith, and is the source of his motivating energy. But unlike Pilar, Anselmo had religious faith, and has sacrificed his religious practices for political reasons (the Church sided with the fascists). Another thing: without his prayers, without God, Anselmo is lonely. Does he perhaps look to the solidarity and community of those fighting with him as a substitute?
"But are there not many fascists in your country?"
"There are many who do not know when they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes."
"But you cannot destroy them until they rebel?"
"No," Robert Jordan said. "We cannot destroy them. But we can educate the people so that they will fear fascism and recognize it as it appears and combat it." (16.116-119)
An interesting and revealing remark about American politics which seems to pop right out of the plot and address itself directly to the American reader. Jordan, and through him Hemingway, is pointing out to his contemporaries that in the United States there are many fascists by their beliefs, even if there is no party. And they must be "taught." Is the book itself perhaps an attempt at teaching? (Some of Hemingway's own friends were fascists by allegiance, such as Gertrude Stein, and his wife, who sided with the Church – and so the fascists – in the Spanish Civil War.)
He had not liked Gaylord's, the hotel in Madrid the Russians had taken over, when he first went there because it seemed too luxurious and the food was too good for a besieged city and the talk too cynical for a war. But I corrupted very easily, he thought. Why should you not have as good food as could be organized when you came back from something like this? And the talk that he had thought of as cynicism when he had first heard it had turned out to be much too true. This will be something to tell at Gaylord's, he thought, when this is over. Yes, when this is over. (18. 31)
Gaylord's is very important to Robert Jordan's own narrative: the place itself is associated with the great change in perspective which took place in him as he began to frequent it. Gaylord's is where Robert Jordan's earlier political fanaticism began to crumble as he came face to face with reality. It's also where his purity, and his "continence," began to be compromised – the good food and the luxury are breaks with that continence. The conclusion of the paragraph reveals that Jordan sees his experience with the guerillas as a continuation of that process.
It was at Gaylord's that you learned that Valentin Gonzalez, called El Campesino or The Peasant, and never been a peasant but was an ex-sergeant in the Spanish Foreign Legion who had deserted and fought with Abd el Karim. That was all right, too. Why shouldn't he be? You had to have these peasant leaders quickly in this sort of war and a real peasant leader might be a little too much like Pablo. You couldn't wait for the real Peasant Leader to arrive and he might have too many peasant characteristics when he did. So you had to manufacture one. At that, from what he had seen of Campesino, with his black beard, his thick negroid lips, and his feverish, staring eyes, he thought he might give almost as much trouble as a real peasant leader. The last time he had seen him he seemed to have gotten to believe his own publicity and think he was a peasant. (18.36)
A major part of Robert Jordan's political transformation is his loss of belief in the necessity of telling the truth. Instead, he comes to feel that deception might be necessary and beneficial. More specifically, in the Spanish Civil War, the Republicans need to pretend to have more popular leadership than they in fact do. The reality is that the Russians, and more experienced Spanish military or servicemen, are in charge. Even though he's not a Communist, Robert Jordan's agreement with this, um, loose use of truth makes him sound oddly like the outspoken defenders of the USSR at the time, which was notorious (especially among Americans) for creating truth to serve its own purposes.
"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. (8.142)
Karkov (or maybe Ernest Hemingway) is here giving in a nutshell what he thinks is wrong with the Republican organization and war effort. It basically reduces to a lack of discipline and a lack of shared understanding of what the war is about (the "level of political development"). These were both very real problems, and understandably so, given what a hodgepodge the Republican forces actually were. You can see the truth of this characterization later in the book, when Andrés goes behind Republican lines to deliver his message.
Since when did you ever have any such conception? himself asked. Never. And you never could have. You're not a real Marxist and you know it. You believe in Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. You believe in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Don't ever kid yourself with too much dialectics. They are for some but not for you. You have to know them in order not to be a sucker. You have put many things in abeyance to win a war. If this war is lost all of those things are lost. (26.31)
At heart, Robert Jordan's just a good ol' American, who believes in freedom of the individual (though it's interesting that he groups the American Revolution with the French, which is usually seen as more "leftist"). He already knew he wasn't a Communist, but after what's happened with Maria, he can accept the American dream in a way he couldn't before: he now has a reason to live for himself, and pursue happiness. Plus, he thinks that hard-headed Marxist materialism ("human life reduces to matter plus the laws of the economy!") doesn't seem to have much room for the magical aspect of love.
Karkov went over to him and the man said, "I only have it now. Not ten minutes ago. It is wonderful. All day the fascists have been fighting among themselves near Segovia. They have been forced to quell the mutinies with automatic rifle and machine gun fire. In the afternoon they were bombing their own troops with planes."
"Yes?" asked Karkov.
"That is true," the puffy-eyed man said. "Dolores brought the news herself. She was here with the news and was in such a state of radiant exultation as I have never seen. The truth of the news shone from her face. That great face – " he said happily.
"That great face," Karkov said with no tone in his voice at all. (32.15-19)
There's something a bit revolting about being "puffy-eyed," which is as close to a name as this fellow gets. We're obviously not meant to like him. Or the subject of this conversation, Dolores, La Pasionaria, the famous radical orator for the Republican cause. Hemingway feels the way Karkov does: cynical and unimpressed. Dolores appears to be either deceitful or stupid enough to peddle complete misreadings of the facts and giving them a workover to make them "inspiring." Like here, where she interprets the bombing of El Sordo as the fascists fighting among themselves (this might have been a likely guess applied to the Republicans, actually, but not so much the fascists).
"To me, now, the most important is that we be not disturbed here," Pablo said. "To me, now, my duty is to those who are with me and to myself."
"Thyself. Yes," Anselmo said. "Thyself now since a long time. Thyself and thy horses. Until thou hadst horses thou wert with us. Now thou art another capitalist more." (1.203-204)
Right after meeting Pablo, it's clear there are tensions within his band. He claims to be interested in protecting them, as well as himself. Anselmo disagrees, and thinks he's purely self-interested. Who's right? For much of the book, it's hard to tell. Something else: Anselmo's criticism of Pablo has a strong political (communist) edge to it. Because Pablo has become interested in his own property (making him a "capitalist"), he's turned against his friends and community.
"There is the day also," the woman said. "You have the night, but there is the day, too. Clearly, there is no such luxury as in Valencia in my time. But you could pick a few wild strawberries or something." She laughed.
Robert Jordan put his arm on her big shoulder. "I care for thee, too," he said. "I care for thee very much."
"Thou art a regular Don Juan Tenorio," the woman said, embarrassed now with affection. "There is a commencement of caring for everyone." (9.106-8)
Robert Jordan has already begun to feel a surprisingly strong attachment to Maria. But just as quickly as he's growing close to her he's forming bonds with some of the other members of the band, like Pilar. He says the exact same thing to Pilar ("I care for thee very much") that he'd said only a little earlier about Maria, having savored those words when he'd first thought them. It's as if he's not used to caring for people or something. Pilar's remark that "There is a commencement of caring for everyone" is oddly suitable. All at once, Robert Jordan has started to care for everyone.
"I un-name in the milk of their motors," Agustín said, nodding his head and biting his lip.
"That's something," Pilar said. "That is really something. But really difficult of execution."
"At that altitude, yes," Agustín grinned. "Desde luego. But it is better to joke."
"Yes," the woman of Pablo said. "It is much better to joke, and you are a good man and you joke with force." (9.132-135)
Pretty colorful language there, Agustín. Swearing is an important form of humor for most of the guerilla band – it seems it's a well-deployed curse that most often brings out a laugh or a smile in the characters. It's of the ways in which they bond and experience camaraderie, keeping their spirits up. Both Pilar and Agustín think it's essential to preserve a sense of the comic in the otherwise depressing reality of war.
"Listen to you," Pilar said. "I have as much at stake in this as thy Roberto and I say that we are well off resting here by the stream and that there is much time. Furthermore, I like to talk. It is the only civilized thing we have. How otherwise can we divert ourselves?" (10.34)
Just like humor, talking – discussion, story-telling, whatever – is one of the few ways the band has of maintaining some sense of normality (or "civilization") in the midst of the extreme barbarity of war. It contrasts with the barbarity that war makes everyday, hence Pilar's choice of the word "civilized." In contrast to Robert Jordan's sense that getting one's duty accomplished is all that matters, Pilar thinks it's essential to set time aside for those sorts of civilizing activities, which are also what build bonds among the band members.
As the boy stood there, Maria reached up, put her arms around his neck and kissed him. Joaquin turned his head away because he was crying.
"That is as a brother," Maria said to him. "I kiss thee as a brother."
The boy shook his head, crying without making any noise.
"I am thy sister," Maria said. "And I love thee and thou hast a family. We are all thy family."
"Including the Ingles" boomed Pilar. "Isn't it true, Ingles?"
"Yes," Robert Jordan said to the boy, "we are all family, Joaquin." (11.106-111)
Many people, like Joaquin, have lost their family in the war (Maria being the most obvious example). Without family, friends become all the more important, taking on the role of family. War makes those ties much stronger than they might be otherwise, even artificially so. Robert Jordan just met this kid a few minutes ago, but both he and Pilar are quick to say they're all a family. Another thing to consider: this "we're all one big family" stuff is language the Republicans often used politically.
He was very happy with that sudden, rare happiness that can come to any one with a command in a revolutionary arm; the happiness of finding that even one of your flanks holds. If both flanks ever hold I supposed it would be too much to take, he thought. I don't know who is prepared to stand that. And if you extend along a flank, any flank, it eventually becomes one man. Yes, one man. This was not the axiom he wanted. But this was a good man. One good man. You are going to be the left flank when we have the battle. I better not tell you that yet. It's going to be an awfully small battle, he thought. But it's going to be an awfully good one. (15.86)
Robert Jordan's obviously very fond of Anselmo. But think about the connection this passage makes between individual friendships and military efforts. Finding good people, knowing their character, and being able to depend upon them are all very useful in a battle. Robert Jordan's point is that battles are ultimately made up of individuals. The problem with this way of thinking is that in making a battle plan, you also have to make instruments of your friends and put them in harm's way, which Robert Jordan is already doing in his head.
As they went up the hill in the dark, the wind at their backs, the storm blowing past them as they climbed, Anselmo did not feel lonely. He had not been lonely since the Ingles had clapped him on the shoulder. The Ingles was pleased and happy and they joked together. The Ingles said it all went well and he was not worried. The drink in his stomach warmed him and his feet were warming now climbing.
"Not much on the road," he said to the Ingles.
"Good," the Ingles told him. "You will show me when we get there."
Caring about Robert Jordan, and wanting to do his best for him, was a large part of what motivated Anselmo to stay out in the storm. This was more important in his motivation than an abstract sense of duty. It's Robert Jordan's warmth which makes him glad that he did stay. Their camaraderie also makes fear recede into the background.
"Nay," she put her hand on his shoulder. "Thou hast no fear to catch. I know that. I am sorry I joked too roughly with thee. We are all in the same caldron." (24.90)
Pilar likes to mock men for not being manly enough, especially if they're cowardly (see "Men and Masculinity"). But here she makes a rather different gesture to Primitivo, taking back what she said to him, which apparently hurt. Beneath all the macho posturing and, at times, rough humor, they're all "in the same caldron," and it's to be expected that each of them will be afraid. That can become a point of connection.
Educated, he thought. I have the very smallest beginnings of an education. The very small beginnings. If I die on this day it is a waste because I know a few things now. I wonder if you only learn them now because you are oversensitized because of the shortness of time. There is no such thing as a shortness of time, though. You should have sense enough to know that too. I have been all my life in these hills since I have been here. Anselmo is my oldest friend. I know him better than I know Charles, than I know Chub, than I know Guy, than I know Mike, and I know them well. Agustín, with his vile mouth, is my brother, and I never had a brother. Maria is my true love and my wife. I never had a true love. I never had a wife. She is also my sister, and I never had a sister, and my daughter, and I never will have a daughter. I hate to leave a thing that is so good. (37.36)
Robert Jordan's barely had any time to get to know the people around him, and yet he knows them better than anyone else. He comes back again and again to the idea that length of time doesn't matter – you can live more in three days than in all that came before. His "new" friends have become his old family. It's his relationships that have made him start to care about his life, and "hate to leave" it for the first time.
"Well, thou art welcome," Pilar said to him. "I did not think thou couldst be the ruin thou appeared to be."
"Having done such a thing there is a loneliness that cannot be borne," Pablo said to her quietly. (38.121-122)
Robert Jordan's not the only one who gets an education; Pablo does too. If we've been uncertain whether he only cares about himself or really does care about his band, here we get the answer. Leaving/betraying his friends left him with an unbearable loneliness, which he hadn't expected. They're really all he has – he has no interest in himself without them (even with those horses).
"To me it is a sin to kill a man. Even Fascists whom we must kill. To me there is a great difference between the bear and the man and I do not believe the wizardry of the gypsies about the brotherhood with animals. No. I am against all killing of men."
"Yet you have killed."
"Yes. And will again. (3.66-68)
Anselmo is the character who feels most strongly that killing is wrong, and the one who says so most often. He's a hunter, and takes pleasure in the hunt, but believes there is a great difference between human beings and animals. That point keeps coming back in the book (check out what we have to say about animal metaphors in the "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" section). He also never stops using religious language – killing is a "sin" – even though he's given up religion. Yet he's somehow reconciled to the necessity of killing.
To kill them teaches nothing," Anselmo said. "You cannot exterminate them because from their seed comes more with greater hatred. Prison is nothing. Prison only makes hatred. That all our enemies should learn." (3.81)
Anger and vengefulness play little part in Anselmo's opposition to the fascists. He genuinely wants them to learn, and thinks (as we find out elsewhere) that if they could only understand how hard life is for many of the working people of Spain, they would change. War doesn't teach people anything, because it only leads them to keep fighting, fuelled by rage. You could imagine the same convictions leading to a pacifist stance; it's interesting, and maybe a little problematic, that Anselmo chooses to fight.
"Clearly," the woman said. "If you want it that way. Perhaps it came from talking that foolishness about Valencia. And that failure of a man who has gone to look at his horses. I wounded him much with the story. Kill him, yes. Curse him, yes. But wound him, no." (9.46)
Is Pilar genuinely willing to kill Pablo? That's a hard question to answer throughout the book. It's clear from this, however, that she still feels sympathy for him: she's feeling guilty that she deliberately tried to injure him by comparing him badly to an earlier over. She seems to suggest that it's worse to take away a man's dignity than it is his life. There's a similarity in this to some of the thoughts on how one should kill voiced by other characters (including herself).
"'Why is this done thus, Pilar?' he [Pablo] said to me.
'To save bullets,' I [Pilar] said. 'And that each man should have his share in the responsibility.'" (10.135-6)
Pablo's idea in having the townspeople execute the fascists together, if it seems brutal, is also meant to be just – given that all of the townspeople are involved in the war together and want to benefit from the liberation of their town, it's only right that they should share responsibility for killing their enemies. Otherwise, the fighters (like Pablo) would do all the dirty work, while the townspeople would benefit from the outcome of it.
"It was a thing of great ugliness, but I had thought if this is how it must be, this is how it must be, and at least there was no cruelty, only the depriving of life which, as we all have learned in these years, is a thing of ugliness but also a necessity if we are to win, and to preserve the Republic.
When the square had been closed off and the lines formed, I had admired and understood it as a conception of Pablo, although it seemed to me to be somewhat fantastic and that it would be necessary for all that was to be done to be done in good taste if it were not to be repugnant. Certainly if the fascists were to be executed by the people, it was better for all the people to have a part in it, and I wished to share the guilt as much as any, just as I hoped to share in the benefits when the town should be ours. But after Don Guillermo, I felt a feeling of shame and distaste, and with the coming of the drunkards and the worthless ones into the lines, and the abstention of those who left the lines as a protest after Don Guillermo, I wished that I might disassociate myself altogether from the lines, and I walked away, across the square, and sat down on a bench under one of the big trees that gave shade there." (10.255-256)
After all is said and done, Pilar doesn't find that Pablo's idea of "sharing the responsibility" made the killings acceptable. People who did not deserve to die (Don Guillermo) were killed. Her evaluation is also affected by how she judges the killers themselves: part of what disgusts her is that the many of the people participated were drunkards (who would presumably never have the courage to fight, or the poise to face their own death as some of their enemies did). Pilar's judgment is partially motivated by considerations of honor.
Across the road at the sawmill smoke was coming out of the chimney and Anselmo could smell it blown toward him through the snow. The fascists are warm, he thought, and they are comfortable, and tomorrow night we will kill them. It is a strange thing and I do not like to think of it. I have watched them all day and they are the same men that we are. I believe that I could walk up to the mill and knock on the door and I would be welcome except that they have orders to challenge all travelers and ask to see their papers. It is only orders that come between us. Those men are not fascists. I call them so, but they are not. They are poor men as we are. They should never be fighting against us and I do not like to think of the killing. (15.7)
So many of the enemies the Republicans are fighting are not really "fascists," if by "fascist" one means someone who truly believes in fascist ideology. This Anselmo finds very troubling. There seem to be far more similarities between himself and his enemies than differences – at base just because they're human beings. What divides them is artificial, just "paper." Think back to that epigraph idea of all humans being tied together somehow.
I've probably seen him run through the streets ahead of the bulls at the Feria in Pamplona, Robert Jordan thought. You never kill any one that you want to kill in a war, he said to himself. Well, hardly ever, he amended and went on reading the letters. (26.3)
Robert Jordan sounds like Anselmo here. He had no desire to kill the patrolman he shot that morning, and no reason to other than his "orders." He was a fascist only because of the allegiance of his region, Navarra, and his loyalty to the Catholic Church (as a Carlist). Navarra is one of Robert Jordan's favorite regions of Spain, and it's particularly saddening for him to kill one of its native sons. What must it feel like for a Spaniard to kill another Spaniard, then?
But it would not drop that easily. How many is it that you have killed? He asked himself. I don't know. Do you think you have a right to kill any one? No. But I have to. How many of those we have killed have been real fascists? Very few. But they are all the enemy to whose force we are opposing force. But you like the people of Navarra better than those of any other part of Spain. Yes. And you kill them. Yes. If you don't believe it go down there to the camp. Don't you know it is wrong to kill? Yes. But you do it? Yes. And you still believe absolutely that your cause is right? Yes.
It is right, he told himself, not reassuringly, but proudly. I believe in the people and their right to govern themselves as they wish. But you mustn't believe in killing, he told himself. You must do it as a necessity but you must not believe in it. You must do it as a necessity but you must not believe in it. IF you believe in it the whole thing is wrong. (26.20-21)
This is about as definitive a statement as we'll get of Robert Jordan's feelings about killing. He can't admit that killing in itself is ever right, but he feels it's necessary. And that's because he's convinced the Republican political cause is right. To minimize the injustice of killing, however, the killer can't take pleasure in it. And should kill as few people as possible. It's interesting to note, though, that Robert Jordan doesn't seem to have strong feelings, or disgust, about killing in the way that Pilar or Anselmo do. His disagreement seems to be more intellectual, more on principle, and less emotional.
He heard her breathing steadily and regularly now and he knew she was asleep and he lay awake and very still not wanting to waken her by moving. He thought of all the part she had not told him and he lay there hating and he was pleased there would be killing in the morning. But I must not take any of it personally, he thought.
Though how can I keep from it? I know that we did dreadful things to them too. But it was because we were uneducated and knew no better. But they did that on purpose and deliberately. Those who did that are the last flowering of what their education has produced. Those are the flowers of Spanish chivalry. (31.163-164)
It's after Maria describes her rape to Robert Jordan that he first shows signs of the bloodlust that other characters like Pablo and Agustín have already felt. He tries to think his way out of it by recognizing that both sides have done horrible things to each other. But thinking also leads him to one difference he thinks is morally relevant between the Republicans and the fascists: many of the Republican brutalities have been done by the poor and uneducated (who are trying to defend what little they have), whereas the fascists, who represent the upper class, should know better, and have higher standards.
"You're not going to kill any of us, are you?" Agustín said. "For I will kill thee now."
"Shut up," Pablo said. "I have to look after thy interest and that of the band. This is war. One cannot do what one would wish." (43.238-239)
Agustín is obviously disgusted by Pablo's murder of the men he brought with him. But Pablo's justification is that he was looking after the interests of their own band, since otherwise not all of them would be able to escape. Pablo's loyalties to his own small group are clearly much stronger than any duty he feels to his companions in the Republican cause; he's not only willing to kill fascists, he's willing to kill allies for the sake of his "tribe's" safety. Like those troubled by killing fascists, he ultimately lays the blame on the war situation itself.
"Let me see thy hand," the woman said. Robert Jordan put his hand out and the woman opened it, held it in her own big hand, rubbed her thumb over it and looked at it, carefully, then dropped it. She stood up. He got up too and she looked at him without smiling.
"What did you see in it?" Robert Jordan asked her. "I don't believe in it. You won't scare me."
"Nothing," she told him. "I saw nothing in it."
"Yes you did. I am only curious. I do not believe in such things." (2.233-236)
The fateful moment when Pilar first sees a bad fate for Robert Jordan in his hand. This episode starts off the supernatural thread of the book, and also foreshadows Robert Jordan's death (though, like Robert Jordan, it's up to us whether we take it seriously). Although Robert Jordan says he doesn't believe in it, is he being fully honest? Would he be so curious if he weren't at least somewhat open to the possibility that it might be real?
You do not run onto something like that. Such things don't happen. Maybe it never did happen, he thought. Maybe you dreamed it or made it up and it never did happen. (11.85)
Such things don't happen. Robert Jordan is treating his love with Maria as something almost supernatural. More on that in a moment…
"Yes," Pilar said. "I lie. It never moves more than three times in a lifetime. Did it really move?"
"Yes," the girl said. "Truly." (13.185-189)
This is the next spot in the book where the supernatural rears its head. Robert Jordan and Maria have just experienced something very strange while having sex – the "earth moved." If their first night together seemed supernatural, this just blew it out of the water. Pilar is very eager to pry into what their sex was like, almost as if she knows something happened. Once she's told what happens, Pilar is evidently familiar with it, and makes it into something supernatural (it only happens three times, yadda yadda). Given that Robert Jordan and Maria don't seem to have much of a clue what's going on with themselves, there might be an extra incentive to take seriously somebody who claims to.
When you get through with this war you might take up the study of women, he said to himself. You could start with Pilar. She has put in a pretty complicated day, if you ask me. She never brought in the gypsy stuff before. Except the hand, he thought. Yes, of course the hand. And I don't think she was faking about the hand. She wouldn't tell me what she saw, of course. Whatever she saw she believed in herself. But that proves nothing.
Pilar's status as "medium" of the supernatural is connected here to two aspects of her identity: she's part gypsy, and she's a woman. Is there something more "womanly" about believing in the supernatural? Robert Jordan also raises the question of whether she might be using her supposed knowledge of the supernatural to gain power over him and Maria, though he seems to take her original reading of the hand seriously.
"Sure," Pilar said to him, looking at the sky. "It will snow."
"Now? Almost in June?"
"Why not? These mountains do not know the names of the months. We are in the moon of May."
"It can't be snow," he said. "It can't snow."
"Just the same, Ingles," she said to him, "it will snow." (13.219-223)
Pilar's prediction of the snow, if not "supernatural" (snow is a natural phenomenon), does suggest that she's unusually aware. You might say the snow itself suggests that the very out of the ordinary (snowing in late May) can be quite real. This is one moment at which Pilar gains points with Robert Jordan (and the reader), so far as taking her seriously is concerned. It's also worth noting that it's Pilar, at the end of Chapter Twenty, who asks whether the snow has stopped, leading Robert Jordan to go outside and discover that it has. It's almost as if she knew it would…Also, kind of nifty – Pilar's sense that the snow storm of ended of the snow occurs right after the big conversation about the supernatural, as if to book end it.
"Seeing bad signs, one, with fear, imagines an end for himself and one thinks that imagining comes by divination," Robert Jordan concluded. "I believe there is nothing more to it than that. I do not believe in ogres, nor soothsayers, nor in the supernatural things." (19.27)
Robert Jordan doesn't believe in "seeing one's fate," or in fate. He's staunchly opposed to the supernatural, as he tells the other members of the band. It's just something one imagines. This follows from that "taking it straight" attitude he has.
"Because thou art a miracle of deafness," Pilar said, her big face harsh and broad in the candlelight. "It is not that thou art stupid. Thou art simply deaf. One who is deaf cannot hear music. Neither can he hear the radio. So he might say, never having heard them, that such things do not exist. Que va, Ingles. I saw the death of that one with the rare name in his face as though it were burned there with a branding iron." (19.32)
This is the big confrontation between Robert Jordan and Pilar on the subject of the supernatural, and the central point in the book's supernatural thread. Pilar's point is that Robert Jordan simply doesn't have the sense he needs to perceive what is in fact there to be perceived. This is what leads Pilar to tell of how one can acquire a "smell" of death. Pilar seems to mix all of her senses together: she accuses Robert Jordan of being deaf, but then claims to have seen death in Kashkin, and after this will speak of smelling it. Is there any significance to that?
After that of the ship you must go down the hill in Madrid to the Puente de Toledo early in the morning to the matadero and stand there on the wet paving when there is a fog from the Manzanares and wait for the old women who go before daylight to drink the blood of the beasts that are slaughtered. When such an old woman comes out of the matadero, holding her shawl around her, with her face gray and her eyes hollow, and the whiskers of age on her chin, and on her cheeks, set in the waxen white of her face as the sprouts grow from the seed of the bean, not bristles, but ale sprouts in the death of her face; put your arms tight around her, Ingles, and hold her to you and kiss her on the mouth and you will know the second part that odor is made of." (19.69)
How could we resist putting this passage in here? It's just about the grossest passage in the book. Seriously, though, why is it that the supernatural always seems to be associated with disgusting stuff? Maybe the idea is that to get access to a heightened level of perception, like Pilar has, one has to pass through challenging trials that might make you lose your lunch, or die. Kind of like becoming a Jedi.
"Then," Pilar went on, "it is important that the day be in autumn with rain, or at least some fog, or early winter even and now thou shouldst continue to walk through the city and down the Calle de Salud smelling what thou wilt smell where they are sweeping out casas de putas and emptying the slop jars into the drains and, with this odor of love's labor lost mixed sweetly with soapy water and cigarette butts only faintly reaching thy nostrils, thou shouldst go on to the Jardin Botanico where at night those girls who can no longer work in the houses do their work against the iron gates of the park and the iron picketed fences and upon the sidewalks. It is there in the shadow of the trees against the iron railings that they will perform all that a man wishes; from the simplest requests at remuneration of ten centimos up to a peseta for that great act that we are born to and there, on a dead flower bed that has not yet been plucked out and replanted, and so serves to soften the earth that is so much softer than the sidewalk, thou wilt find an abandoned gunny sack with the odor of the wet earth, the dead flowers, and the doings of that night. In this sack will be contained the essence of it all, both the dead earth and the dead stalks of the flowers and their rotted blooms and the smell that is both the death and birth of man. Thou wilt wrap this sack around thy head and try to breathe through it."
More grossness. Is Pilar just conjuring up as lurid a set of things to do as she can possibly come up with? Hard to tell. Some cosmic connections are made here, though: between death and life, and between death and sex. This isn't the only time, either. Think, for example, to Robert Jordan and Maria's feeling that sex is like dying.
There was quite a lot of religion in the letter and she prayed to Saint Anthony, to the Blessed Virgin of Pilar, and to other Virgins to protect him and she wanted him never to forget that he was also protected by the Sacred Heart of Jesus that he wore still, she trusted, at all times over his own heart where it had been proven innumerable – this was underlined – times to have the power of stopping bullets. She was as always his loving sister Concha.
Belief in the supernatural looms large in the Catholic religion of many of the Spaniards in this novel, of which this is a clear example. Maybe that's why the various band members seem open to Pilar's rather different claims about the supernatural – they're already open to the idea that there's "magic" in the world thanks to their religion. In the case of the young officer who received this letter, however, there's a painfully glaring contrast between what the letter says and what happened to him (that sacred heart was placed just about exactly where Robert Jordan shot him).
You take it easy, now, he said. Get turned over now while you still have time. Listen, one thing. Do you remember? Pilar and the hand? Do you believe that crap? No, he said. Not with everything that's happened? No, I don't believe it. She was nice about it early this morning before the show started. She was afraid maybe I believed it. I don't, though. But she does. They see something. Or they feel something. Like a bird dog. What about extra-sensory perception? What about obscenity? he said. (43.375)
This is the last consideration the supernatural gets in the book, right near its end. Of course, Pilar's reading of Robert Jordan's death in his hand (we assume that's what she saw) came true. And he admits that she saw something. But he still isn't willing to believe in it, and writes off giving it further consideration with cynical humor. You could interpret this passage as his attempt to convince himself that it's not real, though, rather than an expression of real certainty that it isn't. Why else would he come back to it?