Study Guide

For Whom the Bell Tolls Friendship

By Ernest Hemingway


"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).

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