Study Guide

For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 10

By Ernest Hemingway

Chapter 10

  • Having walked a ways, Pilar, Maria, and Robert Jordan stop for a rest by a stream, at Pilar's request. Robert Jordan wants to keep going, being in a hurry, but Pilar insists on bathing her feet, and wants to talk.
  • Pilar begins to talk about her ugliness, which always troubles her. She knows herself to be very ugly, but she knows just as strongly that she is beautiful inside.
  • Both Maria and Robert Jordan tell Pilar that she is not ugly, but she will not believe them.
  • In spite of being ugly, she says, she's had many lovers, who are convinced by the force of her own belief that inside she is beautiful. But in the end, they always discover she is ugly, and then abandon her. Then she loses confidence, and the cycle starts over again.
  • Robert Jordan wants to talk about something else, and asks Pilar where she was at the start of the movement. She replies that she was in her "town," a small town. He wants to know how the movement started in that town, but Pilar says it would give Maria nightmares.
  • Although she does not want to, after pressure from Robert Jordan and Maria, Pilar concedes, and, smoking a cigarette, begins her tale.
  • Pilar's Story: Early one morning, the guardia civil, who had a barracks in the town, surrendered. Pablo had surrounded the barracks during the night, cut off its communications, and, after calling the guards to surrender, blown the wall open at daybreak. Fighting broke out, and two men were killed, four wounded, and four came out to surrender.
  • Pablo's men shoot the wounded. He then stands the four remaining civiles (civil guards) against a wall. Brandishing the pistol with which the commanding officer had killed himself, Pablo demands that one of the guards tell him how it works – so he can shoot them with it.
  • One of them gives him instructions, and, having them drop to their knees, he shoots each in the back of the head.
  • Pablo gives the pistol to Pilar, who feels weak in the stomach. The sun rises, and they go to the village square to get coffee.
  • Later that morning, the other fascists are to be killed in the town square. The setup: the town plaza is, on one of its sides, positioned over a cliff, with a three-hundred foot drop to a river running below. Pablo had blocked off the streets leading into the plaza, after gathering the peasants of the town there.
  • The town's fascists, numbering more than twenty, had been seized from their homes in the night while Pablo assaulted the barracks. They're being kept in the city hall, or Ayuntamiento, of the town, which is at the other end of the plaza from the cliff.
  • A priest inside is leading prayer and offering confessions to the fascists, inside the Ayuntamiento. A large crowd of townsmen (peasants) is gathered outside the city hall, a few already drunk and shouting obscenities, but most of them serious and respectful.
  • Pablo organizes the crowd into two lines, running from the city hall door to the cliff. All the people are armed with flails (used to beat out grain), mostly obtained from the store of Don Guillermo Martin. Others have sickles, and are placed near the cliff.
  • Pilar, in the lines, talks with some of the men. Many of them are nervous, having never killed before. When asked, she says that the killing is being done this way to save bullets, and so that each townsman can share in the responsibility.
  • After a bit of time passes, the first fascist emerges – Don Benito Garcia, the mayor. He begins to walk through the line.
  • At first nothing happens. But when he reaches one man three down from Pilar, a former tenant of his who has long hated him, the man beats him, calling him obscenities. Some others, spurred on, join in, and hurl him off the cliff.
  • A second man steps out: Don Federico Gonzalez, whose legs aren't obeying him. He can't move forward, and some of the drunkards begin to poke him.
  • A peasant, finding the spectacle shameful, strikes him on the head, asking his permission first. Then Don Federico begins to run, falling near the end of the line before he's thrown off the cliff. Pilar notices that the toughest men have taken up a position near the end of the lines.
  • Pablo calls into the city hall for another, and it's the defiant Don Ricardo, who swears at Pablo as he walks past him. Heading towards the line, he insults the Republic and swears at the peasants gathered there.
  • Enraged, the peasants beat him to death, chopping at him with viciously with sickles as he walks. The bloody mess of Don Ricardo is then tossed over the edge.
  • Prior to Don Ricardo, we learn from Pilar, the ordeal might have been sufficiently hard for the peasants that they would have asked for a pardon for the rest of the fascists – but not after him. Now they're an angry mob.
  • Next, the foppish Don Faustino emerges, acting brave. He's only acting – as Pilar explains, he was a running joke in the town, pursuing girls relentlessly and boasting, yet always chickening out it when it came time to make good on his claims. Faustino is taunted viciously by the crowd.
  • Upon seeing the cliff, Faustino abandons his put-on bravery and runs back into the city hall. Pablo forces him out with a shotgun at his back. Pathetically he walks through the line, but the crowd doesn't touch him.
  • Halfway through, he falls on his knees, and a peasant picks him up and leads him to the edge; others also take hold of him. At the edge, kneeling again, he begs not to be thrown down, at which point the peasants push him over. Faustino screams loudly as he falls.
  • Enjoying themselves now, some of the peasants laugh and begin to throw back booze.
  • As the crowd waits, Don Guillermo emerges. He is a serious man, not at all hated by the townspeople. Were it not for Ricardo and Faustino, and the alcohol, Pilar relates, the people would have wanted to spare Guillermo. But now the peasants have become cruel.
  • Pausing in her story, Pilar asks Robert Jordan if he has experienced similar alcohol induced cruelty, and he tells her of a lynching he witnessed as a child in Ohio.
  • Continuing her story, Pilar returns to poor Don Guillermo. As the crowd taunts him, his wife, watching from the balcony of their house in the plaza, begins to cry out his name, weeping. A drunkard mockingly imitates his wife's cries. As Guillermo rushes toward him in tears, he is beaten by the drunkards.
  • After this, many men leave the lines, disgusted, and Pilar herself feels great disgust at what had been done, and at the drunkards.
  • Not everyone feels that way. Two drunkards, meanwhile, make quite a spectacle in the square, crying "Viva la Anarquia" and "viva la Libertad," and kissing a black and red (anarchist) flag.
  • Another man is then pushed out from the city hall, who Pilar cannot see at first because of the crowd. To get a view, she takes a café chair and stands on it.
  • There's Don Anastasio, the fattest man in town. The lines break, and the crowd rushes without any organization toward Don Anastasio, who dies as his head is beaten against the stone flags in the arcade.
  • The crowd, riled up and pressing towards the city hall, demands that it be opened. From her chair, Pilar sees into the building, where Pablo and several guards sit easily, holding their guns. Pablo talks to the priest, but he pays no attention. A drunken man gets up on the chair with Pilar.
  • In the square, a very far-gone drunkard tries to set fire to Don Anastasio's corpse by pouring alcohol over it and throwing matches at it, but he fails because of the wind.
  • Pilar turns once more to the window, and sees a man inside who wants to be let out. Pablo refuses, nodding towards the door. The door is locked, and Pablo shows him the key. It dawns on the fascists that the door is locked, and that there is a crowd outside. Now they realize what is going to happen.
  • Pablo, after tapping the priest and being ignored again, tosses the key to a guard, who opens the door. The crowd rushes in.
  • At this point, Pilar and the drunkard sharing the chair with her, who's very excited, begin to struggle for the chair. Pilar hits him in the balls, which he claims she "has no right to do." (Irony?)
  • Pilar recovers her view in time to see the priest scampering about to escape pursuers. He is caught by the robe and chopped at with sickles by several peasants, screaming.
  • Then the chair breaks, and Pilar can no longer see through the window. She doesn't want to.
  • By this time, another drunkard has succeeded in lighting Don Anastasio on fire. Yet another drunkard starts a fight with him. Don Anastasio is picked up and put on a cart where the corpses from the city hall are being stacked.
  • Because too many are drunk, the meeting for the "newly liberated" town is canceled.
  • Pilar has dinner with Pablo, feeling disgusted and ashamed. He asks her whether she liked the killing. She says no, except for Faustino.
  • Pablo liked all of it.
  • All except the priest, that is. The priest, whose death Pablo had been anticipating all day, disappointed him because he did not die well.
  • Robert Jordan, back in the present, tells Pilar that it's time to go.
  • But she's not finished: Apparently, Pablo didn't want to have sex with her that night, because he felt it would be in bad taste. Pilar does not reproach him, and looks through her window at the square, where she sees Don Guillermo's wife sobbing, alone on her balcony.
  • Pilar thought that was the worst day of her life at the time. But that would come three days later, when the fascists took the town. Maria does not want to hear about that. Robert Jordan does, but Pilar won't tell him at present.
  • To comfort Maria, Pilar tells her that she will have the afternoon with Robert Jordan. Maria wants it to come right away. It will, Pilar says, and it will be gone just as quickly.

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