Study Guide

For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 11

By Ernest Hemingway

Chapter 11

  • Maria, Robert Jordan, and Pilar arrive at the top of a rock formation, where they meet a boy with a carbine, Joaquin. He recognizes Pilar and asks who Robert Jordan is; he is told that he is the "dynamiter."
  • Joaquin will take them to El Sordo. He asks Maria whether he should carry her, as he carried her away from the train, when she could not walk.
  • Before the movement, Joaquin says, he was a shoe-shiner. He wanted to be a bullfighter, but ultimately was too afraid. His town was Valladolid, but in September the fascists took it and shot his father, mother, and sister.
  • Robert Jordan begins to reflect on the losses so many people have suffered in the war, and how frequent they are. He also thinks of Pilar's story, and is impressed by how well Pilar told it. It's got to be written down.
  • It is the peasants, he thinks, who have to suffer in the war, not the "partisans" like himself. They move from place to place according to their mission; the peasants stay in place, and suffer as towns are taken.
  • Pilar must finish her story, he decides.
  • Then he starts to think about Maria, and how lovely she is, and how good the past night had been. He begins to wonder whether it was all a dream, since such things simply don't happen except in dreams. He's had plenty of dreams like that, though – with movie stars like Gretta Garbo.
  • To make sure it wasn't a dream, he touches Maria. That gets a smile. Nope, wasn't a dream.
  • Joaquin, asked by Pilar, talks about the shooting of his family. Affected by speaking of it, he starts to cry.
  • Maria kisses Joaquin, and says that she is his sister, and that they are all one family. Even Robert Jordan. But Joaquin is ashamed.
  • Pilar jokingly says she wants to kiss him, trying to perk him up. Joaquin avoids her.
  • Miffed, Pilar starts to mock him, and Maria grows angry with Pilar. Pilar responds that she is tired of being ugly – she can tell that's why Joaquin turned away, though he denies this.
  • In the midst of these antics, El Sordo arrives. He's a good host, and offers a drink of whiskey.
  • Speaking in broken sentences, he asks Robert Jordan about the operation, which the start to discuss, sitting on a log in front of El Sordo's cave. Maria is told to go away, and leaves with Joaquin.
  • El Sordo, who got the whiskey in La Granja, also got some information there. There's a lot of movement throughout the territory. He believes the Republicans are preparing something, and the fascists know and are preparing as well. He wants to blow up the bridge right away, but, as we know, that won't work.
  • Sordo doesn't like the way all this looks, but agrees to help. His group of eight will take one of the two posts.
  • Together, the two bands make seventeen. Horses would be needed for a secure retreat, but there are only nine between the two groups. It's doubtful they'll be able to get more, Sordo says.
  • After talking a bit about supplies, El Sordo agrees to stop by that night and talk more about plans.
  • Pilar strikes up a conversation with El Sordo, and at that point he drops out of his pidgin Spanish. She wants to know where they should go after the attack; the fascists will most definitely clean up afterwards.
  • El Sordo suggests Gredos, which will be safest, though it will be very hard to get there. Pilar wants to go into the Republic. When Robert Jordan suggests they would be much more useful in Gredos, both Pilar and El Sordo grow sullen.
  • They turn to discussing Kashkin and Pilar asks whether Robert Jordan's nerves are better than his (which wouldn't be saying much, from what we know). He affirms they are.
  • At this point, Robert Jordan spills the beans about what actually happened to Kashkin: he killed him (gasp!). Kashkin had been too badly wounded after a train raid to be moved.
  • When Jordan suggests that Pilar go to Gredos again, she lets loose a torrent of obscenities. How dare he tell them where they will die?
  • El Sordo tries to calm her, but Pilar, enraged, tells Robert Jordan to mind his business and go back to the Republic with his "whore."
  • Maria hears this as she's returning, but just tries to clam Pilar down. It works. Pilar admits she just wants to go to the Republic. Maria suggests they all go, and Robert Jordan jokes that they should, since Pilar "seems not to love the Gredos" (now there's an understatement). Pilar asks for a drink.
  • Maria is told to run off again – this is becoming a recurring theme whenever any serious conversation is about to happen. El Sordo points out that retreating during the day will be very hard. Their chances are not good.
  • Fortunately, before they get any gloomier, they decide to eat.