Study Guide

For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 13

By Ernest Hemingway

Chapter 13

  • Maria and Robert Jordan are walking together in a field of heathers (can't you just hear the soundtrack?). Robert Jordan embraces and kisses her. Maria begins to undo his shirt, and the inevitable happens right there in the field.
  • If the last night was really good, this is amazing. Time stops, Robert Jordan feels as if it is a "dark passage leading to nowhere" (and repeats "nowhere" eleven times…so he really means it), and the earth moves. We'll let you decide if they just experienced a small earthquake or if it was something else.
  • It's over, and they're walking along a stream. Robert Jordan tells Maria he loves her, and feels as though he wants to die when he makes love to her; Maria says she actually dies each time. They both felt that the earth moved.
  • Has Robert Jordan loved others? Maria wants to know. He says he has, but none like her – the earth never moved before.
  • Maria laments that she does not kiss well, and that her hair is not yet beautiful. That's OK, says Robert Jordan. She has the loveliest body in the world.
  • As Maria begins to say sweet nothings and talk about how happy she is, Robert Jordan's mind wanders and we get stuck in his head for a while.
  • He's going to blow up the bridge. He may die. But he knew this before, Robert Jordan tells himself.
  • Their situation is grim – Pablo was right. Now Pilar and El Sordo have both seen it; they are both still willing to go through, but are shaken. Robert Jordan feels guilty that he has to use these people who he likes in such a way. Who wants to be responsible for the death of their friends?
  • Robert Jordan starts to wonder whether the mission is impossible, but chastises himself. That's a way to make sure it will fail. He has to follow those orders. He and the other partisans are fighting for Spain. If the Republic loses, all of the people who believe in it won't be able to live in Spain anymore.
  • As he starts to think about himself and his politics, we get a few more details about Robert Jordan: he was a Spanish teacher, and he wants to write a book.
  • And Robert Jordan's thoughts turn to Maria again. Being "incontinent" with Maria has made him a whole lot less sure of things he thought he was sure of. It's hard to be blindly dedicated to the cause, and believe you're 100% right, if you love someone.
  • How about living with Maria back in Idaho or Montana? Robert Jordan likes that idea.
  • Then it's back to thinking about his line of work: blowing things up. Is it ethical? It's about killing, after all.
  • Back to Maria. Robert Jordan's got so little time with her. But does it really matter how much time you have? Can't you live your whole life in three days, he wonders? That feels right. The present and future aren't life, really. There is only the NOW.
  • Robert Jordan never thought something like this Maria business could happen. But here it is – he's just come to love late. He loved her from the moment he saw her. And Pilar helped, by practically pushing her into his bedroll. That Pilar appreciates the importance of enjoying the limited time one has.
  • Robert Jordan remembers that conversation he had with Golz about girls. Whoops. Made a mistake there didn't he?
  • After reaching the conclusion that a good life is not determined by its span, the deeply philosophical Robert Jordan drops out of the zone and starts paying attention to Maria again.
  • She's eagerly telling him all the things she wants to do to take care of him, since that's what "being his woman means." She'll even clean his pistol, and shoot him, if he needs to be shot, to save him from the enemy.
  • After playing at that game for a while, they decide that having sex with him is all Robert Jordan really needs Maria to do.
  • They come upon Pilar, who is sitting in the meadow near the horses, apparently sleeping.
  • Pilar starts to pry, asking to know "how it was." Maria says no, and Pilar becomes angry and insistent, ignoring Robert Jordan's demands that she leave Maria alone.
  • To shut Pilar up, Maria finally tells her that the earth moved. Pilar is satisfied, and suddenly becomes warm and friendly. Pilar thought that sort of thing only happened to gypsies.
  • Supposedly, Pilar knows all about this "earth moving" business. She says it never happens more than three times in a lifetime.
  • Robert Jordan wants to know what nonsense she's peddling, and she denies that it's nonsense. He doesn't really believe her.
  • He irritably tells Pilar he is tired of mysteries, and that she should leave Maria alone.
  • She asks if the earth really moved, smiling. When he says yes, exasperated, she laughs.
  • Pilar says it's going to snow. Robert Jordan is incredulous (doesn't believe her). She insists.
  • Looking at the sky, he sees: it's going to snow.

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