Study Guide

For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 16

By Ernest Hemingway

Chapter 16

  • Upon returning to the cave, Robert Jordan is informed that El Sordo had dropped by in the meantime and left to engage in horse thievery. He's also left a bottle of whiskey.
  • Pablo still can't get over how great it is that it's snowing.
  • Maria starts attending to the wet and bedraggled Robert Jordan.
  • Among other things, she brings him the whiskey which El Sordo had left behind. Robert Jordan, proving once again that the surest way to a man's heart is through his stomach, admires El Sordo's thoughtfulness in bringing him whiskey.
  • Maria volunteers to serve Robert Jordan dinner, but he wants to wait until she eats, since that's what they do in his country. Pablo, seizing the opportunity to be obnoxious about something else, starts making fun of Montana (Robert Jordan's "country"). The men wear skirts there, he insists.
  • Primitivo, making himself remotely noticeable for the first time, tries to soften the situation by asking other questions about Montana – first about farming, then about the politics.
  • A conversation strikes up between Robert Jordan and several of the others on politics in the U.S.
  • They don't seem to know very much. "Is it Communist?" Um, no. Robert Jordan does say, interestingly, that there are many fascists in the U.S., although they don't know it yet.
  • Andrés points out there were many fascists in Pablo's village. Robert Jordan says he heard the story.
  • Pablo was barbarous back then, Pablo himself says. Pilar prefers him barbarous to drunk.
  • Pablo is certainly more drunk than barbarous now. He starts tearfully lamenting all the people he's killed, wishing he could restore them back to life.
  • Agustín , trying to distract attention from the pitiful and irritating Pablo, asks how Robert Jordan first came to Spain.
  • He came twelve years ago, to study Spanish language and culture, since he teaches Spanish.
  • This revelation gets mixed reactions, none of them too intelligent. Pablo can't understand how someone without a beard can be a professor. Fernando can't understand why somebody who speaks English would teach Spanish.
  • Agustín starts to feel as if he's in an insane asylum.
  • Pablo gets more and more irritating, so Robert Jordan decides it's time to blow his cover: he announces to everyone that he doesn't think Pablo's drunk. Then tells Pablo to his face. Pablo denies it.
  • Awkward silence. That snow falling outside sure is loud.
  • Now Robert Jordan wants to put an end to this endless nonsense, by putting an end to Pablo. It looks like he just might.
  • Pablo calls him on it. He won't let himself be provoked, and says Robert Jordan doesn't have the balls to just "assassinate" him.
  • So instead, Pablo toasts to "Don Roberto," and Robert Jordan awkwardly meets his toast. They'll be friends now. (?)
  • Agustín is growing more convinced that this is an insane asylum, and starts venting. Pablo makes him angrier by calling him "N****."
  • Agustin slaps Pablo on the face, hard. Pablo says this won't provoke him either.
  • Agustín slaps him again. Robert Jordan gets ready with his pistol.
  • Nothing happens.
  • Pablo announces once more that no one has the balls to kill him. Helping himself to wine, he asks Robert Jordan to tell the rest of the band just how they'll escape.
  • Pablo's own opinion is that they're all just "illusioned people" led by "a woman with her brains between her thighs and a foreigner who comes to destroy you."
  • Having succeeded marvelously infuriating everybody, Pablo leaves to go to his horses, pointing out as he leaves that it's still snowing.