Study Guide

For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 19

By Ernest Hemingway

Chapter 19

  • Maria, never one to let her man think too much, interrupts Robert Jordan's reverie and asks what he's thinking about. He gives her a low-down.
  • Among other things, he says how much he cared for Kashkin.
  • Pilar points out, rather loudly, that he shot Kashkin. Everybody suddenly takes an interest in the conversation.
  • Rafael says that Kashkin (we already knew he was "jumpy") always said he might have to be shot. Andrés wonders if he foresaw his own end.
  • Robert Jordan doesn't think so. He never goes in for that irrational superstitious kind of stuff.
  • Pilar says Kashkin's death was written all over his face. If Robert Jordan didn't see it, that's because he's just "deaf" (or "blind" or couldn't "smell it" – she can't seem to decide which sense one perceives death with – i.e., which sense the obtuse Robert Jordan lacks completely).
  • Kashkin positively reeked of death, says Pilar (guess she settled on smell). Just like some matador she tells a story about, whose attendant smelled his death right before he died in the ring.
  • Robert Jordan isn't buying this "death has a smell stuff" at all, and puts a few skeptical questions to Pilar.
  • Anselmo pipes up that, although he doesn't usually go in for this kind of thing, Pilar's famous for her death-perception.
  • Fernando, also not quite convinced, wants to know what death smells like. Could he smell it?
  • There's a big opening for Pilar, which she's happy to take. You must learn to recognize the smell of death, she says, and to do that, you need to smell a few really disgusting things and put all the smells together:
  • The first thing you've got to smell is the brass handle of a screwed-tight porthole on a ship (OK, that's not very disgusting, but just wait for it…).
  • The second thing you've got to smell is the breath of one of the bewhiskered old-women who lives by the slaughterhouse and drinks the blood of freshly-slaughtered animals in the morning. You've got to kiss her.
  • After kissing one of the whiskery, blood-drinking women, you've got to smell dead chrysanthemums.
  • Finally, you've got to stick your head in a gunny sack with who-knows-what in it that can be found in the botanical gardens at night. It contains the odor of wet earth, dead flowers, and all the "doings of that night" (by the prostitutes who hang out by the fence of the gardens and do "all that a man wishes").
  • Put all those together, and you've got the smell of death.
  • Robert Jordan says if Kashkin had smelled that way it's good that he shot him.
  • Pilar once again tells him he doesn't understand anything. And asks if it's still snowing.
  • How does she do that? It's not snowing, Robert Jordan sees when he goes to the cave mouth.
  • This is bad news for El Sordo, he realizes. His horse thievery will have left tracks in the snow leading back to his hideout…