Study Guide

For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 26

By Ernest Hemingway

Chapter 26

  • It's now three o'clock in the afternoon. Robert Jordan is sitting on the rocks reading the letters of the dead cavalryman. The firing at Sordo's has remained minimal for a while.
  • The boy he killed that morning was from Tafalla in Navarra, twenty-one and unmarried. He was a Carlist (Carlists were a right-wing Catholic political party who sided with the fascists in the Spanish Civil War). Robert Jordan is not happy that he had to kill him.
  • The first letters he had looked at were from the boy's sister, apparently a very serious and religious girl who repeatedly reminded him (with underlining) to keep the Sacred Heart of Jesus over his own heart, as it has been proven to deflect bullets.
  • Another letter is from the boy's fiancĂ©e, who is desperately worried about him. Robert Jordan can't bear to read any more.
  • Primitivo asks him what he's reading, and he tells him.
  • Mentally, Robert Jordan is having an unhappy little dialogue with himself about killing.
  • The gist of it is that he doesn't think it's ever right to kill, or that many of the people he's killed are really fascists who deserve to die, but it's necessary to kill them anyway.
  • Robert Jordan tries to figure out how many people he's killed.
  • He urges himself to stop thinking like this. It's not good for his work. But he doesn't have a right to stop thinking about it, he tells himself.
  • Does he have a right to love Maria? he asks. Oh yes.
  • But a thorough-going Communist materialism doesn't allow for love. Guess I was never really a Communist materialist, thinks Robert Jordan.
  • Instead of "dialectical materialism" (a foundational part of Communist theory), Robert Jordan believes in the plain old American values of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
  • He tells himself he must not be duped about his love for Maria. Just because many people don't have anything like it, and might deny such a thing exists, that doesn't mean it's not real. He knows it is.
  • How are things at Sordo's, he wonders? Just then he sees the planes.

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