Study Guide

For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 3

By Ernest Hemingway

Chapter 3

  • Cut to the bridge: Robert Jordan and Anselmo are about fifty yards from it. It's late afternoon, and the sun is setting.
  • Robert Jordan sketches the bridge, and concludes it will be easy to blow up with half a dozen charges or so.
  • There are sentry boxes around the bridge, and Anselmo points to one facing them further up the road. Robert Jordan investigates it with binoculars. The other sentry box is on the other side of the bridge, and they can't see into it from their spot.
  • There's a third post, Anselmo tells Robert Jordan, five hundred meters below the turn in the road at the other end of the bridge, in a roadmender's hut. Eight men there.
  • While they wait, three planes pass overhead in V formation. Anselmo asks whether they are "theirs," and Robert Jordan agrees they probably are. But upon observation, he sees they're not – they're fascist planes.
  • They talk about winning the war, and Anselmo says that afterwards Robert Jordan must come to hunt animals with him. Robert Jordan's not so enthusiastic; he doesn't like to kill animals, whereas Anselmo confesses it is his favorite thing to do.
  • Anselmo replies that he does not like to kill men. Robert Jordan agrees that nobody does, except someone who's sick in the head. A conversation about killing follows. Both agree it's not good, but necessary in a war.
  • Anselmo, when asked by Jordan, says that he has killed several times, but not with pleasure. He believes it is always a sin to kill a man – men are utterly unlike animals. Even fascists. He hopes that, if he lives long enough, he can live without doing harm to anyone, and his sins can be forgiven.
  • We learn that Anselmo's given up his religion, though he still believes in sin, apparently. (Note: the Catholic Church of Spain had sided with the fascists, which led many Republicans to abandon it.) If Anselmo had his druthers, the fascists wouldn't be killed, but made to work, so they could understand the common people.
  • Anselmo notes that there are many who enjoy killing. Pablo's one of them.
  • Promising Robert Jordan that he will follow his orders, Anselmo also admits that he needs orders because they keep him from running. Robert Jordan feels a wave of resentment for his orders, because they might lead both him and Anselmo to their deaths.
  • The two of them walk back to camp, where they are greeted by a very foul-mouthed sentry, who demands a password for them to go through. He's forgotten the first half, however. Not much of a sentry.
  • Agustín's the name of the potty-mouth. He asks whether what he's heard about the bridge is true: "Then we'll blow up an obscene bridge and then have to obscenely well obscenity ourselves off out of these mountains?" Robert Jordan refuses to give him an answer.
  • Agustín tells Robert Jordan to look after his explosive.
  • Anselmo and Robert Jordan continue past, and Anselmo tells Robert Jordan that Agustín , in spite of his "color," is a very good and serious man. He can be trusted, as can the mujer. Pablo cannot. Somebody trustworthy should guard the explosive at all times.
  • El Sordo, says Anselmo, is good, as good as Pablo's bad. Pablo, he's now convinced, is most definitely bad.