Study Guide

For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 31

By Ernest Hemingway

Chapter 31

  • Robert Jordan and Maria. In "bed," by which we mean sleeping bag. Not clothed.
  • Maria is ashamed. She is in pain (she worries this may be because she was internally damaged when she was raped) and can't have sex.
  • Robert Jordan comforts her, telling her it does not matter; they are together, and simply feeling her by him is enough. He's lying, as he admits to himself.
  • Since they can't have regular sex, Robert Jordan proposes they try something they've never done before: talking to each other. Why don't they talk about Madrid?
  • Maria asks if there's "anything else" she might do for him. (Robert Jordan thinks to Onan, the Biblical figure who "spilled his seed on the ground," thereby outraging God and incurring instant death.)
  • So no, Robert Jordan does not want to get physical right now. Just talk about Madrid.
  • So they dream of Madrid. Of staying in hotels, buying nice clothes for Maria – though Maria wants to keep her wedding shirt – trying whiskey, and more stuff Robert Jordan knows they're never going to do because they're all going to die tomorrow.
  • Talk turns to their love. Maria promises no other man will touch her until she dies. Robert Jordan says he will marry her. Maria's not hugely excited by that – apparently marriage isn't so important to her after all.
  • Maria says that Pilar told her that they will all die tomorrow, and that Robert Jordan knows it.
  • Robert Jordan calls Pilar a "manure-mouthed superstitious b****," and says Maria shouldn't believe her.
  • They start dreaming of the future again, this time of Maria's hair.
  • From there its back to Madrid, and how they will spend their time there – where they would live, how they'll go to the movies, whether they will have a servant. Pilar's "instruction" had consisted in telling Maria how to be a good wife.
  • Pilar had told Maria that she should tell Robert Jordan what had happened to her if it ever weighed on her, as that might rid her of it.
  • Although Maria says it does not weigh on her now, she begins to tell her story.
  • Maria's father was the mayor of her town, and was killed by the fascists. When they shot him he cried "Viva la Republica." Her mother was shot after him, and cried "Viva my husband who was the Mayor of this village" (she herself was not a Republican).
  • Maria then describes what happened to her. She was taken with other girls and tied up in a long line. When it was noticed that she was the daughter of the mayor, she was chosen as the one to "start with."
  • Maria was taken to a barbershop, where her braids were cut off violently, and she was beaten and mocked. Then she was taken to her father's office, where she was raped on the couch.
  • Robert Jordan feels himself filled with hatred. Both he and Maria feel a sudden and powerful urge to kill fascists. At least they'll do that tomorrow.
  • Pilar had told Maria one last thing, which she has to tell Robert Jordan: it is possible that because of the violence done to her, she cannot have children. She is worried that he will not marry her.
  • Robert Jordan says he would marry her anyway.
  • They go to sleep, bidding each other good night as husband and wife.
  • Still awake and thinking, Robert Jordan thinks of the horrible things done to Maria, and his hatred.
  • He recognizes that the Republicans have also done horrific things to the fascists. But they have an excuse the fascists don't: they are uneducated and don't know better, whereas those who did that to Maria were "the flowers of Spanish chivalry." He thinks about how incomprehensible the Spanish are, at once the finest and worse people in the world.
  • Wondering whether they will die tomorrow, Robert Jordan wishes the last night could have been different. But he was impressed at the valor of Maria's parents in the story.
  • Kissing her, he whispers that he wants to marry her, and is proud of her family.