Study Guide

For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 38

By Ernest Hemingway

Chapter 38

  • The band is in the cave, gathered around the fire. The men are bristling with instruments of destruction.
  • Robert Jordan asks whether the band's grenades are good and trustworthy. Eladio, in his glorious debut as a speaking human being, says they are.
  • Asking about another set of explosives shaped like soup tins, Robert Jordan learns they aren't very good.
  • As Robert Jordan starts to plan the operation, he thinks that the whole thing is impossible. Always a good way to start planning something.
  • Robert Jordan cannot bear the thought that trying to accomplish the mission will lead everyone to die a futile (pointless) death. What is he to do?
  • Pilar notices his mounting despair, and goes over to reassure him that they will all be able to do what they are supposed to do.
  • As Pilar prepares to say something else to Robert Jordan, she falls silent and her mouth drops open. Following her gaze to the mouth of the cave, Robert Jordan sees…
  • Surprise! It's Pablo.
  • Good news: Pablo has rounded up five extra men, and their (five) horses. Bad news: Pablo has also thrown the detonation devices into the river. Also in the plus column, though: he's thought of a way to set off the dynamite with grenades.
  • Robert Jordan is quick to point out that he has too.
  • Pilar, still shocked, asks Pablo what's going on.
  • Pablo tells her that he had a moment of weakness, but overcame it. In his heart, he is not a coward. He had hoped at first that by stealing the detonators, he would prevent them from mounting the attack and getting themselves killed, but eventually he realized that they were just dedicated and brainless enough to do it.
  • Pablo's not back for Robert Jordan's sake, that's for sure. But after throwing away the explosive devices, he said, he felt "too lonely." It was "a loneliness that cannot be borne." Whereas yesterday, when he was helping the group, he felt happy.
  • Pablo assures Pilar that the people he has brought are good. And stupid enough not to know quite what they're getting into. Just the kind he likes. Pilar's just happy to have her husband back.
  • Pablo takes a swig from Robert Jordan's bottle, and they're off!

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