Study Guide

For Whom the Bell Tolls Chapter 8

By Ernest Hemingway

Chapter 8

  • Robert Jordan wakes up at first daylight, finding himself bereft of Maria (that is, she's gone). He sees Pablo going into the cave – presumably (he thinks) from corralling the horses. He goes back to sleep.
  • He wakes up again to the sound of airplane motors. A fascist patrol of three planes passes overhead, heading in the direction from which he and Anselmo had come the day before. Then come nine more. Then some bombers. Then more bombers.
  • The planes keep coming. Robert Jordan slips on his clothes and goes to the mouth of the cave to avoid being seen.
  • Pablo says he has never seen so many bombers, and Robert Jordan starts to worry. The planes must be crossing Republican lines…will they start to bomb? No sound of bombs. They must be passing to a further target...
  • Still no sound of bombs.
  • Robert Jordan asks Anselmo to set up somewhere on the road where he can remain hidden and keep track of all the enemy vehicles, troops, and weapons that pass on it. Anselmo can't write, so Robert Jordan teaches him a symbol and counting system to keep track of what he sees.
  • Rafael is to go with Anselmo, Robert Jordan tells Anselmo, so as to find the spot and be able to lead someone else there when it is time to relieve Anselmo.
  • Summoning Rafael, Robert Jordan gives him those instructions, and tells him that, after leaving Anselmo, he is to watch the bridge. He needs to find out how many sentries there are, and how often they relieve each other.
  • Robert Jordan himself will go visit El Sordo.
  • Pilar comes with the morning coffee, and asks where the planes are going. Robert Jordan tells her his thoughts.
  • Pilar then asks Fernando, a man we haven't yet met (the last band member), what movement there was in La Granja. He was there the night before.
  • Fernando only heard rumors in La Granja. Nothing about planes, but people were talking about the Republic preparing a "big offensive." A rumor is also circulating that the Republicans might try to blow up some bridges. And he's not joking. Fernando never jokes.
  • Another unpleasant rumor: fascist troops might be sent to clean out the mountains. (Gulp.)
  • Anselmo and Rafael get sent off by Robert Jordan.
  • Robert Jordan's "woman for now" comes out with breakfast and serves him. When he looks at her, she starts to shake. She seems happy to touch him, though.
  • Pilar asks whether Fernando likes the breakfast stew. He does, because it's just like it always is. Pilar is disgusted. Fernando's a "monument to the usual."
  • The exasperated Pilar wonders whether there are people like Fernando anywhere besides Spain. Robert Jordan and Fernando both agree there's nowhere quite like Spain, and Fernando, who has never been anywhere else, says he never wants to go anywhere else.
  • Maria asks Fernando to tell her about his time in Valencia. He doesn't like Valencia.
  • That gets Pilar's goat too. She loves Valencia, because she and a former boyfriend named Finito (a bullfighter) went there once and had the time of her life. Delicious food, making love in the afternoon, drinking cold beer.
  • Pilar jabs at Pablo that they've never been to Valencia. Pablo says they've done other things: did Pilar ever blow up a train with Finito? Apparently not. But Pilar demands that no one trash-talk Valencia.
  • Just then they hear the sound of the planes returning.