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Free Study Guide-For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway-BookNotes
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CHAPTERS 21 - 27


In the morning, Jordan wakes up to the sound of an approaching horseman. As soon as he sees that the man wears an enemy uniform, he shoots him. On hearing the gunshot, the others come out of the cave. Jordan tells Primitivo to go and catch the horse, which has trotted away with the dead cavalryman hanging from one of its stirrups.

When Jordan spies Rafael in the group, he is livid, for he has left his post unguarded. Jordan sends Agustin out with a gun to take Rafael's place. He then tells Pablo to take the horse out in the other direction to confuse the fascists if they try to follow the hoof prints.

He then asks Andres to keep the horses ready in case they need to escape and tells Pilar to look after his sacks. He also asks her to search the body of the dead calvaryman to find any papers he might have been carrying.

As they climb up to where Agustin is on guard, Jordan thinks about El Sordo and hopes that his tracks in the snow have not been found by the enemy. He then tells Primitivo to cut him some pine branches to make a stand for the guard's gun. When Agustin displays his ignorance about handling the gun, Jordan is surprised that the guerillas have not been better trained to use weapons. It is one more example of how sloppily the war effort has been put together, making Jordan's mission even more dangerous.

Jordan notices Rafael approaching, carrying two hares in each hand. He seems oblivious to the danger that surrounds them. When Jordan scolds him, Rafael finally seems to understand what a grave mistake it was to leave the post unguarded. After Rafael leaves, Jordan tells Anselmo that he should go and check the activity on the road; then when the snow melts, he should go in to La Granja to see what he can learn about what is going on with the fascists. Jordan also gives strict orders to the guards, Primitivo and Agustin, to shoot at the enemy only if it is absolutely necessary.

Before Anselmo departs, Jordan notices four fascist calvarymen approaching on horseback. They have evidently been following the tracks of the dead calvaryman. Anselmo thinks they should shoot at them, but Jordan is wise enough to hold fire. It is fortunate that he has patience, for suddenly many more soldiers come into view. Jordan and the small group of guerillas are certainly not equipped to fight them all. Fortunately, the calvary passes, following the tracks that Pablo has made in the snow with the dead man's horse.

After eating, Jordan and Agustin discuss Maria. Agustin asks Jordan not to treat his affair with Maria lightly, for the girl has been traumatized already. Jordan assures him that he intends to marry her after the operation is over. He now seems more interested in Maria than in does in his mission.

Jordan hears gunfire coming from the direction of El Sordo's camp. It is obvious that the enemy has followed his tracks in the snow, as Jordan has feared. Agustin and Primitivo want to go and help El Sordo, but the rational Jordan stops them. He knows that he needs the two men alive for his mission. As a result, the three of them listen to the fighting, feeling hopeless and helpless. Pilar, hearing the gunfire, has come to check on Jordan and the others. When she realizes that it is El Sordo involved in the battle, she feels sorry for him; but she agrees with Jordan that it would be foolish to send men to aid the guerilla leader. When they hear an enemy plane overhead, Pilar superstitiously calls it "the bad luck bird." Before she leaves, Pilar tells Jordan that she will send the papers of the dead cavalryman with Maria.

After the gunfire slows down to the point where there is only an occasional shot, Maria arrives, bringing the papers. When Jordan goes through them, he finds letters from the dead man's sister and fiancée; he is reminded that the calvaryman was another human being, just trying to carry out his orders. Jordan suddenly feels disgusted with himself for killing the innocent man. He tries to appease his conscience by saying that he has always killed for a cause, but the argument is no longer convincing.

El Sordo and his men put up a brave fight, but they are outnumbered and overpowered. El Sordo does, however, manage to kill one officer before the planes arrive to bomb them. After all the guerillas are dead, the fascist leader, Lieutenant Berrendo, orders his men to cut the heads from the dead bodies as evidence of their victory over them. It is ironic that El Sordo and his entire guerilla band have been destroyed, for Jordan was told that they were much better organized and prepared than Pablo's guerilla band; as a result, Jordan again fears the worst for his mission.

Chapter 27 brings young Joaquin into the spotlight. He learns that Pasionaria, who has been preaching Communist ideals and slogans to him, has a son safely tucked away in Russia. At first Joaquin is not willing to believe that the sons of generals are spared and rest in safety in Russia while young men like him are exhorted to fight. When he realizes the truth of the situation, he becomes disillusioned.


In chapter 21, Jordan shows his ability to change roles quickly. One moment he is lying tenderly next to Maria, and the next moment he is shooting at and killing an approaching fascist calvaryman. Maria again shows her superstitious nature, for she is concerned that Jordan has shot him on his Sacred Heart badge. Later in the section, Pilar will again reveal her superstition when she calls an enemy plane "the bad luck bird."

Throughout this section, Jordan again proves that he is a rational thinker. He sends Primitivo to go and rescue the calvaryman's horse to use in their mission. He also tells Pilar to search the dead man's body for important papers. He warns the guards not to shoot at the enemy unless it is absolutely necessary, and when Anselmo wants to fire at four approaching fascist calvarymen, Jordan will not let him. He understands that other foot soldiers may follow behind them. Jordan also sees firsthand how sloppily the war effort has been put together. He is horrified that Rafael dares to leave his post unguarded in order to go out and chase rabbits; he is equally upset by the fact that the men have not been trained in the use of weapons.

The real action in this section centers in El Sordo's camp. As Jordan has feared, the enemy has followed El Sordo's tracks in the snow and attacked, first with ground artillery and then with bombs from overhead. Primitivo wants to go to Sordo's aid, but the rational Jordan convinces him of the futility of such an action. After the bombing is over, the fascist lieutenant gives the barbaric order to severe the heads of the dead guerillas as proof of their victory.

After things are quiet again, Maria brings the papers from the dead cavalryman, including personal letters from the soldier's sister and fiancée. The letters cause another inner turmoil in Jordan. He thinks of the dead soldier as another human being with relatives, just like himself. He also ponders the fact that he has killed another twenty human beings and assumes many of them were not even really fascists. He again questions his political ideology. He reduces his beliefs to "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," coupled with "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

An obvious contrast is intentionally developed in this section. Joaquin's Hail Mary can be juxtaposed with Berrendo's chanting of Hail Mary. The former does it just before the shelling commences; Berrendo says the Hail Mary over the body of his dead comrade. By juxtaposing the two, Hemingway has tried to show that men on both sides are essentially "human" in need of God - not "fascists" or "loyalists."

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