For Whom the Bell Tolls; Synopsis
Robert Jordan is the protagonist of this novel and the plot revolves around him,
his conflicts, and his newfound love as I will reveal. Robert Jordan is an American, who
lived in Spain for ten years, he is an expert in dynamite, and he is devoted to the
Republican cause in the Spanish civil war. A Russian officer, General Golz, send
Jordan on a dangerous mission to blow up a key bridge in an offensive behind enemy
lines, in the Sierra Mountains. Anselmo an old Spaniard, guides Jordan past enemy
lines to see the bridge, which was guarded by fascists on both sides. After that
Anselmo takes Jordan to meet the guerilla band he will be working with on this mission.
The leader of the guerilla band is a man named Pablo. Pablo once was a feared
an honorable man but throughout the book his respect diminishes. Pablo is against
Jordan’s mission right from the start because he thinks Jordan is there to get their band
out of the mountains. Pablo is important to the plot because he provides a challenge
for Jordan that results in the death of Anselmo, Jordan’s friend.
When they get to the guerilla cave, they sit down to eat and drink wine, then
Maria enters, bearing food. Maria is a Spanish girl who was rescued from the fasicists
by the guerilla band when they were on a mission to blow up a train. Jordan notices
Maria and is instantaneously attracted to her. Jordan also meets Pilar, Pablo’s woman,
who fights alongside the band. Pilar is a strong woman and her leadership ability is
displayed later when she takes over the band. Pilar encourages Jordan to pursue
Maria, but she warns him to take care of her, for she has undergone tremendous
Jordan and Anselmo leave to inspect the bridge. Jordan sketches it and takes
notes on the best way to place the explosives. On the way back to the cave the two
men discuss war. Anselmo believes it is a sin to kill even in war, but he claims he will
kill for the cause. Jordan says he is fully prepared to kill the enemy. When they are
not far from the cave they encounter Agustin who was on guard. Agustin warns Jordan
to protect his explosives from Pablo.
Everybody hushes up when Jordan enters, indicating they had been talking
about him. Pablo voices his disapproval of the mission. Pilar interrupts to say she
supports the demolition of the bridge. Pablo leaves the cave to tend his horses. When
Jordan goes to follow Pablo, Rafael tells him that he should kill Pablo.
In the cave Pilar is worried that El Sordo, another guerilla leader, has not
showed up. They agree to go and visit him the next day. When everyone goes off to
bed for the night, Maria comes out and joins Jordan. They awake to the sound of
fascist airplanes. When Jordan goes into the cave he hears Pilar asking Fernando
what news he has brought from La Granga. Fernando says that there is talk of a
Republican offensive. This news disturbs Jordan as this mission was to remain
confidential, for if the fascists get wind of it they might be planning a counter-offensive.
Jordan, Maria, And Pilar depart fo Sordo’s camp. Along the way, Pilar talks
about when they invaded a town. They had the townspeople massacre all of the
fascists in Anila, the town in which Pablo came from. When they arrive at Sordo’s cave
he greets them and then talks to Jordan. They discuss how night would be a better
time for attacking the bridge, but the orders do not allow for it. They then discuss the
planned daytime attack, when they realize they don’t have enough horses for the
mission. Sordo volunteers to steal some horses later on.
When they get back to Pablo’s cave area, Jordan goes to retrieve Anselmo who
was monitoring enemy movement. When he returnsto the cave he gets into a fight
with Pablo. After Pablo leaves, all of the others encourage him to kill Pablo. When
Pablo comes back he is polite and crisis is averted.
The next day Jordan awakes to the sound of approaching cavalrymen. When he
sees the uniform he realizes it’s a fascist and he then takes him out. He then orders
the other to take their posts. Four other fascists come into range, but the men hold
their fire, so as not to make a confrontation. Soon they hear gunfire coming from El
Sordo’s camp, Sordo had been trapped on a hilltop under fire from the fascist planes.
The fascist leader orders their heads cut off to make an example.
Since the fascists are taking the offensive, Jordan sends a note to General Golz,
asking him to cancel the guerilla attack. He goes to sleep that night with Maria, who
talks about her traumatic past. At two o’clock in the morning Pilar wakes Jordan to tell
him that his sacks of explosives have been slit open, and Pablo left. When Jordan
goes to check the sacks, he finds the exploder, detonaters, fuse and caps are missing.
Pablo has also take two horses with him. Jordan is enraged.
He comes up with a plan to use grenades to set off the dynamite. When Pilar
hears of the plan, she bravely volunteers to take Pablo’s post. Suddenly Pablo returns
and admits to throwing the gear in teh river, but as an act of concilation he brought men
from other bands to help with the attack on the bridge.
Andres, who took the message to General Golz did not succeed in reaching
Golz in time. As a result the Republican planes took off and the shelling of the fascists
was underway. Pablo goes to his lower post and begins to attack. Jordan now has no
choice but to follow through with the mission. Jordan and Anselmo place the
explosives on the bridge, when they finish they see that the guerillas in the upper post
are retreating and Fernando is badly wounded.
Anselmo pulls the wire to detonate the dynamite and the middle of the bridge
drops into the gorge. Anselmo is killed from shrapnel. The guerillas rush to the rally
point where Maria is waiting with the horses, the mount and leave. The climax of the
entire novel is now when Jordan’s horse is hit in the back, and it falls on him crushing
his left leg.
He is dragged away so he has some cover, but he knows he’s not going to make
it. Maria wants to stay but he urges her to go and save herself. As they leave Agustin
offers to shoot Jordan sparing him from capture by the enemy, but he refuses. He is
going to attempt to slow down the enemy so Maria can reach safety. Jordan takes aim
at the nearest officer and squeezes the trigger.
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