Here you will find a For Whom the Bell Tolls summary (Ernest Hemingway's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.
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In May 1937, at the peak of the Spanish Civil War, an American named Robert Jordan decides to join the Republican side. He finds himself deep within enemy territory, working with Spanish guerrilla fighters in their mountainous hideouts. The Republicans have entrusted him with the treacherous and complex mission of destroying a bridge controlled by the Fascists. Guided by a local peasant, Anselmo, he reaches the guerrilla camp led by a man named Pablo. However, Pablo shows hostility towards Robert and opposes the mission, fearing it will put their group at risk. Robert begins to worry that Pablo might betray them. Inside the camp, Robert meets Pilar, Pablo's partner who seems to hold the real power within the group. He also encounters a group of diverse individuals, each with their unique personalities and backgrounds. Among them is Maria, a young woman abused by the Fascists who instantly draws Robert's attention. Despite Pablo's initial resistance, the group eventually agrees to support Robert's mission. Throughout this time, Robert and Maria grow closer, professing their love for one another and promising a shared future. Meanwhile, Robert consults with El Sordo, the leader of another guerrilla group, who agrees to aid in the mission despite concerns about its execution in broad daylight. The mission's execution day arrives with a series of challenges. Pablo, after a period of drunken defiance, disappears with some of the explosives meant for the bridge, only to return later claiming regret and offering additional support. Robert's dispatch to the Republican command calling for the mission's cancellation is unfortunately delivered too late. The bridge is successfully destroyed, but not without the loss of Anselmo and others. During their retreat, Robert is critically injured and is left behind. As he awaits the advancing Fascist forces alone, he reflects on his final days, grateful for the intensity of life he experienced in love and war. As the enemy approaches, he readies himself for one final act of defiance.
"For Whom the Bell Tolls" begins with a brief, influential quote, known as an epigraph, setting the emotional tone and theme of the story. The epigraph comes from an essay by John Donne, a 17th-century British poet. Donne's words convey that no one is completely independent - "No man is an island, entire of itself" - as we all form part of a larger community. In this sense, when one person passes away, it impacts Donne, because he, too, is a part of humanity. Donne cautions not to question who the death bell rings for, as it ultimately rings for all mankind.
In May 1937, Anselmo, an elderly peasant, and Robert Jordan, a young American professor siding with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, overlook the Spanish landscape from a hill. Anselmo is leading Robert Jordan to a guerrilla group near the bridge he's been tasked to destroy behind enemy lines. Anselmo leaves Robert Jordan by a creek close to the guerilla camp to inform the fighters of the incoming stranger. While waiting, Robert Jordan reflects on his previous night's conversation with General Golz, a Russian. Golz had detailed the plan to destroy the bridge as a part of a bigger mission to capture Segovia, a task both men agreed was challenging. Anselmo returns with Pablo, the guerilla camp's leader. Pablo demonstrates open hostility towards Robert Jordan. Despite Pablo's illiteracy, Robert Jordan shows him his ID papers. Pablo opposes Robert Jordan's bridge demolition plan and initially refuses to help transport the dynamite-filled packs, relenting only after Anselmo's admonishment. Further up the mountain, they pass Pablo's makeshift horse corral with five horses presumably either found or stolen by the guerilla group. Pablo quizzes Robert Jordan on his knowledge of horses. Anselmo brings up the last significant guerrilla mission involving Pablo and Russian operative Kashkin who bombed an enemy train. Robert Jordan reveals Kashkin's death, which prompts Pablo to voice his reluctance to obey Robert Jordan's commands. Robert Jordan internally concludes that Pablo's melancholy is indicative of his wavering loyalty to the Republicans. He suspects that Pablo might betray their cause and interprets any sudden kindness from Pablo as a sign of betrayal. Pushing these thoughts aside, Robert Jordan anticipates dinner.
Robert Jordan encounters Rafael, an elderly gypsy from Pablo’s camp, outside their cave hideout. While they enjoy wine and Russian cigarettes, Robert Jordan shares that Kashkin, their former comrade, killed himself upon capture, though he omits the details. Privately, he feels Kashkin's nervousness did more damage than good. Soon, Maria, a young woman with short hair, serves them food. She self-consciously explains the Fascists shortened her once long hair during her recent capture. She was on the train that Pablo and Kashkin destroyed, and later rejoined the guerilla group. Robert Jordan is attracted to Maria, and learns she is single. After Maria departs, Rafael shares details about their camp, including their machine gun, and how Pilar, Pablo’s partner, insisted on welcoming Maria. He nostalgically recalls the train attack, comparing the exploding engine to a "great wounded animal," and admits operating the machine gun. Pilar, a stout, blunt half-gypsy, emerges from the cave next. She asks Robert Jordan to take Maria with him when he departs. She reads his palm, and although he dismisses superstition, he is keen to understand her findings. Pilar mentions that El Sordo, leader of a nearby guerrilla group, can assist with the bridge mission. Finally, Anselmo and Robert Jordan gear up to inspect the bridge.
Robert Jordan and Anselmo survey a bridge. Jordan studies a sentry with a “peasant face” through his binoculars. Fascist aircrafts hover in the sky, yet Jordan lets Anselmo assume they belong to the Republicans. They converse about war and faith. Anselmo enjoys hunting but despises taking human lives, while Jordan abhors killing animals but doesn't hesitate to kill humans if needed. They reminisce about gypsies and Native Americans treating bears as kin. Anselmo expresses his longing for faith, while Jordan silently questions his mission and ponders over Maria. During their return, they encounter Agustín, Pablo's fellow band member, who is on guard duty but has forgotten half the password. Agustín advises Jordan to be careful with his explosives. Once they are alone, Anselmo confides that Agustín can be trusted unlike Pablo, who is “bad.”
Robert Jordan returns to the camp and enters the strained atmosphere of the cave, meeting Primitivo and the siblings Andrés and Eladio. With the camp's wine supply dwindling, he consumes his own absinthe. Pablo, the group's leader, reveals he will not partake in the bridge detonation. Robert Jordan retorts that he and Anselmo can manage without him. Pilar vocally supports the mission and the Republic, earning the agreement of the other men. Pilar's leadership is recognized, leading to Pablo reluctantly conceding. As Robert Jordan shares his strategies for the bridge, Pilar casts a look of sadness and apprehension at Pablo.
Following their meal, Robert Jordan exits the cave into the evening. Rafael, inside, is jesting about Catalans in a song when Pablo cuts him off. Joining Robert Jordan outside, Rafael suggests that Robert Jordan should have eliminated Pablo in their previous argument. Robert Jordan admits he thought about it but didn't want to upset the rest of their group. Elsewhere, Pablo is affectionately speaking to one of his horses. The author points out the horse cannot comprehend Pablo's words.
Within the cavern, Pilar remarks on Robert Jordan's grave demeanor. He retorts that his opposition lies with Fascism, not in favor of Communism. The topic of his father's self-destruction visibly unsettles him. Maria reveals her budding feelings for Robert Jordan, who responds by gently caressing her hair. Alone with Pilar, he questions if eliminating Pablo would have been the right course of action. Pilar, however, confirms that Pablo no longer poses a threat.
Robert Jordan finds himself sleeping outside the cave, clad in a robe. In the early hours of the morning, Maria rouses him, joining him beneath the robe. His attempt to kiss her makes her uneasy. She insists that she cannot share his bed unless he loves her. Assured of his love, she reciprocates the sentiment. Maria confides in Robert Jordan about her past experiences of sexual assault, revealing that Pilar advised her that making love with someone she truly cares for could help soothe her traumatic memories. He teaches her to kiss, and they become intimate.
As day breaks, Maria has disappeared. Roused from sleep by the loud drone of enemy planes, Robert Jordan watches as forty-five aircraft pass overhead, assembled in formations of three and nine. He grows concerned that the Fascists might be aware of their impending guerrilla attack, prompting him to dispatch Anselmo to observe the road. During their morning meal, Fernando, a member of their group, shares hearsay about a likely Republican assault in La Granja, the closest town. Pilar reminisces about her visit to Valencia when her partner, Finito, was participating in a bullfight there. The ominous sound of enemy aircraft once again fills the air after breakfast.
Triple opposing aircraft hover extremely close. Robert Jordan assures Pilar of Maria's safety in his hands. Pilar discloses that Pablo, after their night of intimacy, wept due to his crew's rejection of his authority. In a confidential chat with Pilar, Agustín admits his doubts towards Pablo, yet he still desires Pablo's guidance for their escape strategy post the bridge demolition.
Pilar, Maria, and Robert Jordan set off to meet El Sordo regarding the bridge mission. During a break, Pilar laments her looks, despite acknowledging her numerous romantic encounters. Pilar narrates a tale of the war's onset in Pablo’s hometown. Pablo executed four Fascist guards before designing a gruesome strategy to eliminate the town Fascists, likened by Pilar to a bull-baiting event. Pablo and his followers made each Fascist walk a gauntlet of Republican peasants who thrashed him before hurling him off a cliff. The remaining Fascists and their priest prayed in a cell until Pablo opened the door, leading to their brutal slaughter by a mob. Pablo later criticized the priest’s lack of composure. Pablo and Pilar refrained from making love that night. Pilar calls that day, and another day three days later when the Fascists reclaimed the town, the worst days of her life. Pilar’s tale brings back a memory for Robert Jordan of witnessing a black man's lynching in Ohio at age seven.
Joaquín, a young guard at El Sordo’s camp, welcomes Robert Jordan, Pilar, and Maria. Joaquín and Maria reminisce about when Joaquín rescued her after guerrillas sabotaged the Fascist train she was captive in. Joaquín shares how Fascists took his family's lives, causing Robert Jordan to reflect on the impact of his military missions on Republican villagers. Maria reassures Joaquín, stating they're all his family now, a sentiment Pilar enforces with Robert Jordan's inclusion. Robert Jordan and Pilar seek assistance from El Sordo, a laconic man with hearing impairment, for their bridge demolition mission. Robert Jordan confesses to mercy killing the injured Kashkin at his request. He and El Sordo strategize about logistics and methods, lamenting over the unavoidable daylight timing of the operation due to its place in a larger offensive, which complicates their retreat. The idea of retreating to the Gredos mountains is discussed, despite Pilar's preference to escape to areas under Republican control.
Pilar, looking worn and moody, is returning to Pablo's base. She confesses to Maria her envy of her young age and attractiveness, and her resentment towards giving Maria to Robert Jordan. True to her word, Pilar departs. Robert Jordan considers going after Pilar, but Maria persuades him to let her leave.
After a romantic encounter in the woods, Robert Jordan and Maria walk to meet Pilar. Maria shares her intense feelings of dying each time they make love, which Robert Jordan brushes off as he reflects on his work. While he fights with the Communists, he's not invested in their beliefs, but sees them as the better option for this war. He sees a great need for organization in the Republican government, questioning whether their leaders might sometimes act against their own people's interests. Robert Jordan contemplates bringing Maria back to Montana as his wife, despite his concerns about being a Communist in a potentially unwelcoming environment. He dreams of documenting his war experiences in a book and wonders if his brief time in the mountains might ultimately define his life. His reverie is interrupted by Maria, who shows him a razor blade she keeps for emergencies, promising to protect him. When they reunite with Pilar, she teases Maria about the earth moving during her time with Robert Jordan. Pilar claims this phenomenon only occurs three times in one's life. Attempting to deflect Pilar's jibes, Robert Jordan insists they should concentrate more on work than on mysteries. As they proceed, Pilar notes the unusual weather – an impending snowfall in late May.
When Pilar, Maria, and Robert Jordan come back to their base, snow is already falling. Pablo foresees a heavy snowfall. Robert Jordan experiences a brief moment of frustration and revulsion at his assignment and the entire war, but he regains his composure quickly. He learns from Pablo that Pablo used to manage horses for Finito, Pilar's past partner and a matador. Pilar narrates an incident where Finito was heavily struck by a bull during a combat. Finito caused a commotion at a celebration dinner following the bullfight and succumbed to death that winter. Once Pilar concludes her story, Rafael comes back from his surveillance duty and provides an update. Fernando offers to guide Robert Jordan to fetch Anselmo who is monitoring the road.
Anselmo, undeterred by the snowstorm, keeps watch over Fascist soldiers stationed in a sawmill nearby. He identifies with the soldiers, recognizing them as fellow impoverished peasants. Anselmo's thoughts drift back to his first killing during a Pablo-led raid. Inside the sawmill, a discussion arises among a corporal and three Fascist soldiers, pertaining to the weather and the Fascists’ superior air force. Anselmo, stationed outside, battles with the cold and loneliness, yearning for the comfort of prayer. Eventually, Robert Jordan and Fernando show up and guide Anselmo back to their base. Robert Jordan expresses admiration for Anselmo's dedication to his duty, evident in his maintaining his position throughout the snowstorm.
Pilar informs Robert Jordan about El Sordo's visit and his quest for more horses while back at the cave. Robert Jordan appreciates the gesture of El Sordo bringing him whiskey, as Maria diligently tends to him. Pablo, however, alternates between offending Robert Jordan and sharing his remorse over the Fascist massacre in his home town while consuming his drink in solitude. The rest of the men, including Primitivo, try to lighten the atmosphere by asking Robert Jordan about his Spanish teaching job and the social policies in America. Robert Jordan plots to incite Pablo into a fight, considering it a perfect chance to eliminate him without the group's hostility. Nevertheless, Pablo refuses, remaining undisturbed even when Agustín punches him and labels him a horse-lover. Eventually, Pablo exits to attend to his horses.
As Pablo is absent, those in the cavern debate Pablo's fate. Rafael proposes handing him over to the Fascists, but unanimity is reached that his life must be ended. The task falls upon Robert Jordan, who agrees to carry it out that night. Suddenly, a smirking Pablo reappears and casually inquires if they were discussing him. He returns to his wine drinking, and nonchalantly declares his support for the bridge mission. Pilar covertly hints to Robert Jordan that she believes Pablo eavesdropped on their conversation about his impending death.
Robert Jordan recalls his regular clashes with Pablo, likening them to a constant spinning merry-go-round. As he finalises plans to destroy the bridge, his mind wanders to Madrid. He pictures himself at the Florida Hotel and dining at Gaylord's, a popular spot for Russian expats. It was here he initially felt uneasy about the deceptive nature of many Spanish Republican leaders, as well as their indulgence, but he eventually came to accept these realities. At the same restaurant, he met Karkov, a clever journalist for Pravda who had an eye for women. They became friends. Robert Jordan remembers Karkov once had the duty of poisoning three captive, injured Russians if Madrid fell to the Fascists, to hide any trace of Russian interference. Karkov had casually mentioned that poisoning isn't hard when one is always prepared to poison oneself. Robert Jordan recollects another incident involving Karkov. During a strike on Madrid, he had to leave a dead man in the street to tend to another man with a severe arm injury. Shortly after, he met a reputable British economist, Mitchell. Mitchell's scholarly demeanor irked Robert Jordan, causing him to snap. Later, in a conversation with Karkov about Mitchell, Karkov recommended Robert Jordan learn philosophy. He also complimented Robert Jordan's scholarly book. Upon reflecting upon this, Robert Jordan decides to write another book, this time about the raw truths of war, which he concedes are “not so simple.”
Maria disrupts Robert Jordan's thoughts. Pilar publicly asserts that Robert Jordan killed Kashkin. She insists that Kashkin had sensed his impending demise and reeked of death. Despite declaring his disbelief in such notions, Robert Jordan suggests Kashkin's anxiety had led to his own downfall. Pilar elaborates on the deathly scent, comprising four elements: the brass of a doomed ship, the flavour of a kiss from an elderly woman who's consumed animal blood, discarded dead flowers, and filthy brothel water. The blizzard subsides.
Robert Jordan crafts a bed from a spruce tree outdoors, his mind filled with thoughts of soothing scents as he awaits Maria. She emerges from the snow, barefoot and clad in her nightgown, which she refers to as her “wedding shirt.” Their intimate words center around the notion of their unity and shared heart. They become intimate, and Maria comments on how their lovemaking differs from their earlier encounter. During the night, Robert Jordan awakens, holds her close, then pulls away and ponders.
As dawn breaks on Monday, Robert Jordan sights a Fascist trooper advancing on horseback. He quickly instructs Maria to conceal herself under the robe before taking down the trooper. The commotion rouses the camp. Questioning who was meant to be on watch, Pilar reveals Rafael's absence. An outraged Robert Jordan orders the team to prepare the machine gun and dispatches Pablo with the dead trooper's horse to misdirect any followers. Amidst the chaos, Robert Jordan denies Maria's wish to express his affection for her.
In the woods, Agustín, Primitivo, and Robert Jordan establish a hidden position for the machine gun using pine branches for disguise. Robert Jordan instructs them on its placement and operation while expressing his concern that El Sordo's tracks from the previous night might still be seen as the snowstorm has ceased. Rafael at last comes back to his position, having been out trapping two hares mating in the snow. This behavior repulses Robert Jordan, but he is not infuriated. Rafael leaves to deliver the hares to the camp, while Primitivo ascends the hill slightly further to keep a lookout. Robert Jordan watches two crows in the nearby trees, determining that if they remain silent, nobody will approach. One crow departs. Robert Jordan and Agustín review the assault plan for the following day. They are interrupted by the sound of a reconnaissance plane, after which the other crow takes flight.
While Anselmo is back with added tree cover, Robert Jordan notices four Fascist riders tracking the horse that Pablo had taken. Jordan directs Agustín, Anselmo, and Primitivo, who is on a higher ground, to keep silent and not to shoot. Unaware of them, the horsemen move past. Another, bigger group of riders likewise goes by without detecting them. Anselmo proposes to quietly head to the close-by village, La Granja, once the snow thaws to gather any intel he can. Robert Jordan is uneasy, feeling they are speaking too much. Agustín shares his suppressed desire to kill when the cavalry went by. Jordan silently admits that he too has experienced the thrill of killing. Anselmo expresses his preference for making prisoners work rather than slaying them. Subsequently, Anselmo heads down to the camp to stop Rafael and retrieve breakfast.
While eating their morning meal, Robert Jordan and Agustín engage in conversation about Maria. Agustín admits his own feelings for her and insists Robert Jordan treat her affections with importance. The topic shifts to the reliability of their fellow soldiers, with Agustín praising the competence of El Sordo's crew. Suddenly, Robert Jordan silences Agustín as he picks up distant sounds of conflict originating from El Sordo's location. He instructs Agustín that their best course of action is to refrain from rushing to assist, and instead hold their position.
Primitivo, driven to the brink by the skirmishes happening on El Sordo's hill, yearns to join and support his fellow fighters. However, Robert Jordan firmly states that such an action would lead to needless loss, educating Primitivo on the harsh realities of war. Pilar steps in, backing Robert Jordan's stance. She taunts Primitivo for overreacting about the encounter with the cavalrymen earlier that day. Nonetheless, she too loses her composure when they need to take cover from an approaching observation aircraft. Regretting her prior mockery, she apologizes to Primitivo. Pilar departs, pledging to send Maria with the documents of the Fascist horseman, whom Robert Jordan had killed earlier in the day.
By midday, the remaining snow is gone. Robert Jordan peruses letters from the deceased cavalier's sister and engaged partner. He offers Primitivo the chance to read them, but Primitivo admits to being unable to read. Robert Jordan grapples with the number of people he has ended and the moral justification of his actions. Most of his victims, like the cavalryman, were not genuine Fascists, but impoverished peasants. He questions his belief in Marxism since he values life, freedom, and the quest for happiness. He reminds himself to cherish his time with Maria and ponders over the situation at El Sordo's hill. More aircrafts pass above them at three in the afternoon.
El Sordo and his band courageously guard their hill while he battles three injuries, and is forced to end his injured horse's suffering. The young warrior, Joaquín, passionately recites a Communist party motto although his fervor gets dampened when others point out that the leaders of the same party have sons who are not on the frontlines. El Sordo anticipates the arrival of planes to bombard their location. As the afternoon approaches, the Fascists biding their time to launch an attack on El Sordo's hill eagerly wait for their air reinforcement. Captain Moro is certain the guerrillas are no more and persuades Lieutenant Paco Berrendo and his soldiers to forge ahead despite their fear. As Captain Moro steps out, he is shot dead by El Sordo. Upon the arrival of the planes, they proceed to bomb the hill, leaving only Joaquín standing. Subsequently, Lieutenant Berrendo kills Joaquín and orders the decapitation of all the fallen guerrillas. He, however, doesn't stick around to oversee the execution of his orders.
As the aircraft depart, those at Pablo's hideout reluctantly consume Pilar's cooked hare and mushrooms. Primitivo and Robert Jordan later spot a cavalry section with Lieutenant Berrendo, feeling guilt for decapitating the guerrillas' bodies, leading them. He mourns for his fallen comrade, Julián, and turns to prayer. Anselmo, returning from La Granja, also notices Berrendo's troops and the decapitated remains at El Sordo's hill, which horrifies him. He prays, for the first time since the inception of the Republican movement, finding some solace in it. Upon reaching the camp, Fernando informs Anselmo that Pablo has already revealed the fate of El Sordo and his men to everyone.
Anselmo shares with Robert Jordan the steps the Fascists are taking for their defense. After discussing with Anselmo, Robert Jordan tasks Andrés with delivering a letter to General Golz at Navacerrada headquarters, behind enemy lines. The letter advises General Golz to call off both the operation to destroy the bridge and the broader offensive. Robert Jordan then clarifies the military bureaucracy's complexities to Anselmo. While writing the letter to General Golz, Pablo praises Robert Jordan for his clear-headedness and sound decision-making.
Robert Jordan is in mental turmoil while returning from Primitivo’s position. He's torn between obeying orders and his conviction that they are futile. He recalls his family background, particularly how his domineering mother drove his submissive father to suicide using a rifle from the American Civil War — a weapon that had also belonged to his grandfather. Envisioning a massive victory in the upcoming offensive, Robert Jordan understands that the bridge demolition operation won't be aborted. He concludes that the planners, like him, will be unable to resist dreaming of this imminent triumph. This understanding brings him a sense of tranquility.
Robert Jordan and Maria are in the sleeping bag, deciding not to be intimate due to Maria's discomfort, although Robert Jordan privately sees it as an unfortunate omen before their mission. Maria proposes other ways to satisfy him sexually, but he refuses. Avoiding present worries, they indulge in dreaming about their future life in Madrid. This momentary escape is disrupted when Maria discloses Pilar's bleak prophecy of their death the following day, upsetting Robert Jordan. Maria shares her haunting experience of the day she was taken prisoner. The Fascists executed both her parents, her father being the town's mayor who expressed his allegiance to the Republic with his dying breath. Her mother's final words concerned her husband. The Fascists humiliated Maria by cutting her hair, gagging her with it, branding her forehead with the UHP acronym (a Communist group), before subjecting her to collective rape in her father's office. Maria emphasizes to Robert Jordan how she resisted throughout and mentions Pilar's suspicion that the ordeal might have resulted in her sterility. Robert Jordan assures her of his intention to marry her. Once Maria is asleep, he subdues his rage by reminding himself of the brutalities perpetrated by both sides in the war. He regrets their failed attempt at lovemaking and appreciates Maria’s mother’s final expression of love.
Karkov, a close associate of Robert Jordan, arrives at his Madrid residence, the Hotel Gaylord. He catches up with his wife and German-speaking lover. He becomes aware of the German commander's gossip regarding the forthcoming military operation. A journalist from the Izvestia, appearing rather fatigued, tells Karkov that La Pasionaria, a popular Communist speaker, reported on the enemy's self-destruction near Segovia. During a chat with a Hungarian general, Karkov's frustration towards the German leader's and the journalist's lack of discretion is evident. He also worries about Robert Jordan, who is engaged with General Golz near Segovia. The Hungarian general anticipates a report from Jordan about the bombings but is reluctant to visit the headquarters due to a feeling of discomfort there. Karkov decides to retire for the night and plans to rendezvous with Golz for the assault at two in the morning.
Pilar rouses Robert Jordan from his sleep at two a.m., delivering the news that Pablo has absconded from the camp, taking a portion of the dynamite intended for destroying the bridge. Robert Jordan's initial anger towards Pilar, the assigned dynamite guardian, is kept in check as he recognizes her immense guilt. Her regret extends beyond breaking her commitment to Robert Jordan, reaching into a perceived betrayal of the Republic. Despite the setback, Robert Jordan returns to his slumber, setting his sights on a four o'clock awakening.
Andrés embarks on a night journey to take Robert Jordan's message to General Golz. He recalls the sense of comfort he felt when he was assigned this task; he feels an awkward thrill from killing. His emotions remind him of his village's yearly bull-baiting ritual where he was traditionally required to bite the bull's ear. The same relief washed over him when this event was called off. Andrés reaches a checkpoint in his journey.
Beside the slumbering Maria, Robert Jordan battles feelings of rage towards Pablo, blaming himself for allowing Pablo to raid his equipment. He manages to push his fury aside and, in tranquility, he considers the daunting task of demolishing the bridge; lacking manpower, horses, arsenal and now, even a proper device to set off the explosives. He softly assures the unconscious Maria that they can still accomplish the mission. They are sure to meet their end, he realizes, yet they will achieve their objective. He promises Maria that a restful night will serve as her wedding gift.
Andrés undergoes an intense confrontation at the checkpoint where he is met with hostility and life-threatening threats from the guards. After a tough discussion, he eventually persuades them that his intentions are valid. Disarmed by one of the guards, Andrés is then guided down the hill.
In the early hours, around three, Robert Jordan and Maria are in bed together. As he caresses her ear, she stirs awake. They are intimate and once more, they reach climax together, causing them to feel as if the earth is moving beneath them. Maria terms this feeling as “la gloria.” They both express their gratitude for their fated meeting. Robert Jordan feels a sense of belonging with Maria, Pilar, Anselmo, and Agustín, considering them his family. He feels as if he has always been with them at the fort. He marvels at the amount of knowledge he has gained.
Just before sunrise, the guerrilla warriors hurriedly consume their breakfast, filled with apprehension about the impending attack. Robert Jordan, realizing their explosives have been stolen, decides to use hand grenades instead. The lack of manpower and his frustration with Pablo gnaw at him. Pilar, noticing this, reassures him of her affection and urges him to disregard her unease after the palm reading. Pablo, unexpectedly, reappears at their camp. He reveals that he discarded the pilfered explosives into the river, but he also recruited five additional men and their horses from nearby guerrilla groups. He admits to acting rashly and feeling immense solitude after disposing of the explosives. Pilar draws a parallel between Pablo and Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. However, Pilar and Robert Jordan both breathe sighs of relief at Pablo's return.
After dismantling their campsite, the rebel soldiers get ready for their mission at the bridge. Robert Jordan, although not a believer in luck, sees Pablo's comeback as a favorable omen. He exchanges a few words with Pablo and Maria. Pilar identifies and welcomes two of the five new arrivals who accompany Pablo.
The sluggishness of the Republican army bureaucracy hampers Andrés' journey. He comes across Captain Gomez, the leader of the battalion Andrés stumbled upon at the checkpoint. Gomez takes Andrés to the brigade headquarters on his motorbike, passing by trees damaged by warfare. Once at the headquarters, Gomez seeks an audience with Lieutenant-Colonel Miranda, his superior officer. Miranda's indifferent underling claims he is asleep and resists waking him until Gomez points a gun at him. Shortly after, Miranda enters the room, instructs his underling to write a safe conduct letter for Andrés, and tells Gomez to accompany Andrés to General Golz’s base.
The rebels arrive at their designated location to leave their horses, with Maria in charge of them during the mission. Pilar is questioned by Robert Jordan about her understanding of her role, annoying her. Surprisingly, a compelling handshake from Pablo catches Robert Jordan off guard as he bids him farewell. He ponders on the possible inherent dislike between allies like himself and Pablo. While bidding Maria farewell, Robert Jordan experiences a feeling of déjà vu that brings him back to his juvenile years. It recalls his first departure for school, initially feeling frightened and then prematurely aged by his father's tearful parting. Robert Jordan, Anselmo, and Agustín strike off from the group towards the bridge. He assists Agustín in setting up the machine gun and guides Anselmo on handling one of the sentries. In his position, Robert Jordan awaits the break of dawn.
Andrés and Gomez are held up by a lorry crash on the way to General Golz. They finally get there and Gomez identifies André Marty, a famous military advisor, and seeks his help to find General Golz. But Marty, now paranoid due to the war, becomes suspicious and gets them arrested, accusing them of being fascists. The narrator unobtrusively informs us of Marty's frequent ill-judged battle plans backed by the flawed war bureaucracy, causing distress to General Golz. He adds that due to the poor organization of the military, the Republican attack probably could not have been stopped even if Andrés had reached on time. Meanwhile, Karkov, a friend of Robert Jordan, discovers about their arrest. He confronts Marty and uses his influence as a well-known journalist to direct Andrés and Gomez to the headquarters. Eventually, Robert Jordan's message is received by Duval, the chief of staff of Golz. Duval thinks about cancelling the Republican attack, although he lacks the official power to do so. But in the end, he chooses not to, unsure of how the attack plays into the larger war strategy. By the time Golz gets the message and realizes his attack will be unsuccessful, it's too late as the bombing has already commenced.
Robert Jordan, lying on the ground, observes the dawn, a squirrel, and inhales the scent of the pine trees. He identifies a sentry on the bridge from his earlier surveillance. The bombing, their cue to demolish the bridge, commences. Together with Anselmo, Robert Jordan eliminates the two bridge guards and sets the dynamite in place. As he's about to fix the explosives on the far end, Pilar reappears with her group, reporting Eladio's death and Fernando's fatal injury. Fernando is left with a rifle near the bridge on his request. As he waits for Robert Jordan to finish setting up the explosives, Anselmo experiences a deep unity with the world around him. The dynamite is ignited just as a truck attempts to cross the bridge, leading to Anselmo's death by a flying slab of steel. Robert Jordan, infuriated by Anselmo's death, shares his rage with Pilar, gradually calming down. Maria, watching over the horses, unintentionally transfers her anxiety to them. She prays for Robert Jordan's safety and is reassured when Pilar yells that he's unharmed. Robert Jordan consults with Agustín, the machine gun operator, and then faces Pablo who admits his men have been killed. Pablo is accused by Agustín of killing them for their horses and doesn't refute the claim. Robert Jordan reunites with Maria and the horses. He holds Maria, acknowledging that his affection for her endured through the battle - a first for him. They mount the horses, with Pablo leading them towards the Gredos mountains. Robert Jordan follows at the rear, riding the horse of the soldier he killed the day before. A Fascist bullet hits Robert Jordan's horse, causing it to trample his left leg, breaking it. Knowing he must stay behind, he advises Pablo to think strategically and reassures Maria that he will be with her in spirit. Agustín offers to kill him to spare him pain, but Robert Jordan declines, requesting him to look after Maria instead. Left alone, Robert Jordan anticipates the arrival of the Fascists. He feels regretful about his impending death, but appreciates his experiences over the past three days. Pain surges through his leg, leading him to consider suicide, but he decides to delay until he can aid the guerilleros' escape by stalling the Fascists. As he begins to lose consciousness, Robert Jordan spots the approaching Fascist patrol, led by Lieutenant Berrendo. Feeling completely in tune with his surroundings - the road, the sky, the pine needles - he takes aim, anticipates Berrendo's approach, and feels his heartbeat against the forest floor.