Published in 1940, For Whom the Bell Tolls
is a classic fiction novel by Ernest Hemingway. Set in the late 1930s during the Spanish Civil War, the story follows Robert Jordan, an American living in Spain and fighting on the side of the anti-fascists as he undergoes a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. Hemingway is considered one of the most preeminent American authors, and this story leans heavily on his own experiences as a news reporter during the Spanish Civil War. The novel's 1943 film adaptation was nominated for nine Academy Awards.
It is May 1937, and the Spanish Civil War is raging. Despite the fact that he is American, Robert Jordan has left his country to enlist with the Republicans in their fight against the fascists. The Republican general has trusted Jordan with a secret mission: he must blow up a key bridge that is currently being controlled by the fascists. Now Jordan is traveling to the mountains to meet with a hidden band of guerrilleros (Spanish guerilla fighters); he will need their help if the mission is to succeed.
Jordan's guide to the guerrilleros' camp is a peasant named Anselmo. As they near their destination, they are confronted by Pablo, the leader of the guerrilleros. Pablo is openly hostile towards them; he opposes the bridge mission on the grounds that it will endanger the guerrilleros. Despite this, they continue to the camp, and Jordan meets Pablo's "woman," Pilar. After speaking with her, it becomes clear to Jordan that Pilar is the true leader of the guerrilleros. She is on board with the mission, and so he can count on the help he needs. However, he distrusts Pablo and worries that he will try to interfere with their plans.
Jordan meets the rest of the guerrilleros. There are the brothers, Andrés and Eladio; the old man, Primitivo; flakey Rafael; foul-mouthed Agustin; and proud Fernando. Jordan also learns that they are sheltering a young woman named Maria, who was recently raped by the fascists. Jordan and Maria feel an immediate connection with each other and fall in love at first sight.
After Jordan and Anselmo return from a scouting trip to the bridge, Pablo announces that the guerrilleros will not help with the mission. Pilar and the others disagree, so Pablo grudgingly relents. That night, Rafael suggests that Jordan should kill Pablo, but Pilar interferes to protect Pablo. She says he is not a threat. Later, Maria and Jordan confess their feelings for each other and make love.
The next day, Pilar, Jordan, and Maria meet with El Sordo, the leader of another band of guerrilleros. El Sordo agrees that his band will also help with the mission, and they discuss how the necessity of blowing up the bridge in broad daylight will make the mission more dangerous. On the way back to camp, Jordan and Maria sneak off into the forest to make love. Later, Maria tells Pilar about the experience, saying that the earth moved. Pilar says that such a thing only happens three times in a person's life.
That night at camp, Pablo is drunk and insults Jordan. The guerrilleros attempt to provoke him to fight so that they will have an excuse to kill him, but Pablo simply walks away. He returns a short while later and announces that he has decided to help with the mission. Later, Jordan and Maria sleep together again; they discuss their mutual impression that they share the same body.
The next morning, fascist soldiers discover El Sordo's camp and kill everyone there. This depresses the camp, but the mood turns even worse when they realize that Pablo has disappeared with the explosives meant for the bridge. That night, Jordan and Maria again feel the earth move as they make love, and they dream about a future life in Madrid.
The next morning, Pablo returns to the camp with five guerrilleros from a neighboring band. He says that he threw the explosives in the river but immediately felt guilty and lonely afterwards. He truly wants to help with the mission now and has brought the additional men as proof of his intentions.
The guerrilleros descend upon the bridge, and Eladio and Fernando are killed in the process. Without the remote explosives, the bridge must be blown up from nearby. They plant and detonate the explosives, and Anselmo is killed by the shrapnel. Pablo arrives and announces that the five men with him all died. When Agustin suggests that Pablo shot the five men himself, Pablo says nothing.
As the group flees, Jordan's horse is shot by the fascists. It stumbles and crushes Jordan's leg. Knowing that he will only slow the group down, he volunteers to stay behind. Saying goodbye to Maria, he promises that he will always be with her, and as he watches the guerrilleros leave, he reminisces about his final few days. For the first time ever, he feels happy and "integrated" with the world.
As the fascists approach in pursuit of the guerrilleros, Jordan feels his heartbeat. He raises his gun and takes aim.