Notes on For Whom the Bell Tolls Themes

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For Whom the Bell Tolls Topic Tracking: Women

Chapter 2

Women 1: We meet the two major female characters of the book at the camp. Maria is beautiful, quiet, and submissive; she and Robert Jordan fall in love at first sight. In contrast, Pilar is a rough and large peasant woman who uses obscenities frequently and always stands up for herself aggressively.

Chapter 4

Women 2: Pilar has a dual role. She can stand up to Pablo and take a leadership role amongst the men, but Pablo still treats her like a socially conventional woman. She teaches Maria skills like cooking and cleaning. He tells her that since she is a woman as well as a commander, to get the food, and she obeys.

Chapter 6

Women 3: The contrast is further seen between Pilar and Maria at the camp. Pilar is outspoken, loud, and tells Robert Jordan that he is very serious about his politics, while she can joke about anything. Maria is not confident, thinks she is ugly, and the longing she feels for Robert Jordan is yet unspoken.

Chapter 7

Women 4: Maria comes to Robert Jordan's bed. Maria is not very confident and relies on Robert Jordan to teach her to kiss and is ashamed, afraid that he will reject her because she has been raped. He understands that she has suffered. He loves her and does not reject her.

Chapter 8

Women 5: Pilar is a woman who stands up for herself very vocally. She tells the people at the camp of her lover, Finito, a bullfighter who was extremely brave in the ring. She agrees that Pablo is more of a man than Finito, but that he is not romantic and passionate like him.

Chapter 9

Women 6: Pilar is a woman who can stand up for herself and bicker with the men. She and Agustín insult each other playfully. She has no patience for Pablo's cowardice. She tells Pablo there is not room for both her and his fear of death in their bed.

Chapter 10

Women 7: Again, there is a great difference between Pilar and Maria. On the way back from El Sordo's, there is another example of this. Pilar is confident with her sexuality and says she was born ugly but is beautiful on the inside, and knows that she is able to engage men this way. Maria feels ugly because of what happened to her, and because of her hair, and is not confident in herself as a lover or wife.

Women 8: When the Moors come up in conversation, Maria makes a reference to the fact that Moors raped her, and Pilar tells her it is unhealthy to talk about it. Pilar has been Maria's guardian since they found the girl on the train that Pablo blew up. She knows about her rape, but thinks it would be best for her to forget about it and move on with her life with Robert Jordan. Maria makes occasional references to it, and Pilar tells her not to talk about it, and that it is unhealthy to do so.

Chapter 11

Women 9: Pilar jokes about kissing Joaquín, saying it has been a long time since she kissed a bullfighter, and he is not amused by her teasing. This makes her feel very ugly and old.

Chapter 12

Women 10: Pilar feels ugly because when she joked about kissing Joaquín, she thinks she saw revulsion in his eyes. She tells Robert Jordan and Maria that she does not want Maria, but that she is jealous of their love and Maria's beauty and youth, though she will not be young forever.

Chapter 13

Women 11: Robert Jordan cannot fall asleep and fantasizes about what the future with Maria could hold. It is disappointing, to say the least. Robert Jordan and Maria's love affair is seems so perfect that it is almost another world, a fantasy. Robert Jordan's fantasy of Maria coming back to Montana with him as his wife becomes harshly cynical as he realizes how idealistic and unrealistic it is. He realizes that even if he takes her away from Spain, he can never take away the horrible trauma of the rape or the death of her parents.

Women 12: Maria tells Robert Jordan she wants to serve him and take care of him like a good wife. She wants to be a socially conventional, dutiful housewife, rolling Robert Jordan's cigarettes and washing his socks. Pilar is less conventional, and talks about sex openly. Robert Jordan and Maria are embarrassed when she pries into their sex life.

Chapter 16

Women 13: Pilar is angry that Robert Jordan lets Maria serve him so blindly as the girl bustles around taking care of his wet clothes like a servant. Pilar makes a reference to how Robert Jordan is acting like a Lord and Master. Pilar herself serves Pablo in many wife-specific ways, such as cooking and cleaning, but she also stands up to him frequently and they bicker.

Chapter 18

Women 14: There is a contrast between Karkov's obviously confident and self-sufficient women, who come to Gaylord's regularly, and Maria, who serves Robert Jordan and cannot even come into Gaylord's without prior introduction.

Chapter 19

Women 15: When the gypsy says that gypsy women are ugly when they age, Pilar retorts that they age fast because their husbands are always getting them pregnant. Pilar is a woman who stands up for herself and for women when men try to take advantage of them.

Chapter 20

Women 16: Robert is intensely sad that he will be separated from Maria, for he has never cared so deeply for a woman before, and knows that their connection is unique: "In the night he awoke and held her tight as though she were all of life and it was being taken away from him." Chapter 21, pg. 264

Chapter 21

Women 17: Robert Jordan is cold to Maria when they say goodbye, for he does not know how to love Maria and focus on his work at the same time. She is intensely emotional, and stands with her fists clenched.

Chapter 24

Women 18: Agustín tells Robert Jordan that he better take care of Maria, for he has strong feelings for her too. He wants to make sure that Robert Jordan truly cares for her, and is not just having sex with her, something that any of the men could have done. He does not understand why Pilar saved Maria for Robert Jordan. Agustín says he cares about Maria, but he still talks about her like an object to be given and taken, and not someone who makes her own decisions (which, in the novel, she does not). When he confirms that Robert Jordan really does care for her, and that their love is solid, he pretends not to be disappointed and says that he will go to whores instead.

Chapter 25

Women 19: Pilar and Primitivo bicker as the group knows El Sordo is being massacred. They insult each other with low blows at their respective femininity and masculinity. He calls her stupid and brutal, and she retorts that women who are stupid and brutal serve as aids to men poorly equipped for procreation.

Chapter 28

Women 20: Maria wants to be a conventional, dutiful housewife and serve Robert Jordan. She tells him Pilar is giving Maria instructions on how to be a good wife. Pilar knows what to do, and she does do some of these things for Pablo, like cooking, but she also stands up to her man and has the courage to tell her husband what she thinks of him.

Chapter 31

Women 21: Maria tells Robert Jordan of her rape one night when they are in bed. Robert Jordan is understanding, but like Pilar, he tells her that perhaps she should not be talking about it anymore, for it would be better and healthier not to. He tells her he loves her, that of course he will still marry her even if she cannot have children, and feels a great hatred toward those who did her wrong.

Chapter 37

Women 22: Robert Jordan thinks about Maria with great intensity. He knows, and he has had the feeling all along, that he will be leaving Maria and feels a great tenderness toward her.

Chapter 39

Women 23: Maria wants to go with Robert Jordan, but she will obey him and stay with the horses. She always obeys him, and wants to serve him and be a good wife.

Chapter 41

Women 24: Robert Jordan's goodbye with Maria is awkward, as he still does not know how to reconcile his love for her with his focus on work. She reacts more intensely, for he never talks to her about his work and she does not understand it.

Chapter 43

Women 25: Robert Jordan tells Maria that she must go, but she does not want to. He tells her she must obey, and she eventually does, though she is very emotional. He tells her that wherever he goes, she goes with him, for they are one now. He tells himself after she leaves, he must make himself believe what he told her. It is apparent that he too is emotional and is not as detached as he would have her think.

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