For Whom the Bell Tolls: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. "I am an old man who will live until I die." (p. 16)
    Anselmo says this to Pablo in chapter one after he and Jordan have trekked up the mountain carrying dynamite. Anselmo denigrates Pablo for growing cowardly after acquiring five beautiful horses. Pablo threatens Anselmo by saying that his mouth will get him in trouble. This paints Anselmo as proud and fearless.
  2. "You are instruments to do your duty. There are necessary orders that are no fault of yours and there is a bridge and that bridge can be the point on which the future of the human race can turn. As it can on everything that happens in this war. You have only one thing to do and you must do it." (p. 43)
    Jordan attempts to come to terms with the orders that Golz gave him. He is resentful but realizes how important his and Anselmos's roles are in winning the war.
  3. "If you have not seen the day of Revolution in a small town where all know all in the town and always have known all, you have seen nothing." (p.106)
    On their trek up the mountain, Pilar tells Jordan and Maria of the beginning of the revolution in her village, when she viewed Republican neighbor killing Fascist neighbor in a bloodbath wrought by a drunken mob.
  4. "There is only now and if now is only two days, then two days is your life and everything in it will be in proportion. This is how you live a life in two days. And if you stop complaining and asking for what you will never get, you will have a good life." (p. 167)
    Jordan realizes this after he and Maria make love in the heather. It concerns one of the novel's themes: seize the day.
  5. "In war, one cannot say what one feels." (p. 300)
    As Jordan looks on, Pilar attempts to help Primitivo understand that war changes everything. She realizes that although he wants to help El Sordo's men, doing so would make certain death and that she, and he too, must bury their feelings.
  6. "That is probably quite a deadly wheel. I'm glad we are off of it. It was making me dizzy there a couple of times. But it is the thing that drunkards and those who are really mean or cruel ride until they die." (p. 227)
    The cycle of abuse by which the abuser hurts those around them either verbally or physically, or both, and then afterwards become friendly and overly good hearted. Jordan has just realized how central this circular pattern is to Pablo's personality.
  7. "How little we know of what there is to know." (p. 381)
    Jordan realizes how little he knows about life as he contemplates his inevitable death. He wishes that he could live because he has learned so much in the last three days and realizes now how much he wants to live to be an old man so he can continue to learn about life's wonders.
  8. "I suppose if a man has something once, always something of it remains." (p. 389)
    Pilar says this to Jordan when Pablo returns to the cave before they leave to blow up the bridge. She has been sorely disappointed in the cowardly Pablo of late, especially when she considers how brave he used to be in his youth.
  9. "Once tonight we have been impeded by the ignorance of the anarchists. Then by the sloth of a bureaucratic fascist, then by the oversuspicion of a Communist." (p. 421)
    Gomez, a Republican, says this in frustration to Marty. He and Andres have been stopped at every turn in their attempt to get to Golz with Jordan's request to call off the mission.
  10. "The machinery had been in motion much too long for it to be stopped suddenly now. There is a great inertia about all military operations of any size. But once this inertia has been overcome and underway they are almost as hard to arrest as to initiate." (p. 423)
    Although Jordan sends word to Golz that the fascists know about the Republican insurrection, it will be almost impossible to stop blowing up the bridge. It has been planned for ages and now, with ineptitude rampant among the ranks, it is nearly impossible to bring things to a halt.

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