For Whom the Bell Tolls: Novel Summary: Chapter 40

While Jordan makes his way toward the bridge, Andres continues through a maze of bureaucratic red tape trying to reach Golz. Gomez, the officer he encountered earlier, takes him to a lieutenant colonel who must take out his gun to get a safe-conduct for Andres to continue on his quest to reach General Golz after racing through the streets on a motorcycle with Andres: “I know of no General Golz nor of no attack,” the guard had said before Gomez was forced to take action. At this point it seems hopeless, and if Golz, after Andres reaches him, would even agree to call off the bombing, how then could he let the Republicans know of the change?
In this farcical chapter, Hemingway comments on the absurdity of war. It is only when Andres reaches his own soldiers that he encounters difficulties when it would be expected that he would find it hard going in enemy territory. Simply, he can hardly meet anyone who cares or even knows what is going on. The sacrifice the Republicans are intent on making, martyring themselves for the Cause, becomes somewhat ridiculous in this context. In the middle of this burlesque, Hemingway interjects a picture of the ever-enduring Nature: “the country road that opened ahead sharp with the high black of the poplars beside it, dimmed and yellow-soft now as the road dipped into the fog along a stream bed.” Humans may kill themselves with tanks, planes and motorcycles, but nature remains ever-present.