Chapter 1 Summary

In 1930s Spain, Robert Jordan is an American serving in the guerrilla troops supporting the Republican army during the Spanish Civil War. He is now behind enemy lines to fulfill his mission. Along with Anselmo, a sixty-eight-year-old Spaniard, Jordan is scouting the bridge that he has been assigned to blow up. He was given the assignment two days previously by the Soviet commander General Golz, who instructs him not to set off the explosions after the Fascist aerial attack has begun. This is not the first bridge Jordan has dynamited during this war, and he is an expert at explosions. The destruction of the bridge will aid in the Republican attempt to take the town of Segovia. Both Jordan and Golz are not happy with this plan, seeing it as extremely difficult and liable to fail.

Anselmo leads Jordan up the mountainside to a place where they can hide the dynamite until the proper time. Anselmo tells Jordan to wait beside a small stream while he alerts the guerrilla fighters that they are approaching. Jordan grabs some watercress to ease his hunger. When Anselmo returns, they continue their climb up the mountain. They encounter Pablo, an illiterate peasant who questions Jordan’s credentials. He is reluctant to follow the plans that Jordan has been given. He does not like the idea of exploding a bridge so close to his place of shelter. Pablo says that he and the others with him have travelled throughout the countryside, having been driven from their homes. Now the very army that is supposed to aid the country people is, in fact, making life even more difficult for them. However, he agrees to help and leads them further up the mountain after Anselmo chastises him.

They come upon a corral of horses that Pablo has stolen. He is very proud of those horses, but Jordan sees that he is more concerned with the horses than with the struggle against the Fascists. Pablo has become a capitalist, Jordan believes. He also sees a sadness in Pablo’s face that indicates to him that Pablo is about to leave the fight or to betray them all. Jordan decides that Pablo is not a man to be trusted. He knows that when Pablo’s negative attitude changes for the better, the peasant will have made his move to either leave or to betray them. Jordan decides not to worry about it for now and looks forward to dinner, hoping that Pablo has sufficient food for a large meal.