In Hemingway’s novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, the role of women is something one can not avoid noticing. Although only two women appear in the book, the distinction of their characters, and their influence on the situation are apparent from their introduction.
Pilar, even from the beginning is constantly referred to as being like a man. One of her main features and personality traits is that she has the confidence, knowledge, and look of a man. This is apparently a praisable quality because the men compliment her on it constantly. She also has the ability to really understand the strategies of war, to the point of becoming the new leader of Pablo’s band fairly early in the story. However, she has not lived her life as though she were a man. She is technically the woman of Pablo, and has had many experiences with other men before. She tells us of her time in Valencia.
“We made love and then sent for another pitcher of beer with the drops of its coldness on the glass...” (86)
She seems very feminine and beautiful in this passage, and in many other descriptions of her past, but Hemingway always tells us, quite frequently through Pilar’s own dialogue, that she is masculine and ugly. (97)
Maria, the second female character, is just the opposite of that. She is perhaps the only representation of feminine nature at all, not including the country of Spain, for which they are fighting. She is described as very beautiful despite the fact that she has recently been in captivity where she was raped and had her hair cut off. She is submissive, yet not weak. She has an inner strength that comes with surviving torture, but it is not one of her overwhelming characteristics. Robert Jordan calls her “little rabbit” which seems a suiting cognomen. She is small and dependent like a rabbit. She lets Pilar tell her what to do for the most part, and when Robert Jordan comes she becomes his woman at Pilar’s suggestion. We are not told if this behavior is due to the fact that she was captivated for so long, or if she was like that before her entrapment, but it seems likely that her recent living arrangements had something to do with it. It is clear that Robert Jordan likes her behavior, and that to him it accentuates her beauty, but even Jordan is surprised occasionally.
Before their first sexual experience, when he thought she just came to visit, and it was him who had invited her into his sleeping bag, he discovers that she is not wearing any shoes.
“”Thee came barefooted” he said.
“And you had no fear.”
“Yes. Much. But more fear of how it would be to take my shoes off.”” (72)
He realizes that Pilar had planned the whole thing, and she knew why she was...