American Robert Jordan, voluntarily participating in the civil war in Spain on the side of the Republicans, receives a mission from the center – to blow up the bridge before the offensive. A few days before the offensive, he must conduct at the location of the partisan detachment of a certain Pablo. About Pablo say that at the beginning of the war he was very brave and killed the fascists more than the bubonic plague, and then got rich and now would gladly retire. Pablo refuses to participate in this case, which gives the detachment some trouble, but Jordan unexpectedly supports the 50-year-old Pilar, the wife of Pablo, who enjoys immeasurably greater respect from the partisan than her husband. He who seeks security, loses everything, she says. She is unanimously elected commander of the detachment.
Pilar is an ardent Republican, she is devoted to the people’s cause and will never turn away from the chosen path. In this strong, wise woman many talents are hidden, she also possesses the gift of clairvoyance: on the very first evening, looking at Robert’s hand, she realized that he is completing his life’s path. And then I saw that between Robert and the girl Maria, who had joined the detachment after the Nazis had killed her parents, and she herself had been raped, a bright, rare feeling of strength flared up. She does not interfere with the development of their love relationships, and knowing how little time is left, she herself pushes them to each other. All the time that Maria spent with the detachment, Pilar slowly healed her soul, and now the wise Spaniard understands: only pure, true love will heal the girl. The first night, Mary comes to Robert.
The next day, Robert, instructing the old Anselmo to watch the road, and Raphael – to monitor the change of sentries at the bridge, sent along with Pilar and Maria to El Sordo, the commander of a neighboring partisan detachment. On the way, Pilar tells how the revolution began in a small Spanish town, on their Pablo homeland, and how the people cracked down there with the local fascists. People stood in two lines – one opposite the other, took up the chains and batons and drove the fascists through the formation. It was done on purpose: that everyone should bear his share of responsibility. Everyone was beaten to death – even those who were known as a good person – and then dropped from the precipice into the river. Everyone died differently: who took death with dignity, and who whimpered and begged for mercy. The priest was killed right during the prayer. Yes, it seems that God abolished God in Spain, Pilar sighs, because if he were, would I have allowed this fratricidal war? Now there is no one to forgive people – there is no God, no Son of God, no Holy Spirit.
The story of Pilar awakens his own thoughts and memories in Robert Jordan. There is nothing surprising in the fact that he is fighting in Spain now. His profession and office are connected with Spain; he often went here before the war, loves the people of Spain, and he does not care how the fate of this people. Jordan is not red, but the fascists do not have to wait for good. So, we must win this war. And then he will write a book about everything and then finally free himself from the horror that accompanies any war.
Robert Jordan assumes that in preparation for the explosion of the bridge, he may die: he has too few people – seven from Pablo and the same from El Sordo, and the cases are full: we have to remove posts, cover the road, etc. And we need such a it happens that it was here that he met his first true love. Maybe this is all he can take from life? Or is it his whole life and instead of seventy years it will last seventy hours? Three days. However, there is nothing to grieve: for seventy hours you can live a fuller life than in seventy years.
When Robert Jordan, Pilar and Maria, having received the consent of El Sordo to get the horses and take part in the operation, return to the camp, suddenly it starts snowing. He knocks and falls, and this unusual phenomenon for the end of May can ruin the whole thing. In addition, Pablo drinks all the time, and Jordan fears that this unreliable person can do a lot of harm.
El Sordo got, as he promised, horses in case of retreat after the sabotage, but because of the fallen snow, the fascist detachment sees traces of partisans and horses leading to the camp of El Sordo. Jordan and... fighters from Pablo’s unit hear the echoes of the battle, but they can not interfere: then the whole operation, so necessary for a successful offensive, can fail. The entire detachment of El Sordo dies, the Nazi lieutenant, bypassing the hill, dotted with corpses of guerrillas and soldiers, crosses himself and mentally utters what can often be heard in the republican camp: what a heinous thing war!
This failure does not end there. On the night before the offensive, Pablo runs out of the camp, taking with him a box with a detonator and bikfordov cord – important for diversion things. Without them, you can also manage, but this is more difficult, and more risky.
The old man Anselmo reports to Jordan about the movements on the road: the fascists are pulling up the equipment. Jordan writes a detailed report to the commander of the front, General Goltz, informing him that the enemy is clearly aware of the impending offensive: what Golts expected – surprise, will not work now. The package Goltsu agrees to deliver the partisan Andres. If he manages to transmit the report before dawn, Jordan does not doubt that the offensive will be carried, and with it the date of the explosion of the bridge. But while we need to prepare…
In the last night, lying next to Mary, Robert Jordan as if sums up his life and comes to the conclusion that she was not lived in vain. He is not afraid of death, only his thought frightens him: if he does not fulfill his duty properly. Jordan remembers his grandfather – he also participated in the Civil War, only in America – in the war between the North and the South. Probably, she was just as terrible as this one. Apparently, Anselmo was right when he said that those who fight on the side of the fascists are not fascists, they are just as poor as the people in the republican detachments. But it’s better not to think about all this, otherwise the anger will go away, and without it you will not be able to complete the tasks.
In the morning Pablo returns unexpectedly to the detachment, he brought people and horses with him. Dropping the detonator Jordan under the hot hand into the abyss, he soon felt remorse and realized that he simply could not remain alone in safety when his former comrades would fight. Then he developed rabid activities, collecting all-night volunteers around the neighborhood for the action against the fascists.
Not knowing if Andres came with a report to Goltz or not, Jordan and the guerrillas are removed from their seats and move through the gorge to the river. It was decided to leave Maria with the horses, and the rest to do – in case of the beginning of the offensive – to each his own business. Jordan and old Anselmo go down to the bridge and take off the sentries. The American establishes dynamite at the supports. Now, whether the bridge is blown up depends only on whether the offensive will begin or not.
And in the meantime, Andres can not get through to Golts. Having overcome the initial difficulties in the transition of the front line, when he was almost undermined by a grenade, Andres is stuck at the very last stage: he is detained by the chief commissioner of the International Brigades. War changes not only such as Pablo. The Commissioner has become very suspicious lately, he hopes that he will succeed in detaining this man from the fascist rear, convicting Goltz in connection with the enemy.
When Andrés ultimately miraculously gets to Holtz – it’s too late: the offensive can not be canceled.
The bridge was blown up. In the explosion, old Anselmo dies. Those who survived, are in a hurry to withdraw. During the retreat, the projectile is torn alongside Jordan’s horse, which falls and crushes the rider. Jordan has a broken leg, and he understands that he can not go with the others. The main thing for him is to persuade Maria to leave him. After what they had, she tells the girl Jordan, they will always be together. She will take him with her. Wherever she went, he would always be with her. If she leaves, he will leave, so she will save him.
Left alone, Jordan freezes in front of the machine gun, leaning against the tree trunk. The world is a good place, he thinks, it’s worth fighting for. You have to kill, if you need to, just do not like killing. And now he will try to finish his life well – to detain the enemy here, at least to kill the officer. This can solve a lot.
And then an officer of the enemy army leaves for the clearing…