Sitting in the warn sun, Jordan reads a letter that he found on the body of one of the soldiers he killed. The man was just twenty-one. His sister writes of the happenings in his home town, how many have been killed, and his fiance writes of her hysterical fear for his safety. Religious references permeate the letters. Jordan begins to justify to himself the taking of life. He has an ego/id conversation with himself and his higher consciousness tells him he is worried that he should not confuse his belief in the Cause with killing for the sake of the Spanish people. He realizes that loving Maria has changed him, changed everything. Planes suddenly appear in the sky.
Jordan's doubts that have been bubbling under water throughout the novel now break the surface and he is forced to come to terms with and to rationalize his feelings. Is his Cause even justified any longer? He attempts to tell himself that he can put this all in perspective after he completes his mission, but he is not convinced. He wonders at having fallen in love, which he considers "the most important thing that can happen to a human being," and is amazed that unlike so many others, it has happened to him (305). His love for Maria has replaced his dedication to the Cause, his original reason for living. The planes pass overhead at three o'clock, like living beings "throbbing," in the air. Three o'clock is the hour Christ died upon the cross and thus provides an ominous tone and additional foreshadowing of Jordan's death.