Jean-Paul Sartre Short Fiction Analysis
Like many writers and thinkers drawn to the political Left, Jean-Paul Sartre tended to see most existing literature, especially that of the nineteenth century, as part of a capitalist plot to maintain and perpetuate the prevailing social order. In terms that he would soon define as he proceeded to elaborate his philosophy of existentialism, most literature was “inauthentic,” offering a false portrayal of life based on lies, or at least on false assumptions. No author, he claimed, could possibly presume to “understand” his characters or to attribute motivation to behavior portrayed. “The Wall,” written during—and about—the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, was conceived at least in part as an illustration of Sartre’s developing theories, showing behavior “in situation,” recounted in the first person by a far from “omniscient” narrator who is himself a major participant in the action portrayed.
Pablo Ibbieta, arrested by General Franco’s Nazi-supported Falangist forces, tells only what he sees and feels, little mindful of cause and effect. Although no doubt an educated man, an informed political activist on the Republican side, Pablo has plausibly been reduced by his recent experiences to a kind of automaton, responding quickly and unreflectively to such external stimuli as light and darkness, heat and cold. His narrative begins with the start of his captivity, when he is pushed into a makeshift...
(The entire section is 2891 words.)
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