Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Set during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, “The Wall” sets forth the predicament of three men who are taken prisoner without warning or explanation by Falangist forces operating under General Francisco Franco; the story is narrated in the first person by Pablo Ibbieta, an erstwhile political activist who considers himself the most lucid of the trio, no doubt with good reason.
After a summary interrogation, the three captives are sentenced to death by firing squad. As they begin to confront their fate, Pablo finds himself increasingly preoccupied with the reactions of his fellow prisoners, implicitly comparing their behavior to his own. Tom Steinbock, a former comrade-in-arms, betrays his nervousness by talking too much; the third man, hardly more than a boy, is one Juan Mirbal, who repeatedly protests his innocence, claiming that the Falangists have mistaken him for an anarchist brother.
Throughout the long night preceding their planned execution at sunrise, the three men continue to respond in different manners as a Belgian doctor, ostensibly sent in to comfort them, records their behavior with a clinically observant eye. Pablo, meanwhile, is watching also, observing the doctor. Gradually it occurs to Pablo that the physician, not affected by the death sentence that hangs over the prisoners, in fact belongs to a different order of being; unlike them, he is sensitive to cold, and to hunger, no doubt because he can look forward to...
(The entire section is 704 words.)
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The story opens with the narrator, Pablo Ibbieta, attending his own trial. He has been captured by the Falangists and is being tried as an opponent and war criminal along with several of his compatriots. When Pablo goes on trial, the judges demand to know the location of his colleague, Ramon Gris. Pablo claims that he does not know Ramon’s whereabouts.
While awaiting the verdict, Pablo shares his cell with two other men: Tom, a member of the International Brigades; and Juan, whose only crime is having an anarchist brother. Pablo and Tom believe that they will be executed, but that Juan will be set free. However, they are informed that all three men will be executed the following morning.
Juan stops protesting his innocence; shocked, he just sits down and turns gray. Tom tries to comfort him but is rebuffed. Tom begins to talk about his experiences in the International Brigades. Pablo realizes that Tom is simply talking to avoid thinking about death.
A Belgian doctor and two guards come to the cell to wait with the men until the morning. Pablo stares at a lamp, but then suddenly comes to, feeling as if he was being crushed under an enormous weight. The doctor asks Pablo if he is cold. Pablo realizes that he is not cold at all, though he should be. When he touches his hair and shirt, he realizes he is sweating.
Juan dreads his execution, but Pablo hardly thinks about that anymore. Pablo feels irritated with Tom’s...
(The entire section is 586 words.)