The Wall Questions and Answers
by Jean-Paul Sartre

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How does Jean-Paul Sartre's "The Wall" relate to individual freedom?

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Hollis Sanders eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "The Wall," we follow the narration of Pablo Ibbieta, a member of the International Brigade assisting the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Pablo spends a harrowing evening with his cellmates Tom and Juan, all of whom are to be shot the next morning. Pablo slowly experiences a loss of his senses as well as disillusion with things he had previously found meaningful.

Once Pablo accepts the concept of his own death, individual freedom is as meaningless as anything else. He thinks that even if they were to set him free, he would leave "cold." He thinks that once a person has abandoned the illusion of eternity, years are no different from seconds. He views people who are not sentenced to die as fundamentally other, still in control of bodies that are still their own.

Pablo also contemplates individual freedom by being unwilling to sell out Ramon Gris. It's not that he cares for his life anymore; he admits to not caring for anything. He simply knows that the Nationalists will put a man against the wall and shoot him and it doesn't matter who it is. The concept of "the individual" is completely meaningless to him. Because he has no interest in selling out his comrade, it is ironic that the wild goose chase Pablo intends to lead his captors on turns out to actually lead them to the man they were looking for.

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Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Jean-Paul Sartre's "The Wall" tells the story of Pablo Ibbieta. He has been captured and is being questioned about the whereabouts of Ramon Gris. Pablo refuses to tell his captors where he is. Later, Pablo is questioned again, and he tells them that Ramon is in a cemetery (which he believes to be a lie). He only lies in order to be let go. The men come back from the cemetery and tell Pablo that he will be tried by a normal court (not a military one). News gets back to Pablo that Ramon was captured in the cemetery he sent his captors to. Pablo goes hysterical.

The story speaks to individual freedom in two very different ways. First, it speaks to the loss of individual freedom. Pablo and the other men are captured, and their freedoms are taken away. Second, Pablo has the choice to protect his own freedom (by telling his captors where Ramon is). Although he thinks he lies, Pablo's intent is to lie in order to protect his own life and freedom.

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