The Wall Questions and Answers
by Jean-Paul Sartre

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Is "The Wall" an optimistic (existentialism) or pessimistic (nihilism) story?

"The Wall" is a work of existentialism and can be thought of as more optimistic than nihilistic. Pablo laughs rather hysterically at the end of the story, not because he is amused by the news of Juan Gris's death, but because of the absurdity of his situation.

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One of the tenets of existentialism is the idea that "existence precedes essence." Sartre's "The Wall " reflects this idea in that Pablo Ibbieta survives a near brush with death without intending to; it reinforces the idea of life's absurdity and lack of meaning other than what each person assigns it. Continuing to live is separate from living for ideas or principles, an existentialist might say. When Pablo thinks that he is...

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