In the short story "The Wall" by Jean-Paul Sartre, the titular wall symbolizes death. The story is about a man awaiting his execution at the hands of the fascists in Spain. The story is about awaiting death, as he thinks about his upcoming execution, and this is why it is the title. The prisoner, Ibbieta, awaits his death by firing squad and envisions himself standing in front of the wall in the adjacent courtyard. The prisoner describes the wall in the following passage:
They were going to slap a man up against a wall and shoot at him till he died...
One of his fellow prisoners, Tom, tells Ibbieta,
Someone'll holler "aim!" and I'll see eight rifles looking at me. I'll think how I'd like to get inside the wall, I'll push against it with my back. . . . with every ounce of strength I have, but the wall will stay, like in a nightmare.
The wall has a double meaning in this context. It refers to the actual wall in the courtyard that they expect will be the scene of the firing squad. It also refers to death, no matter how it comes. Tom would like to “push against it…with every ounce of strength [he has], but the wall will stay.” In other words, no matter how Tom or Ibbieta or anyone else fights, death is eventually there at the end, like a solid wall that one cannot get around or overcome.
Ibbieta dreams that “They were dragging me to the wall and I was struggling; I was asking for mercy.” This is another symbol that has a double meaning. On one level, it refers to the wall against which he will stand when he is in front of the firing squad. On another level, it also stands for death. Although he keeps telling himself that he is not frightened, they will have to drag him to his death. Moreover, his body involuntarily reveals his fear. He is perspiring badly, despite the severe cold of the cell.
Before the actual execution, the word "wall" is used twice in connection with the Belgian doctor:
After a minute he let the hand fall inert and went and leaned his back against the wall…
The Belgian pulled away quickly and stumbled back against the wall. For a second he looked at us with horror, he must have suddenly understood that we were not men like him.
While this reference is to the wall of the prison cell, not specifically to the wall in the courtyard, it is also a metaphor for death. The doctor is not sentenced to be executed, yet he stands against the wall, just as the prisoners do. In other words, his time to die will come too.