In The Wall by Jean-Paul Sartre, why does Pablo refuse to turn in Ramon Gris?

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Pablo's feelings about Gris change during the course of his time in the cell, waiting for the soldiers to execute him against the wall. The knowledge that he will inevitably die, however, slowly changes the way he feels about Gris, as well as how he feels about his own life...

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Pablo's feelings about Gris change during the course of his time in the cell, waiting for the soldiers to execute him against the wall. The knowledge that he will inevitably die, however, slowly changes the way he feels about Gris, as well as how he feels about his own life and life in general.

In the beginning, Pablo expresses how he, presumably, might have felt more sympathy for someone like Ramon Gris had he been in the same cell as Pablo, Tom, and Juan. He says,

Fundamentally, I hadn't much sympathy for Tom and I didn't see why, under the pretext of dying together, I should have any more. It would have been different with some others. With Ramon Gris, for example. But I felt alone between Tom and Juan. I liked that better, anyhow: with Ramon I might have been more deeply moved. But I was terribly hard just then and I wanted to stay hard.

At this point, he rationalizes the fact that he doesn't feel much sympathy for Tom not by saying that he can't feel sympathy for people at all, but by saying that he just doesn't care for Tom and Juan the same way he does for Gris.

Later on, however, he completely changes the way he thinks about any person. When he finally decides he has to "die cleanly," he talks about how he must be stubborn and that he cannot let the guards and doctor think he is suffering, and how he cannot cry. Dying cleanly seems to mean he wants to die without emotion and without feeling at all.

As he tries to think about his inevitable death, he realizes, like Tom, that he can't fully grasp the concept. This tension between wanting to know and understand and not being able to know or understand what death will be like drives him to the point of thinking that if death has no meaning, neither does anything else. He says that his beloved doesn't matter, Gris doesn't matter, and his own life doesn't matter. Hanging on to any one of these people or any one memory is completely futile and meaningless in the face of death. The death itself, in Pablo's mind, doesn't mean anything either, because for it to have meaning would mean that it was in some way justifiable or rationalizable. In addition, he has convinced himself that he is already dead, as he cannot feel emotions nor his body. The shooting in the morning, then, would again be futile, because you cannot kill the already dead.

This is all to say that one of the main reasons why Pablo does not (intentionally) turn in Gris is because it simply doesn't matter: it would be Gris's life or Pablo's life, and Pablo's already dead in all ways but corporeally, so why not just kill Pablo? As the story draws to a close, Pablo is playing a game with the officers, telling them lies (or what he believes to be a lie) to make fun of how they ascribe so much meaning and purpose to what Pablo sees now, in his disconnected state, as being completely meaningless and without purpose.

In this story, the figure of Pablo reminds me of Primo Levi's figure of the Musselmann, whom he describes in his memoir/novel about his experiences as a prisoner in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. It's a beautiful book called Survival in Auschwitz that I can only recommend.

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Pablo is the narrator of The Wall by Jean-Paul Sartre. He is a political activist who has been captured by Falangist forces, along with two other radicals and all three have been sentenced to death by firing squad. Pablo has become detached from his emotions as he observes others and even himself. The experience is disconcerting but Pablo has lost all sense of fear and feels that, death or life, all amount to the same for him. He has nothing to live or die for so, even the promise of a reprieve from execution does not excite him. 

The authorities have promised Pablo that he will not be executed if he divulges the whereabouts of fellow anarchist,Raymond Gris. Having previously denied knowledge of him, Pablo decides to tell a convoluted story of Raymond's location so that he can at least have the pleasure of making fools of his captors. He is not willing to provide accurate information relating to Raymond due to his own current state of mind where nothing is important. His sense of reality is affected as he contemplates that "several hours or several years of waiting is all the same..." His cause is unimportant and Raymond's life is not Pablo's concern so his reluctance to tell the authorities is not linked to any desire to save Raymond from execution.

Nothing satisfies Pablo. He realizes that he could have got pleasure from so many things but there is no more time for that because "death had disenchanted everything.”

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