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How would you create a character sketch from Jean-Paul Sartre's "The Wall"?

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The assignment to prepare a character sketch of one of the characters in Jean-Paul Sartre’s "The Wall" is an interesting one. Jean-Paul Sartre is a master of existentialism, a movement that sought to understand humanity’s existence in terms of emotions, thoughts, actions, etc.

In "The Wall," the narrator, Pablo Ibbieta, apparently has been arrested along with several other men who are being interrogated. There is little character development. We see Pablo at this moment in his life, with almost no background information that would give us insight into how or why he arrived here. It is not until near the end of the story that he tells us that he had joined an anarchist movement to help free Spain.

Pablo tries to muster compassion. For example, he is annoyed at Tom when Tom tells the other men that a torturous and painful execution awaits them. Pablo tries to allay their fear when he says, "I don't believe they'll do that here."

We can also infer Pablo’s attempts at compassion and decency when it turns out that “the kid” is sentenced to be executed along with the others and Pablo says, "it's a rotten deal for the kid."

However, he then tells the reader that he “said that to be decent but . . . didn't like the kid.” His hard feelings toward “the kid” are based on almost nothing. Pablo tells the reader that it is difficult for him to feel pity, as “pity disgusts me, or rather it horrifies me.”

He also has no pity for Tom, saying:

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.

As the other men contemplate their imminent deaths, Pablo says, “[B]ut I was calm: we had all night to understand.”

He appears not only calm, but dispassionate, unemotional and almost uninterested in his fate or that of the other prisoners. Yet, his body contradicts his seeming calm. Pablo realizes that he is sweating, despite the cold and damp of the cell: “I had been dripping for an hour and hadn't felt it.”

As morning and their executions approach, he says, “I didn't want to think any more about what would happen at dawn, at death. It made no sense. I only found words or emptiness.”

The “emptiness” and senselessness are probably keys to Pablo’s character. He wants to understand what is happening to him just as Mankind wants to understand the human condition, but so much of it does not make sense to him.

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