The Wall

Existentialism in Story “The Wall” by Sartre

4 Mins read


Existentialism is a philosophical movement popular in the 20th century that focused on human existence. One of the most influential existential philosophers was Jean-Paul Sartre, who wrote “The Wall” as an example of existentialist themes. One theme, for example, is that people are unable to fully understand themselves because they are constantly changing and evolving.

In Jean Paul Sartre’s story The Wall, existentialism is shown in the protagonist’s broken morals and how he has a lack of true responsibility to take on his own decisions. This would also relate to the idea of human nature and if it is possible for humans to really know their own thoughts.

“The Wall” explores the essence of existentialism. It’s a quick read but it poses many difficult questions. In this article, we’ll explore some of its major themes and what they can teach you about being human.

What is existentialism?

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that began in the early 20th century. It takes a deep look into the nature of human existence, and it states that we should be always questioning life’s meaning. Jean Paul Sartre’s The Wall is about a man who becomes another for himself and for others. He is not interested in what people think of him, but rather he wants to explore his own abilities. Sartre didn’t want to tell us how to live our lives, but rather he wanted to show us that we have free will, which allows us to choose how we want to live our lives.

Jean-Paul Sartre’s primary objective in “The Wall” is to persuade the reader of the existentialist idea that people are responsible for their own lives, and that each individual needs to fend for him or herself.

Plot of the Wall

Sartre’s short story details the experience of a prisoner who is being transferred to another location. The story is written from the first person perspective and begins at the moment of the prisoner’s capture. When he realizes that it will be impossible for him to escape, the man decides to try to understand just why he is being put into captivity.

Read more about: Explain Sartre’s Concept Existentialism is a Humanism

Existentialism and Hell

The story deals heavily with the concept of existentialism and how we as humans are in a sense “trapped” because there is no escape from the prison that life becomes. Sartre discusses this idea of “hell” throughout his story, using different forms of imagery to display it. The story concludes with the protagonist ultimately making a decision to face his fate and make the most out of it, rather than become an image that sits on the wall.

The story The Wall is a tale of an individual trying to find his way in a world left on the brink like many people in the aftermath of WWII. Sartre, through this story, exposes the “dualistic” nature of existence. He shows how man’s two fundamental drives, desire and nothingness, are always at odds with one another. When the protagonist finally reaches the top of the wall he realizes that there is no meaning or purpose behind anything but we can’t escape our responsibility to create meaning for ourselves.

The word existentialism comes from philosophical approaches to understanding existence – what it means to be human and whether that meaning can be understood by an individual him or herself or if it is something that only exists in relation to others.

Freedom and Responsibility

Sartre’s story, “The Wall,” is a classic example of existentialist literature which focuses on themes of freedom and responsibility. Its protagonist is a prisoner who has lived his life as an obedient servant to his society’s values, but throughout the story he comes to realize the true meaning of freedom through his choices and the consequences they have.

Sartre believed that there are no absolutes. Instead, our choices and actions determine who we are. In the story The Wall, a prisoner is put in a cell with rules that define his freedom. He can’t escape through the door or through the walls of his cell because they are solid. He eventually realizes that he is the one who has created these limitations by obeying rules. When he starts to break them, he gains his freedom.

How does Sartre explore the theme of existence in The Wall?

Sartre explores the theme of existence by showing that people have a high need to create meaning in life. He also discusses loneliness and how it causes panic. The protagonist of this story is suffering from both isolation and breakdown. These two conflicts are worsened by the fact that he is actively trying to escape his condition.

Sartre’s existentialism is evident in his exploration of the theme of existence. Throughout the story, Sartre often discusses man’s position in the physical world and how this relates to the metaphysical world. He does this by examining the representation of a wall that separates two rooms in a house.

Why did existentialism become popular during WWII?

One of the reasons why existentialism became popular during World War II is because people wanted to blame their feelings or actions on a higher being. Existentialists saw that there was no such thing as an actual higher being, therefore, people needed to face the consequences for their own actions.


Sartre’s story is about an anonymous prisoner who is enclosed by a high wall in one end of a cell, and the other end is open and offers freedom. The prisoner doesn’t know why he was put in this position, but he knows that if he stays there for long enough, he will eventually go insane.

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