Paper analyzes diction, dry style, theme and mood in "The Wall" by Jean-Paul Sartre, using textual references. (page numbers refer to pages in MODERN SHORT STORIES)

Essay by superdd January 2003

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As a prisoner of World War II, Jean-Paul Sartre was able to write a realistic fictional story about Spanish anarchists being held as political prisoners. A member of the growing class of philosophers known as existentialists, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about human existence as a series of blind choices. In "The Wall," three men sharing a cell receive the same sentence; death by shooting. As the story tracks the approximately twenty-four hours after the delivery of the sentence, the narrator, Pablo Ibbieta shares his increasingly disconnected and existentialist feelings. Jean-Paul Sartre uses diction and a dry, existentialist style as a means of creating mood and developing characters in "The Wall."

Diction is a way to develop a strong theme and mood for a short story. Sartre uses words with specific connotations to convey important ideas in "The Wall." When speaking about the appearance of the other prisoners, Pablo Ibbieta says "skulls" instead of heads (227.)

Reflecting the desolate conditions, he refers to the people more as physical structures than living beings with emotions and a soul. When he sits freezing in the jail cell, the narrator explains that "It was rather uncomfortable" (230). This unemotional understatement shows Pablo's detached state of feelings and responses. The effects of this state continue as he imagines his death sentence and bullets "burning hail through [his] body" but adds that he "was calm" in this situation (231).

Sartre's dry style creates a clean, empty mood for "The Wall," which takes place in a small desolate prison cell. Choppy sentences like "The smaller one kept hitching up his pants; nerves" give enough information but never describe too much (227). The use of the semicolon allows the author to use less words to seem less emotional about the situation.