“The Wall,” first published in 1937 and collected in the volume The Wall and Other Stories(1939), is the best known of Jean-Paul Sartre’s five short stories. Written prior to Sartre’s activism in political causes, “The Wall” was Sartre’s personal response to the Spanish Civil War; he wrote it during a periodwhen he felt hopeless about the growing forces of fascism in Spain. The story also outlines Sartre’s philosophy of existentialism. “The Wall,” along with Sartre’s existentialist novel Nausea,helped solidify Sartre’s literary reputation.In “The Wall,” Sartre chronicles the story of a political prisoner condemned to execution by fascist officers. The knowledge of his death prompts the protagonist to give up on life before he is even killed. At the time of its publication, The Wall and Other Storiessparked some debate because of the negativecontent—including graphic sexuality and foul language—of the stories. Critics since have argued that these elements lend credibility to Sartre’s philosophical ideas.Throughout his long career as a writer and philosopher, Sartre produced numerous texts, yet he never again returned to the short fiction format. Critics have paid remarkably little attention to “The Wall.” Interested scholars, however, have generally responded enthusiastically. “The Wall,” however, remains important to the Sartre scholar as well as the general reader because of its deft exploration of Sartre’s philosophies as well as its sheer narrative force. It is a story to be appreciated on multiple levels.Author BiographyJean-Paul Sartre was born in Paris in 1905. His father died when he was only a year old, and shortly afterward he and his mother went to live with his grandfather. He recalled his childhood in his autobiography Les Mots, in particular the passion for literature that his tough grandfather instilled in him.By the time Sartre finished high school, he wanted to pursue a career as a writer; unfortunately, his stepfather insisted he become a teacher. He attended L’Ecole Normale Superieur as a philosophy student. There he met Simone de Beauvoir, with whom he maintained a lifelong personal and professional relationship. A writer as well, she had a deep influence on all of Sartre’s future work and ideas.During the 1930s, Sartre taught philosophy at a preparatory school for high school students. He also went to Berlin to study the philosophy of Edmund Husserl. Sartre’s early philosophical works, such as Psychology of the Imaginationand Transcendence of the Ego,reflect the influence of Husserl’s ideas about phenomenology-a method of analyzing the structure of consciousness.In 1939, Sartre published a collection of five short stories entitled The Wall and Other Stories. In these works, Sartre explores his philosophical ideas of “bad faith,” or what happens when people deny moral responsibility for their behavior. Bad faith involves lying to oneself, not taking action, or having no real sense of purpose in life.