Wall of Fear // Asimov

LELE // Extract from The Naked Sun by Asimov, 1957.



A millennium into the future, two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the Galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain.  Detective Elijah Baley, sent from the streets of New York with his positronic partner, the robot R. Daneel Olivaw, to solve an incredible murder that has rocked Solaria to its foundations.


“Civilizations have always been pyramidal in structure. As one climbs toward the apex of the social edifice, there is increased leisure and increasing opportunity to pursue hapiness. As one climbs, one finds also fewer and fewer people to enjoy this more and more. Invariably, there is a preponderance of the dispossessed. And remember this, no matter how well off the bottom layers of the pyramid might be on an absolute scale, they are always dispossessed in comparison with the apex.”

Lesson notes below!

French translation 

Who is the character?
Elijah Bailey is a detective from New York on his way to an unknown location.
Where is he?
Somewhere between New York and Washington DC.
Flying on a plane above American cities.

Where is he going ?
To Washington DC for now but he will shortly go to another planet.
He has been assigned a mission to investigate a crime on a another planet.

To enquire: se renseigner à propos de
An Inquiry: une demande de renseignement

What are his feelings?

He seems to be proud of the quality of his flight but at the end of the text he is relieved of his ‘anxiety’. ‘Uneasiness ‘
He feels ‘trapped’, ill at ease, uncomfortable.
He disagrees with the message of the ad. He disagrees with space exploration which he finds absurd and nonsensical.
The plane feels like a mini-version of the City above which he is flying. He feels trapped.

What about the world he lives in?
How did it become like this? What happened?
Earth seems to him like a crowded place, he feels uneasy, uncomfortable. He doesn’t want others to see his bare skin, he suffers from agoraphobia.
New planets have been discovered.
He also mentions high-tech devices and how the government urges plane travellers to focus on a screen that broadcasts a commercial for space exploration.

We envision a complex world that can be interpreted as a factual description of places that exist in the story.
But we can also consider that Asimov urges us to follow his character’s imagination to the point that we can believe or refuse to believe in the description.
This extract can be interpreted as a metaphor for Science Fiction as a whole, words like ‘bowels’ and ‘womb’ are metaphors for a safe yet in-between location that hint at the inner self while at the same time imply a way in or out.

Interior monologues, apartes and long descriptions give us access to the character’s mind. The feeling of entrapment and the imaginary escape to an unknown planet can be felt by the narrator as well as by the reader.



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