Outside The Wall

[Roger Waters]
All alone, or in twos,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall.
Some hand in hand
And some gathered together in bands.
The bleeding hearts and artists
Make their stand.
And when they've given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it's not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall.

Song In A Sentence:

The Moral of the Story: Though there will almost always be personal and social barriers erected out of fear, oppression, pain, and isolation, it’s the job of every socially conscious individual and community to never rest in tearing down the walls that separate us.



L eaving aside Pink’s specific storyline, “Outside the Wall” acts as a sort of thematic rather than narrative epilogue. Thematically, this last song is very much akin to the revelatory “Bring the Boys Back Home,” which Waters felt to be the centerpiece of the album. Like the earlier song, “Outside the Wall” is about the community that comprises this world, and the personal connections that serve as the foundation for all of life. Just as “Bring the Boys Back Home” is a reminder within the story to not let anything become so important as to outweigh one’s humanity, “Outside the Wall” depicts this same view from a different perspective, from those who “walk up and down outside the wall” trying to reconnect with the loved ones trapped within. Some walk “all alone,” like Pink’s wife who tried to break through her husband’s isolating barriers, only to “stagger and fall” as a result of Pink’s continual lack of communication, turning to another man for solace and affection. Others are “gathered together in bands,” where “band” could either stand for a group of people or, in another self-reflexive statement, the actual “bleeding hearts and artists” like Pink Floyd themselves who attempt to evoke change through their art. In a way, that’s what the Wall really is: Waters and the band “banging [their] heart[s]” against the personal and social walls that stand throughout the world.


And though the cycle begins anew as the song ends, with “Isn’t this where…” signaling the end of the album, there is still hope that the cycle can be broken. For no matter how many walls are erected, there will always be people “out there” that try to break them down. It’s what Waters did after recognizing his own wall. He and his bandmates conceived and recorded an illuminating testament concerning the decay of individuality through isolation and the hopeful rise of the individual as a result of the common bond of humanity. If Pink’s story tells us anything, it’s that though the cycle of violence and oppression repeats itself, it doesn’t have to. All it takes to break that chain is a change in perspective, a realization that through it all, one is not alone.

The movie sequence for “Outside the Wall” really leans towards this hopeful message of ending these cycles of fear, violence and oppression. The scene fades from the white dust of Pink’s collapsed wall onto the day after a riot (presumably the one pictured in snippets throughout the movie) as various people go about cleaning up the debris. The camera pans down to show young kids gathering bricks and other wreckage into baskets and toy dump trucks. While some argue that the kids are merely continuing where the previous generation left off, symbolically gathering the bricks for their own psychological walls, others take away an overall optimism from the scene. As the children gather the debris, one child recoils in disgust at the smell of a Molotov cocktail, and pours the petrol from the bottle. As Waters says on the DVD commentary, the child “defuses it” and, along with his other child friends, begins to bring order to the chaos of the previous generation (the ones who started the riot). Waters continues by saying that the child “decides to build rather than destroy,” breaking the cycle of violence and oppression in an instant. It’s also interesting to note that the reworked style of the song for the movie features an orchestra and vocals similar to that of “When the Tigers Broke Free,” bringing a tidy musical resolution to the musical narrative. Though the movie begins with war, turmoil, and the negative creation of one man’s wall in that first “Tigers,” it ends with calm, the positive destruction of that very same wall, and the hope that, ultimately, those “million tear-stained eyes” – the personal and social bricks of the past – will slowly disappear from the lives of each successive generation.


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