What is hell? Is it fire and brimstone? Is it one’s worst fears come to life? Is it an endless nightmare? Is it an eternity of demon torturing? Is it reliving the same horrible day over and over again for forever? What is hell? Jean-Paul Sartre wrote the play “No Exit.” It is an existentialist play. Sartre uses his characters to describe the setting saying, “Yes we have lots of time in hand. All time,” (43) and “... yet we’re in hell.” (17) Garcin, a character in the one act play, thinks that hell is simply other people. This is a running theme in the play as even another character, Inez, says, “I mean that each of us will act as a torturer of the two others.” (17) While many religions have their own versions of hell (like whether there are sublevels or a purgatory of some sort) and all the bad things that come with it, hell is other people. Hell is other people because no matter how independent someone is, they will need something from other people and without that, they will indeed be in hell. This play can also be read on two levels. The first level is that hell is the relationships people have with other people (i.e. the dependency on others). The second, deeper level is that hell is other people’s presence and how they remind one of how inadequate their own behavior has been. The one act, existentialist play, “No Exit,” exemplifies this perfectly by setting up three characters, Garcin, Estelle, and Inez, to prove that hell is other people on two different levels.
Garcin is in hell. He knows it and he accepts it. He was a terrible person while living. He beat his wife and brought his mistress home often. While telling the story of why he is in hell, he states that, “Night after night I came home blind dru...
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...lutely not true due to her past. Garcin’s and Inez’s presence only remind her over and over again how immoral and downright terrible she was on earth.
Jean-Paul Sartre wrote this existentialist play as a means for people to think deeper about other people and their own individual place in the world and how much people rely on others. This play creates a new meaning for hell. All of the characters, whether they know it or not, are sentencing each other to hell for infinity and beyond. By not giving Garcin the negation of his cowardice that he craves or Inez assurance she is not a terrible person or Estelle proof that she is still beautiful and does in fact exist, they are their own torturers. In this way, theatre audiences and individual readers can see that hell is other people. In the end, Garcin, the start of it all, says, “Well, well, let’s get on with it…” (46)
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