I would like to take this opportunity to discuss Jean Paul Sartre's philosophy and it's integration into his play "No Exit". Embedded within the character interactions are many Sartrean philosophical themes. Personal attributes serve to demonstrate some of the more dominant ideas in Sartre's writings. Each of the three characters in the play show identifiable characteristics of sexual perversion, bad faith, and interactions of consciousness.This play takes an interesting setting, that of the afterlife.
The plot centers around three main characters, Joseph Garcin, Estelle Rigault and Inez Serrano. Hell, as portrayed in this work, is no more than a room with three couches and Second Empire decorum. There are no mirrors, no windows, no books, generally no form of amusement. Some very human privileges that we take for granted have also been taken away: sleep, tears, and even momentary reprieves of blinking.
Each of the three characters is introduced into the room by a surprisingly polite Valet. Initial confrontations are "uncomfortable", each person knowing that he/she is deceased, but they are not impolite. However, as the true reasons why each person has been sentenced to Hell are revealed, the true nature of the place takes shape. Rather than try to explain the chronological progression of the play, I would rather take each character and their opinions individually in an attempt to highlight what I believe are the important parts. The first person to appear in the play is Mr.Garcin.
At first glance, he is a very polite, gentlemanly, and moral individual. However, the further into the play that we read, we find that he is none of these things. Instead, he represents some of the worst ails that afflict humankind (according to Sartre). He was graced with a wife that loved him unconditionally, and he loathed for no other reason. In fact, one the first memories that he has of her is how "she got on his nerves".
There is one story that is obviously intended to shock the reader, and provide a good interpretation of Garcin's true character. He states:"Well here's something you can get your teeth into. I brought a half-caste girl to stay in our house. My wife slept upstairs; she must have heard - everything. She was an early riser and, as I and the girl stayed in bed late, she served us our...
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...tolen away their ability to close their eyes. There is no way to turn off the sinks! Oaklander gives us a good description of the system, and how it applies to this situation:Rather it appears that the world has a kind of drain hole in the middle of its being and that it is perpetually flowing off through this hole. The universe, the flow, and the drain hole are all once again recovered, reapprehended, and fixed as an object.
All this is there for me as a partial structure in the world, even though the total disintegration of the universe is involved. Moreover these disintegrations may often be contained within more narrow limits.. (Oaklander, pg. 284)In conclusion, Jean Paul Sartre takes less than fifty pages to materialize his existentialist ideas for the stage. He has given us interpretations of sexual desire, bad faith, and conscious interactions. As a note: I truly believe that this play could be analyzed on an even deeper level. Each comment could be dissected and applied to part of Sartre's theory. However, this scope was limited to stay within the bounds of this paper.
Sartre, Jean Paul. No Exit and Three Other Plays. 1944. NY: Vintage Books, 1989.
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