“No Exit,” by Jean-Paul Sartre, is a play that illustrates three people’s transitions from wanting to be alone in Hell to needing the omnipresent “other” constantly by their sides. As the story progresses, the characters’ identities become more and more permanent and unchangeable. Soon Inez, Garcin, and Estelle live in the hope that they will obtain the other’s acceptance. These three characters cannot accept their existentialist condition: they are alone in their emotions, thoughts and fears. Consequently, they look to other people to give their past lives and present deaths meaning. Forever trapped in Hell, they are condemned to seek the other for meaning in their lives; even when given the chance to exit the room, the characters choose to stay with each other instead of facing uncertainty and the possibility of being detached from the stability of their relationships with the others. Without other people, the characters would have no reason to exist. Each characters’ significance depends on the other’s opinion of them; Garcin needs someone to deny his cowardliness, Inez yearns for Estelle’s love, and Estelle just wants passion with no commitment. This triangle of unending want, anguish and continual disillusionment because of the other is precisely Sartre’s definition of pure Hell.
Garcin, the most complex out of the three characters, slowly yields to the mold that his death is shaping him into. As a result, he finds himself craving the other’s respect. When the play first opens, Garcin wants his privacy so that he can “face the situation” (Sartre 5) and “size it up” (Sartre 5). Initially, Garcin doesn’t even want the help of others; he rejects Inez’s presence and would “rather...
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...atter if one is alone or with a large group of people. The other’s eye is internalized in all three of these characters’ minds; because of it, Garcin sees himself as a cowardice, Inez reacts to others in a violent manner because she feels her lifestyle is taboo and therefore must defend it, and Estelle worries about her appearance because she has a vision of how she should look caused by the other. For these reasons, all characters are in bad faith. Meaning is also determines the way the characters act and react around each other. At the end of the play, the characters still cannot accept that there is no meaning even in Hell and this is what becomes the torture of it. All seek refuge within each other and find that there is no way to obtain long-term satisfaction.
Sartre, Jean Paul. No Exit and Three Other Plays. 1944. NY: Vintage Books, 1989.
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