No Exit: An Existentialist Play by Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre portrays existentialism in his play, No Exit, through his three main characters: Inez, who was put in Hell for causing pain to the people who loved her, and is punished by loving someone who refuses to love her back, this in turn causes her pain; Garcin ,who was put in Hell partially for being unkind and unfaithful to his wife and partially for being a coward, is punished by Estelle’s love and his inability to escape cowardice; and lastly Estelle, who was put in Hell for her vanity must receive love where she doesn’t want it and not receive love where she does want it.Existentialism is: a part of moral thinking that is subjective to your individual experiences in the hostile universe and that humankind lacks faith and purpose in the world and that humans can do what they want, when they want, as long as they take responsibility for their actions. Inez Serrano describes herself as “what some people down there called ‘a damned bitch’” (pg. 25).
Out of No Exit’s three main characters Inez seems to be the one who embraces the fact that they are all in Hell the most.She openly acknowledges that she has done something wrong in her life and that she believes that Garcin and Estelle have also done something wrong. Shortly after meeting Estelle and Garcin Inez tells them, “Yes, we are criminals – murderers – all three of us. We’re in hell my pets: they never make mistakes, and people aren’t damned for nothing. ” (pg. 16) She believes that they are all “damned souls” and now they have to “pay the reckoning”. Inez seems not only to embrace the fact that they are in Hell more fully than her two companions, but also to embrace existentialism more than they do.
She tells them that “each of Piccione 2 us will act as torturer of the two others. ” (pg. 17) Inez seems to realize that she has done something wrong and that she will have to take responsibility for her actions. During Inez’s lifetime she was cold and cruel. She sucked the living out of the people who loved her. Inez believes she is in Hell because she seduced her cousin’s wife. As a result her cousin died; whether it was an accident or he killed himself seems remotely unclear.
When Inez had Florence (her cousin’s wife) all to herself she claims that she used to remind Florence everyday “we killed him between us. (pg, 26) Inez tells us that she was so cruel that she couldn’t live “without making people suffer”. (pg. 26) Inez compares herself to “a live coal in others’ hearts. ” (pg. 26) She tells us that she “flamed away in [Florence’s] heart, till there was nothing but a cinder. One night she got up and turned on the gas while I was asleep.
Then she crept back into bed. ” (pg. 26) This is how Inez died. Inez says that she does not regret doing what she did, although she does seem to know that it is the reason she is in Hell. During her lifetime Inez caused pain to those who loved her; consequently she is now pained by the one she loves.In Hell Inez loves Estelle. Estelle, however, does not love Inez back.
This in itself would be painful for Inez, but to make it even worse Estelle fawns over Garcin, begging him to love her. Inez is aware that Estelle is in love with Garcin. She tells him “You’ve taken her from me”, “even if I didn’t see her I’d feel it in my bones – that she was making every sound, every rustle of her dress, for your benefit, throwing you smiles you didn’t see…. Well, I won’t stand for that. I prefer to choose my hell; I prefer to look you in the eye and fight it out face to face. ” (pg. 2-23) Inez, most likely, knows that she will never succeed in the fight for Estelle’s heart.
She knows that Garcin and Estelle are here with her to cause her pain, but she chooses to fight anyway. While Inez is undeniably punished for her choices during her lifetime Piccione 3 in Hell she was also punished for them on Earth. It is said that every action has a reaction. Inez’s “action”, so to speak, was her cruelty towards Florence. The reaction in this scenario was that she caused Florence to kill not only herself, but also Inez. Inez died because of how she treated Florence, and now she is in Hell because of it.Joseph Garcin describes himself as a “well-beloved brute.
” (pg. 25) Garcin, as he calls himself, doesn’t seem to comprehend death and Hell nearly as well as Inez. Nor does he understand existentialism as well as she does, although he does understand it to an extent. When Garcin first arrives in Hell he asks where things like his toothbrush and toiletries are. This proves that he does not fully grasp the concept of actually being dead and being in Hell. He attempts to play it off, deny that they should be each other’s torturers. He attempts to portray himself as a hero.
However once Garcin realizes that he is in Hell and can’t escape it he seems to know why. He also seems to realize, eventually, that they will inevitably be the others’ torturers. He says, “We’re chasing after each other, round and round in a vicious circle. ”(pg. Garcin tells us that he is in hell because he “treated his wife abominably. ” (pg. 24) However, I believe that this is not the only reason Garcin is in Hell.
I think that his cowardice and the fact that he could never overcome it also put him in Hell. He would never admit it, but could also never escape it. Garcin, like Inez, tells us that “I don’t regret anything. (pg. 24) He continues to go on and say, “I must pay the price”. (pg. 24) From this quote we can assume that Garcin has come to accept that he is in Hell because of the way he treated his wife, and that he not only knows it, but realizes that he will have to be punished for it.
But he never does admit to his cowardice. He tells us that he was a coward. This haunts him. He had given himself an ultimatum during his life time: face death with courage, and he would be no coward, or face Piccione 4 death miserably and he would always feel like a coward. Now even with death he can’t escape this.It shouldn’t matter that he didn’t face his death courageously because there is nothing he can do to change that now, but it still bothers him to no end. Garcin is punished for each of his wrong doings.
Firstly he is punished for treating his wife badly by her never crying. As much as he thought she should cry and she should scream she never did. This frustrated Garcin. He hated her big, sad, accusing eyes that never shed a tear. Even in death he sees her and immediately is annoyed by those eyes. In Hell he is also punished for his unfaithfulness. He no longer needs to cheat on his wife for the sake of hurting her, she wouldn’t ever know.
Now that he has no motivation to be with another woman he has another woman, Estelle, throwing herself at him. Garcin is also punished for his cowardice. Since he could never accept that he was a coward, nor could he ever truly deny that he was a coward, for he knew he was, but wished he wasn’t, he must now he needs someone to tell him he is not a coward. Estelle wants to tell Garcin what he wants to hear, but Inez is there, in the background, telling Garcin that she doesn’t care if he is a coward and that she is just telling him what he wants to hear without really meaning it.Estelle admits to him that she doesn’t care if he is a coward or not and he can’t bear it. He tries to leave, but when the door opens he realizes he won’t leave. Garcin wishes to convince Inez that he is not a coward, and will stay until he can do so.
The day Garcin convinces Inez he is not a coward will be the day Garcin convinces himself he is not a coward, but that day will never come. The last of the three characters is Estelle. Estelle is a high society lady from Paris. She doesn’t grasp that she is in Hell, nor does she grasp what it means.When Estelle first arrives in Hell she seems to think it’s just like any other hotel she’s been to, telling the valet she will call Piccione 5 him when she needs him, not realizing that she is being punished and no one will be trying to make her comfortable and happy. Estelle does not seem to grasp existentialism. She does not seem to be willing to admit that she has done something wrong in her life.
When she first sees Garcin she believes that he is someone else who she knew during her lifetime. We later find out that she thought he was her lover.She believes that he will have no face, and that he was playing “a rather nasty trick” on her. When Estelle is asked what she did wrong, and why she is in Hell she completely denies knowing why. Estelle later reveals that she had a lover, the man who she expected Garcin was, and that they had a child together. She tells us that she didn’t want the child and once it was born she killed it. Her lover on the other hand did want the child.
Once the child was dead and they had parted their ways her lover killed himself. Although Estelle does not admit to feeling guilty or remorse about this she does. Estelle is also vain.She married for money, and seems to disregard those who don’t have the wealth or status that she did. She needs to look good and for everything around her to cater to her. Estelle is punished vanity. Because Estelle is vain it bothers her that the furniture does not match her outfit.
Estelle also can’t stand not knowing how she looks. She needs a mirror, therefore there are none, to touch up her make up and make her feel beautiful; even to know that she exists. Estelle is also punished for not accepting love. Because Estelle was vain she couldn’t bear the thought of having a child and ruining her life and her image.Having a child with a man that wasn’t her husband would undoubtedly make her look bad. It is said that a mother loves its child unconditionally, and that child will love its mother back. You don’t choose to love your parents; you just do for the sole reason that they are your parents.
When Estelle killed her baby Piccione 6 she was denying herself the love of the one person who would truly love her no matter what. Now that she is in Hell she is punished by having one person there who truly loves her, and sees no wrong in her. This person is Inez. Consequently Estelle will never love Inez.She doesn’t approve of her because she was a post office clerk and not a high society person. Also Estelle will never love Inez because she believes she needs a man to complete her. On the contrary Inez is homosexual.
When Estelle killed her baby her lover ended up killing himself. She returned to Paris and cut him out of her life. He couldn’t take it anymore and brought death upon himself. Since Estelle didn’t value a man’s love during her lifetime she now loves a man who doesn’t love her back. Garcin doesn’t really want anything to do with Estelle; however, he eventually gives in.But this does not mean that Garcin loves Estelle; he merely gives in to temptation and his cowardliness, not knowing what else to do. Garcin will never truly love Estelle, yet Estelle wishes and begs him to love her.
Satre’s portrayal of existentialism in his play No Exit calls attention to the part of existentialism that concerns moral thinking and dealing with the consequences of your actions. Estelle, Inez, and Garcin have all done something that they think is morally incorrect in their lives and because of this they must all face the punishment for it.