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Steven Prada English No Exit- Essay

March 18, 2012

French metaphysicist, Jean Paul Sartre stated existence precedes essence which means that a persons personality and faith is not predetermined, because only a human being has the power to choose and decide. Sartre believes that in life there is no absolute truth; according to his play No Exit, the protagonists use each other as torturers to reconcile their past crimes. The characters, Garcin, Estelle and Inez are depicted on the ideas of competitive subjectivity, objectification, and bad faith. Existentialism did not develop in opposition to determinism but in opposition to absolute idealism and extreme rationalism. Therefore, no matter how much Garcin, Estelle, and Inez denied it, their fate was a result of their own decisions. They come different social circles. According, to Sienkewicz, the protagonists are of different background to show that Sartre is depicting all humans. There should be no one to blame, but themselves. Likewise, humans are free to do anything he/she wants, as long as he/she is willing to accept the consequences. Thus, with this freedom he/she must own up to his/her actions and deal with the result. Garcin, Estelle, and Inez are forced to come to terms with this concept. However, Garcin, Inez and Estelle show that they are not ashamed for being in hell, but when they are confessing it to others and are judged by it. According to theists, hell is a state or place of evil and misery. However, in Sartres play, hell is depicted as the other people in the room. Sartre refers to hell as existing all around us thus describing the setting in a normal living room. Sienkewicz states Sartre uses the concept of hell as a semi-humorous frame. This implies that Sartre is criticizing theists belief in an afterlife.

Prada 2 However, Garcin and Estelle manage to critique the setting and its features disregarding that they are in hell. In addition, the characters would not have been able to experience a sense of hell if they were alone. Sartres belief of hell being other people is demonstrated by having the three characters alone with each other conversing and shaping each others thoughts and feelings about oneself. Garcin, the photographer from Rio, attempts to make peace with himself and the other people he has hurt in the past. As Garcin introduces himself to Inez and Estelle, he seems to be a gentleman. Nonetheless, Garcin still is in hell for a reason which is kept mysterious by his actions and conversations in the beginning. Those big tragic eyes of hers-with that martyred look they always had. Oh, how she got on my nerves." (Sartre 4) This shows us the realization that Garcin abused his wife. Garcin faces judgment when discussing his past actions to Inez and Estelle, which make him feel shame and cowardliness. Garcin is viewed by Estelle and Inez as an object which establishes Sartres belief of competitive subjectivity. Nevertheless, Garcin is viewed by the reader as the neutral character since he is stuck in between the extreme drama of Estelles and Inezs personalities. During the play, Garcin shows examples of bad faith which as a result equals to selfdeception and does not allow him to recognize his actions. Garcin describes to Inez and Estelle that his wife was a victim and martyr. These descriptions show that Garcin viewed his wife as an object, thus tricking himself to justifying her death. Likewise, Garcin desperately, convinces Inez that he is courageous. Instead, Inez criticizes his twitching which he immediately fixes in order to look good in her eyes. It is better to be hated than ignored-far better to be

Prada 3 something than nothing. According to, Bergers statement, Garcin is much more comfortable being objectified than left alone in independence. Once again, Garcin is allowing others to see him as an object and not as an equal subject. Moreover, in the end of the play Garcin is shown choosing to stay in hell because hed rather keep deceiving himself as an object in bad faith than facing freedom and responsibilities. Estelle; the snobby 20-something year old, refuses to understand her current situation in hell by resorting to bad faith. Estelle is inferred to be the youngest among the others and the least in control of her freedom and responsibilities. Before telling her past story to Inez and Garcin, she claims to be in hell by mistake, because she died of a respiratory complication. Even after Garcins and Inezs, she seems to still not understand the reason for her being in hell. Eventually, Estelle resorts to bad faith instead of admitting her confessions. While conflict is shown in No Exit as a primary factor of existence, unresolved conflict of projects is demonstrated as inherent only in relationships fostered of bad faith. According, to Zivanovic bad faith is the root of all evil caused unresolved conflict. Instead of calling each other dead, Estelle insists in call her and the others absentees. She is insisting that nothing is wrong and that she will soon reappear on Earth with the rest of society. Estelles continuous obsession for mirrors and her appearance even in hell show that she wants to be viewed as an object by both Garcin and Estelle. Instead of trying to existing herself, Estelle is more concerned in keeping everyones eyes on her. Moreover, Estelle is constantly flirting with Garcin because her desire to be desired by another person, Garcin being the only

Prada 4 guy in the room takes that role. Estelle is desperate for wanting to be an object and not have to deal with responsibility of being a subject. Inez, the self-described dammed bitch, avoids self-deception and admits to her actions and crimes which allow her to be self-conscious. Inez is inferred to be a lesbian, because of her interest and attraction towards Estelle. She is depicted as the torturer who attempts in making Garcin and Estelle confess their past crimes. Inez is aware of her self-conscious and tries not to lead towards bad faith by accepting punishment to her past crimes and her current situation in hell. Inez concludes that hell is a self-serving cafeteria which is similar to Sartres hell is other people. Furthermore, Inezs conscious and insights allow her to teach Garcin and Estelle, or even torture them since she is a self-proclaimed cruel person. Inez shows this when she is tormenting Estelle by pretending shes got a pimple on her face when she does not. Suppose I try to be your glass? Come and pay me a visit, dear. (Sartre 7) The idea that Inezs opinion can define Estelles thoughts; acts as another important idea of existentialism. Also, Inez discredits Garcins false hope that if they pretend each other isnt there, they will be free of torment. Inezs clear views of existentialism can be assumed by the reader that she is sort of a Sartre in disguise. For instance, Inez asserts to Garcin that it is your actions that count, not your opinions. Furthermore, Sartre believes that in life there is no absolute truth. The idea that each protagonist tortured each other to reconcile past actions proves to the Sartre belief that hell is other people. This belief proves to root from the French philosophy that the problem of humanity is outside the human being, whereas as the German philosophy stated the problem lies

Prada 5 within oneself instead. In addition, Sartres beliefs stated that humans a free to do whatever they want as long as they are willing to accept consequences and responsibilities. This requirement to accept responsibility becomes a burden to the individual that is placed upon them by others. Moreover, when it comes to dealing with others, you cannot live with them or you cannot live without them.

Prada 6 Berger, Gaston. Sartre in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Detroit, 1959 Gale. From Literature Resource Center, 1992

Sartre, John-Paul. Huis Clos. Franc, 1946. Reprinted in New York: Knop and Double day Pub, 1989.

Sienkewicz, Anne W. No Exit Masterplots Vol II. New York, 1982 Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1982

ZIvanovic, Judith. Sartres Drama: Key to Understanding His Concept of Freedom. Detroit, 1971 Gale. From Literature Resource Center, 2008