Existentialism is the basic requirement of people to take responsibility for their own choices. The concepts that define existentialism portrays the idea that people exist for a reason, and who a person is, what they do, and why they do it will eventually lead into a big role of these acts in their future, either in a good way or a bad way. Sartre points out that people make choices for themselves and they are the only ones that can pick right from wrong because they are the ones with the final decision. In No Exit, Sartre puts these characters into a single room where they are trapped, and he introduces this topic upon them.
The room, is hell. The dialogues then unfold the reasons why they are in hell. The reasons are not the Christian sins they have committed, like in The Inferno, but the fact that they did not accept responsibility for their own choices, blaming it all instead on circumstances and others. Their private hell is not a religious version of hell, but an existentialist one based upon these key points. Their choices in life then leave them with Sartre’s unique form of punishment, leaving the three individuals to live with each other forever.
Each mirroring the others own personal form of torture, hurting them both mentally and emotionally. With Sartre’s choice of words and actions in No Exit, we can see he is the father of existentialism to the three main characters. This play starts off with rich drama and bold theme, much like one of the three plotted characters in No Exit, Estelle. There are many defined terms to describe the personality of Estelle, including, self-involved, spoiled, or liar. Estelle’s distinctive torture is the simplest to see based on the strong personality she has. She is basically portrayed as an open book.
As soon as Estelle is introduced in the story she confesses to her annoyance and disgust in people of lesser value. For example, she begins with her revolt against her mismatch in her clothes and the furniture pattern. Then begins her outburst on the lack of formality and luxury in Inez’s life of being a mailman. By using these actions when Estelle reaches hell, Sartre can allow the focus on how Estelle believes her life contains perfect etiquette and formality, and its another’s fault for not living up to her standards. This of course is Sartre’s first example of existentialism.
But, soon after we can see Estelle’s life was not as fulfilled as it may have seemed. Estelle begins to explain her background in life and says, “When I can’t see myself I begin to wonder if I really and truly exist. I pat myself just to make sure, but it doesn’t help much (Sartre 19). ” Through this observation, she illustrates the “man is alone” element of the play and also the interpretation of that with all of her luxuries she was given, were never enough to fill her. By this we can see that in life, Estelle wasn’t able to see what she was doing to herself, but only
could see and only wanted to see how others saw her, almost driving herself insane by it and now she can’t even see herself. Clearly since this hell was designed for her, it was to help her realize that she didn’t take the responsibility of her actions and couldn’t see how it affected her own state of mind. This clearly exposes that one should not have to depend on others for self-assurance, an obvious point of Sartre’s idea of existentialism. In the way Sartre wrote No Exit he implied each of the three main characters were placed in that room together for a reason.
Sartre begins the story with a man, Garcin. In the act, Garcin seems to be the nicest one in the room, by accommodating for Estelle and Inez’s needs and staying out of their way. But in life, Garcin admittedly is in Hell because he was unkind and unfaithful to his wife and went against the government by being unwilling to join the army. By this, troops were forced to shoot him twelve times, leaving the world with the belief that he was a coward. He however, “claims” he does not wish he had acted differently. He says, “I tell you I regret nothing (Sartre 24).
” In this respect of acknowledging and owning up to his actions, Garcin is following existentialist laws. However, he is shown violating them at some point. For example, he is so preoccupied with the idea to prove he is not a coward, a form of insecurity developed from his actions in life, that he truffles with Inez about his chance to leave the room in hell. He stayed because he wanted to prove to at least someone that he was worthy enough to stay and fight through something in his life proving that he was not a coward.
This does not follow along with Sartre’s idea of existentialism because according to its principles, he should not have to rely on others for confidence. Lastly, there is Inez. The only way to describe Inez is unique and interesting. She possesses a very bold yet subtle personality. But she is very manipulative over others, driving people away as she did in life, which I will soon explain. Inez is in Hell because she had seduced her cousin’s wife, then conspired to make his life miserable, until he finally stepped in front of a tram and was killed.
This is an example of her control and manipulation on emotions. Inez also brought a lot of guilt upon her lover, Florence, until she finally committed suicide and killed Inez by poisoning them with gas during the night. Obviously, by creating two such great stirs in her life towards other people she loved caused by her own self infliction, it definitely would cause harm in her life. But Inez does not refute or regret this, as she states, “…I was what some people down there called ‘a damned bitch (Sartre 25),’” trying to show she had no interest in what others thought of her.
But there lays evidence that she did in fact, regret her choices, for they laid an unhealed bruise in her life of not getting the satisfaction of being loved for her own personality, an argument going against the idea of existentialism. As soon as Inez is introduced she clearly states she is not interested in men, which leads the idea that she shows feelings towards women. With Garcin she shows no sign of attentiveness, but when Estelle comes in she is glamorized and attempts to seduce her. Estelle tortures her because of the fact that she could never love her back.
This insecurity was noticeably developed by her lack of love in life and now this is her torture for her actions in mortality, a clear sign going against existentialism again, for her need of acceptance by another. The setting of No Exit helps Sartre perfectly explain what existentialism is. By placing these characters alone in one room, they have no choice but to compare themselves to one another, learning who they really are, and how they were truly represented when they were attached with the world and the living.
In the beginning, they had issues sharing what they did to end up where they were from fear of judgment from one another. Again, existentialism explains, that you yourself, must determine who you are and not the choice of another. This fear and need for guidance of others, was a trait they all shared commonly, produced by their own choices in life and is why their actions lead them to be paired together in the end. Although they are such different people, they were related in this way and each knew how this anxiety could allow them to hurt one another blindly. This was their torture.
Courtney from Study Moose
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