Summary and Analysis of the Play "No Exit"

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 19:14   /   Views: 340
Summary and Analysis of the Play "No Exit"


In the play, No Exit, Sartre describes an emotional merry-go-round in which Garcin, Inez, and Estelle love one another, but the love must remain unrequited. Inez is attracted to Estelle who is completely turned off by her. Estelle would like to flirt with Garcin who does not care for her. Garcin wants friendship from Inez, while she despises him. These three characters are stuck with one another, without any means of escape.

In the beginning of the play we are introduced to Garcin. He comes into the room, followed by the attendant. Immediately Garcin recognizes where he is but he does not mention the word “hell.” He is looking for the instruments of torture, but then he realizes that the torture he is going to be exposed to be of a rarer kind. While in this place, he cannot sleep nor close his eyes, not even a wink. The door is locked at all times but there is a doorbell. It functions for no good reason, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

The attendant then leaves the presence of Garcin. Garcin is afraid and tries to ring the doorbell but it doesn’t work. He cries out for help but there is no answer. Shortly afterwards, the door opens and Inez comes in, accompanied by the servant. Garcin goes to her to introduce himself but she cuts him off by saying she knows who he is already. She knows him as “the tormentor.” Garcin tries to protest but she is right. Not only does she know who she is but she also knows that he is afraid. Being unemotional and strong herself, she looks at him with conceit and rejects his advances.

The door opens again and Estelle enters. She is complaining that the color of her couch clashes with her dress. Inez offers Estelle her own, but her offer is declined. She replies that only a gentleman’s couch would go with her dress. Garcin, slightly irked, rises, while Inez announces that she is very pleased to make Estelle’s acquaintance.

Estelle looks back on earth where they have just buried her. She says she died of pneumonia. Now the three of them start to discuss why they are locked in the room together. Garcin thinks it was mere coincidence, but Ines is doubtful. She is believes that everything has been predetermined and nothing was left to chance, every detail serves some purpose.

They talk about their lives in order to find out why they chose the three of them to be together. Estelle starts off by saying that she was chosen by error. She was an orphan, she married an old friend of her father and they were together for six years. Then she found the man that she was in love with. He wanted to marry her but she refused him. After that she was diagnosed with pneumonia.

Garcin goes next, he states that he edited a pacifist paper, a war broke out, and he didn’t compromise so he was arrested and shot. Inez, who suspects that both confessions brought before her are a doctored version of the truth, discovers the real reason why they have been put in the same room. Each of them is the torturer of the other two. They are shocked by her accuracy and don’t bother to contradict her remarks. Then Garcin proposes that they defy the punishment intended for them. If they keep quiet, without getting involved in each other, they can defeat the intentions of the “management.” But Estelle soon breaks the silence by complaining that she has no mirror. Inez volunteers that she will serve as a mirror for her but Estelle says by looking in Ines’ eyes she sees her self as being very indistinct. No matter how much Inez tries to please her or steer her into submission, Estelle only uses her to attract Garcin’s attention.

Garcin tries to follow his resolution to not speak, but Inez ridicules him by saying that she is aware of his hated presence every moment, whether he looks at them or not. She wants to choose her hell rather than pretend not to notice it. Garcin finally explodes under her pestering and starts to speak again. This time he will tell the real reason why he has been sent to hell. He states that he tortured his wife. She was a nice lady who never blamed him for anything. Yet she suffered from within. Her submissiveness was a challenge to him to mislead her even more. He is still hiding something from them.

Inez decides to tell her story. On earth she was a “damned woman” (a Lesbian). She was living in an apartment with a male cousin and Florence, his wife. Inez hated him and gradually succeeded in making Florence see him through her eyes. So one day he was ran over by a streetcar. This was actually a form of suicide. Inez and Florence then moved to the other end of town. But she did not stop bringing up the fact to Florence that it was they that killed her husband. Six months later, Florence’s resistance was shattered. So one night Florence got up and turned on the gas. Both of them were asphyxiated.

Inez and Garcin repeatedly ask Estelle questions until she finally breaks down. She is also guilty. Her mistress wanted a child. She was against it, but she did become pregnant. It was a girl. She was so afraid that her husband would find out that she killed the baby by drowning her in a lake. Out of hopelessness her mistress committed suicide. All this took place for nothing because her husband never suspected a thing.

As the play goes on, the earth fades away little by little. Estelle and Inez are no longer concerned about what is happening on earth. Instead Ines continues to make advances at Estelle. Estelle is so fed up with her that she spits in her face. Garcin then attempts to make Estelle his partner but he can only be understood on an intellectual level. He goes on to tell Estelle his whole story. It turns out that he fled to Mexico to serve as a witness but he was caught by the frontier and that is how he was shot. He is trying to justify his cowardliness to Estelle in his story. But she is not impressed with him. All she wants from Garcin is his love. He continues to reason but all of his colleagues feel that he is a coward. Estelle tells him that she believes him but Ines tells her that she is only saying that to please Garcin. Garcin still feels unhappy and he gives up. He decides that he will escape alone. In desperation, he bangs on the door, shouting that he would rather endure anything than be locked up with these people. Finally, the door opens. He is so amazed that he does not leave and neither does anyone else. Instead, he closes the door.

Garcin states that the only reason why he stayed was for Inez’s’ sake. He can no longer change the views of the people on earth and Estelle’s opinion does not count. Now he wants to convince Ines that he is not a coward. But she thinks that his is indeed a coward and that alone makes him one. He comes to the conclusion that “hell is other people.” So out of frustration he tries to stab Ines with a paper knife. It is then that he realizes that his actions are senseless because they are all dead. Worn out, they return to their couches to gain some more strength for the next round of the comedy, which they realize they will continue for eternity.


I liked this play written by Sartre. I found it very amusing that the characters were caught so much in themselves and by what others thought of them that it led to their downfalls. I also liked the fact that no matter how much Estelle wanted to be with Garcin that it would never happen. The same with Inez and Estelle. The writer did a good job with keeping me interested in reading his play.


My first inference about the literary period is that Sartre did believe in freedom. Throughout the whole story it seems as if they are locked up. But they are only locked up because they want to be. For example, when Garcin is banging on the door to get out and it opens, none of them decide to leave. They sit there and make excuses for staying. Garcin says that he is staying for Inez’ sake but he is afraid to leave because he knows in the real world he will be portrayed as a coward and that is something that he cannot accept. They have nowhere to go because they prefer their present miserable existence to the anguish that choice and the recognition of freedom would offer them.

My second inference about the literary period is the author use of his characters. All of his characters are highly intelligent. But they are too foolish to realize that it is they who control their lives and not others. For example, Inez and Estelle can no longer see what is going in the world once they have given in to the fact that no one is thinking or talking about them anymore. A couple has rented out Inez’s’ old apartment and Olga, Estelles’s friend, she tells a young man the whole story about Estelle and that is when the world fades away for the two women

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