World Literature Essay

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Name: Lea Heusinger-Jonda
Candidate Number: 003854-008
Literature in Translation Essay
English A1 Literature Standard Level

No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre

How does Sartre establish a concept of Hell?

Far from the traditional perception of life after death, Jean-Paul Sartre’s conceptual Hell is based on the Existentialist theory revolving around how one is possessed and controlled by the ‘other’, as the ‘other’ defines one’s actions and exterior being. Jean-Paul Sartre, a French philosopher, novelist and playwright, was a leading Existentialist who dealt with the nature of human life and the structures of consciousness in his philosophies. His play ‘No Exit’ clearly illustrates the conflict of otherness and the underlying argument established throughout the play is that “Hell is other people”. Using only three characters and a single room, Sartre evokes a new concept of Hell, and concludes that Hell is not a physical place, but that it is in fact all around us; a man made concept driven by our choices and actions. This concept is further underlined through Sartre’s use of visual set construction, the characters’ dependency on one another, their internal conflict and the idea of competitive subjectivity.

Sartre uses various aspects of visual set construction to create a version of Hell that greatly differs from the traditional perception of it, to enhance his theory that Hell exists all around us. According to Christian beliefs, Hell is a place for sinners who have been judged and condemned by God. Sartre, who considers faith in God to limit freedom, is opposed to the concept that God has the ability to decide one’s fate. Through Garcin’s realization that Earth is “down there”, suggesting that Hell is above Earth, Sartre reverses the belief that Hell is below, as stated in the Bible: “…thou shalt be brought down to Hell”. Sartre thereby inverts one of the most essential beliefs about Hell to establish the difference between his concept of Hell and...
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