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. 22-23) 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...
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