31 October 2012
Selfishness: The Road to Damnation
One cannot attain an authentic and fulfilling life by living selfishly. Estelle Rigault of Sartre’s No Exit, and Martin Luther King make very different decisions throughout their lives, which lead to opposite degrees of authenticity. Altruistic values, means of achieving what they desire, and motives behind the manipulation of others are what sets the two apart and determines how fulfilling their lives are. Estelle’s selfishness is demonstrated through her relationships on earth. She marries an older man for the riches he has. When she discovers that she is pregnant from her lover, Roger, she kills the baby, thus causing Roger to kill himself. She explains, “It pleased him no end, having a daughter. It didn't please me!...He saw it all... and he did as he wished…I’m a coward. A coward!” (Sartre 28). Estelle finally acknowledges her part in Roger’s death by admitting that she is a coward. Feeling weak is neither authentic, nor fulfilling. Therefore, Estelle’s egotism is what prevents her from living a satisfying life. The way Estelle goes about accomplishing what she wants also leads to her suffering. Throughout the play, she is tortured by Inez, who interferes with her relationship with Garcin. To solve the problem, Estelle attempts to murder Inez: “Right! In that case, I'll stop her watching. (She picks up the paper knife and stabs Inez several times)” (Sartre 45). Estelle does what she desires without thinking about how it might affect others. This leads to an unfulfilling life because she simply continues the cycle of torture and emotional suffering. Estelle’s selfishness is finally demonstrated when she lies to Garcin about his cowardice: ESTELLE. You haven't a coward's chin, or a coward's mouth, or a coward's voice, or a coward's hair… INEZ. She'd assure you you were God Almighty if she thought it would give you pleasure (Sartre 40). Estelle is manipulating...
Cited: King, Martin Luther, Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” 1963.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. No Exit. New York: Vintage Books International, 1989. Print.
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