No Exit

by: Jean-Paul Sartre

Section 3

Garcin also remains a prisoner of his past. He keeps "listening" to what people are saying about him rather than listening to his own voice in the present. Even when he attempts to convince Inez that he is not a coward in the present, he continually justifies his actions in the past. For instance, he suggests that he died "too soon" and "wasn't allowed time" to act, forgetting that he will be stuck in hell for eternity. Sartre wrote that the responsibility for one's freedom was so overwhelming that we are "condemned to be free," a statement literally played out by Garcin's inability to leave the room. Unable to exist without people judging his past, Garcin condemns himself to remain in the eternal present of the room.

It is fitting that Sartre originally entitled the play The Others. Suffering under the German occupation, Sartre wrote that he began to understand that Evil was just as absolute and independent as Good in society. By simply placing three individuals in the same room, Sartre not only suggests that hell naturally exists on earth but that "hell is other people." As Garcin discovers, there is no need for physical torture: the gaze of the "other" reduces and "devours" his individuality. He is unable to do anything, even kiss Estelle, when Inez is watching. Ignoring his innate freedom and responsibility, Garcin thinks Inez's judgment is the only proof of his existence.