No Exit  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

No Exit is a 1944 existentialist play by Jean-Paul Sartre, originally published in French as Huis clos (In Camera).

The original title is the French equivalent of the legal term in camera, referring to a private discussion behind closed doors; English translations have also been performed under the titles In Camera, No Way Out, Vicious Circle, Behind Closed Doors, and Dead End. The play was first performed at the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier in May 1944.

It is a depiction of the afterlife in which three deceased characters are punished by being locked into a room together for eternity, and is the source of one of Sartre's most famous and most often misinterpreted quotations, l'enfer, c'est les autres ("Hell is other people"), a reference to Sartre's ideas about the Look, and the constant ontological struggle of being caused to see oneself as an object in the world of another consciousness.

Plot synopsis

Three damned souls, Garcin, Inès, and Estelle are brought to the same room in hell by a mysterious Valet. They had all expected medieval torture devices to punish them for eternity, but instead find a plain room furnished in the style of the Second French Empire. None of them will admit the reason for their damnation: Garcin says that he was executed for being a pacifist, while Estelle insists that a mistake has been made.

Inès, however, demands that they all stop lying to themselves and confess to their crimes. She refuses to believe that they all ended up in the room by accident and soon realizes that they have been placed together to make each other miserable. Garcin suggests that they try to leave each other alone, but Inès starts to sing about an execution and Estelle wants to find a mirror. Inès tries to seduce Estelle by offering to be her "mirror" and tell her everything she sees, but ends up frightening her instead.

After arguing they decide to confess to their crimes so they know what to expect from each other. Garcin cheated and mistreated his wife; Inès seduced her cousin's wife while living with them; and Estelle had an affair and then killed the resulting child. Despite their revelations they continue to get on each other's nerves. Garcin finally gives in to Estelle's attempts to seduce him, which drives Inès crazy. Garcin begs Estelle to tell him he is not a coward for attempting to flee his country during wartime. While she complies, Inès tells him that Estelle is just agreeing with him so she can be with a man. This causes Garcin to attempt an escape. After trying to open the door repeatedly, it suddenly opens wildly, but he is unable to leave. He says that he will not be saved until Inès has faith in him. She refuses, saying it's obvious he's a coward, and promising to make him miserable forever. Estelle, infuriated by her treatment of Garcin, tries to kill Inès, stabbing her repeatedly. As they are all already dead, this attack does nothing - bemused, Inès even stabs herself. Shocked at the absurdity of his fate, Garcin concludes, "hell is other people" - not torture devices or physical punishment, but the torment of those he can't escape. The play ends with the three joining in prolonged laughter before resigning themselves to spending the rest of eternity together.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "No Exit" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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