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Sartre’s minimal stage directions are as follows: "A drawing room in Second Empire style. A massive bronze ornament stands on the mantelpiece."
(FYI, "Second Empire" is an architectural/design style from the Victorian era. The furniture looks something like this.)
Garcin enters, accompanied by the valet. The former comments on the Second Empire furniture; he doesn’t like it, but he supposes he’ll get used to it.
He asks if all the other rooms have similar furniture. The valet says no, since they "cater to all types."
Garcin is still amazed at the way things look. He was clearly expecting something very different, based on what he had been told.
The valet tells him it was silly to believe those stories from people who had clearly never been here.
The valet trails off and both men laugh awkwardly. (Don’t worry, everything becomes clear soon…)
Garcin wanders around the room. He wants to know where all the red-hot pokers and other torture devices are. He also notes that there are no windows, no mirrors, nothing breakable. He wishes he had his toothbrush.
The valet smiles; Garcin’s desire for a toothbrush means he hasn’t gotten over his sense of "human dignity." Everyone always asks him where the torture devices are, and then they always ask about things like toothbrushes. What use would Garcin possibly have for a toothbrush, the valet asks.
Garcin agrees this is true.
Then he imagines that, without a mirror, he’ll spend quite a bit of time staring at the bronze statue on the mantelpiece. He proposes his theory behind what he imagines is a method of torture: he’s sinking, drowning, choking, and all he has before his eyes is this statue by Barbedienne. (Barbedienne sculpted statues like this one.)
Garcin is determined that he figure out what’s going on, so that the valet won’t have the satisfaction of catching him off guard. He guesses that the people here never sleep here, right?
The valet confirm this. No sleep.
Garcin tries to figure out how lack of sleep is one of their torture methods. He reasons through it and determines that no sleep constitutes "life without a break."
He stares at the valet and realizes why he’s been so creeped out; the valet ‘s eyelids are "paralyzed" and he never blinks. Garcin realizes how much he values blinking – it’s like four thousand little rests every hour.
Garcin worries that he won’t be able to tolerate his own company without a break.
Next he wonders what’s outside, beyond the room in which they’re standing now. More rooms, more passages, says the valet. He also informs Garcin that they can’t turn off the lights.
When Garcin complains that they have to live with their eyes open all the time, the valet mocks his use of the word "live."
Garcin threatens to drop the bronze mantelpiece on the lamp to put the light out. But the statue is too heavy and he can’t move it.
The valet says it’s time for him to leave and heads for the door. Garcin correctly points out that there is a bell next to the door in order to call the valet back, but the valet tells him that it doesn’t always work.
Before the valet leaves, Garcin spots a paper-knife on the mantelpiece and asks him what the use is of it if there are no books. (Back in the day, you had to use a paper-knife or letter-opener to separate the pages of books.)
The valet just shrugs his shoulders and leaves, closing the door behind him.
Garcin is left alone. He tries to think of something to do, can’t, so he goes over and pushes the bell to ring for the valet.
The button doesn’t work. He tries to call the valet, he beats the door with his fist, but no result. He calms down and sits just as the door opens and a second person – a woman named Inez - enters with the valet.
The valet asks if Garcin called him; he answers that no, he didn’t.
The valet informs Inez that this is her room and asks her if she has any questions. She doesn’t, which the valet finds to be unusual. He leaves the two alone, again closing the door behind him.
Inez asks Garcin where Florence is. He doesn’t know; she concludes that this must be "torture by separation." It’s no matter, she says, since Florence "was a tiresome little fool" and she "shan’t miss her in the least."
Garcin realizes that Inez thinks he is the torturer. He finds this amusing. He’s not one of the staff, he explains; he is Joseph Garcin, a journalist, and he is in the same boat as she is.
Inez doesn’t introduce herself, but does correct Garcin’s use of "Mrs." by stating that she’s not married.
Together, they wonder who the torturers are and what they look like. Garcin claims he’s not afraid; Inez is disappointed to learn that the door is locked and they can’t go outside for a stroll.
Garcin declares that he’d rather be alone than have Inez’s company. He’d like to have the solitude to work things out in his mind. But he figures they’ll make the best of things together.
He suggests they be polite to each other, but Inez responds that she isn’t polite.
Garcin sits while Inez paces around. She tells him to stop twitching his mouth, as she finds it gross.
Again they wonder what’s going to happen to them. Garcin realizes that Inez is still looking at his twitching mouth, so he buries his face in his hands.
The door opens and a third person, Estelle, enters with the valet. Garcin starts to look up, but Estelle tells him not to remove his face from behind his hands, since she knows he has "no face left."
Garcin looks up; Estelle is shocked to find that he does indeed have a face. She’s confused.
She asks the valet is anyone else is coming. When he says no, she starts laughing, which angers Garcin. Estelle continues to laugh as she looks about at what she considers to be the awful furnishings of the room. She determines that they each get to have one sofa to themselves. She doesn’t want to sit on the green one, since she’s wearing blue.
Inez offers Estelle her own sofa – dark red – but Estelle rejects that one, too. She asks for Garcin’s couch, and he gets up and gives it to her.
Estelle takes off her coat, sits, and introduces herself as Estelle Rigault. Inez, obviously attracted to the young woman, steps forward and introduces herself as Inez Serrano. Garcin reveals his own name again, and Inez comments on Estelle’s good looks.
Estelle asks, "Of course, you two are – " but then she trails off. Both Garcin and Inez reveal that yes, they are, too.
While the word "dead" hasn’t yet been explicitly used, it’s clear at this point that all three of these characters are in fact dead, and have found themselves in hell.
Inez says hers was last week, while Estelle says hers was yesterday, and in fact the "ceremony" (which we know to be a funeral) is still going occurring. Estelle can apparently see the funeral taking place, as she narrates it. She sees her sister trying to cry over her death. She also spots her best friend, Olga, who is not crying.
Estelle explains that the cause was pneumonia, and that her husband was so stricken with grief he couldn’t even go to the funeral.
Inez says her cause of death was the gas stove. Garcin chimes in with his own: twelve bullets to the chest. He uses the word "dead," which upsets Estelle. She decides they should be called "absentees," as they are absent from the world.
The characters reveal more of their personal history. Garcin is from Rio (Brazil), while Estelle hails from Paris.
Now Garcin, too, gets to observe what’s going on back in the real world. He sees his wife looking for him at "the barracks" – she doesn’t know yet that he’s been killed. He finds her annoying, as he apparently did while he was alive. He sits down, grief-stricken, and Estelle yells at him for sitting on her sofa (the one in the middle of the room).
Garcin is getting hot and goes to remove his jacket, but Estelle orders him not to, as she "loathe[s] men in shirt-sleeves." He complies, and compares this heat to that of the newspaper office where he used to work.
Estelle and Inez both narrate the events going on back in the real world. Estelle sees Olga undressing for bed, while Inez notes that her room is sealed up and dark.
Inez reveals that she doesn’t care much for men, and we can conclude from this statement and her attraction to Estelle that she is gay.
The three characters try to figure out why they got thrown together, instead of with the people that they had known during life. They try to figure out if they met during their lives, but can find no connection whatsoever.
Garcin refuses to believe that it is a "fluke" or "chance." He’s convinced that "they" planned everything out, even the color and positioning of the three couches, and the statue on the mantelpiece.
Inez proposes that if they had the guts to tell each other the truth about why they were here they might figure it out.
Estelle quickly says that she has no idea why she ended up here. She is sure it’s a "ghastly mistake." Maybe all three of them are there by mistake…
Inez asks her to reveal more, so Estelle dives into her personal history. Her parents died when she was young and she raised her younger brother. They were very poor, so when a much older but very wealthy man asked her to marry him, she said OK.
Then, about two years ago, she met the love of her life. He asked her to run away with him, but she refused because she was already married. Then she got pneumonia and died. Estelle wonders if sacrificing her youth to a man three times her age is sin enough to land her in hell.
Garcin doesn’t think so. He also doesn’t think that standing by one’s principles should count as a crime either. All he did was run a pacifist newspaper. When war broke out, he continued his publication, and they shot him for it. Inez asks about his wife, and Garcin responds that he rescued her "from the gutter."
Inez is having none of it. She encourages them to stop pretending they’re saints when they are all "criminals, murderers." She says, "We're in hell, my pets; they never make mistakes, and people aren't damned for nothing."
Estelle yells at her not to use words like "hell" and "damned."
Inez suddenly realizes why the three of them have been thrown into this room together. It’s just like a cafeteria, where the customers have to serve themselves so that the restaurant doesn’t have to supply staff to do the job. "Each of us will act as torturer of the two others," she says.
Garcin explains that he will take no part in torturing them. If they just each sit in their own corner and keep quiet, everything will be fine. No one will speak, and they will each work out their own salvation by looking into themselves.
Estelle and Inez agree; the three of them bid each other good-bye.
Garcin sits on his sofa and buries his head in his hands. Meanwhile, Inez has started singing aloud, and Estelle is playing with her makeup.
Looking around, she sees there is no mirror. She asks Garcin for one, but he doesn’t respond.
Estelle closes her eyes and sways, as though she is going to faint. Inez rushes to her side, and Estelle explains that when she can’t see herself in a mirror, she sometimes wonders if she exists at all.
Inez thinks this is lucky; she herself is always conscious of her own existence – "painfully conscious."
Estelle says that on earth she always had to make sure she was near mirrors "in which [she] could see [her]self" when she was talking to other people. She also watched herself through others’ eyes.
Inez invites Estelle to sit with her on her couch. Though Estelle is still worried that they’ll hurt each other (meaning act as each other’s torturers), she complies. Meanwhile they both conclude that Garcin doesn’t count as another person in the vicinity.
Estelle sits on the couch and Inez tells her to stare into her (Inez’s) eyes. Estelle asks about her own lipstick, Inez says it’s smudgy, and she sets about to fixing it.
Estelle is frustrated by having to rely on Inez’s taste instead of her own. What if what Inez thinks what looks good on her doesn’t look good in Estelle’s opinion?
Inez is getting quite chummy, but Estelle is hesitant, claiming that she doesn’t become friends with women very easily. Inez cuts to the chase: Estelle is worried about their class differences, since she is a society woman while Inez is a postal clerk.
Inez points out a pimple on Estelle’s chin, but then says she’s lying. She asks Estelle what she is going to do when her mirror starts lying, or when it stops looking at her altogether.
But then she concludes that she’ll be very nice to Estelle, and vice versa. She confirms that she is in fact very attracted to Estelle.
But Estelle wants Garcin to be attracted to her, because he’s "a Man." Inez asks Garcin to look at Estelle, but he doesn’t look up.
Inez tells him not to pretend; she knows he’s been listening to everything she’s said.
Garcin says yes, he has, but only because he couldn’t block out their annoying chatter. He’s been trying to listen in on a scene back on earth, where some men in his newspaper office are discussing him. He again asks the women to stay quiet, and they briefly make another pact to stop interacting with each other.
This lasts about, oh, ten seconds before Inez flips out. She thinks it’s absurd to forget that there are two other people in the room. She can ignore them, but she can’t stop them from existing. She claims that Garcin’s very existence steals her face from her. (Yes, that’s what she says. We’ll talk about this in analysis, so don’t worry.)
Inez concludes that she won’t try to ignore the problem; she prefers to "choose [her] hell" and "fight it out face to face."
Garcin gives up. He grumbles that men would be easier to live with in hell, as they wouldn’t talk as much as women. Then he goes over to Estelle and places his hand on her neck. "So I attract you, little girl?" he asks.
Estelle tells him not to touch her.
Garcin continues talking. During his life, he was all about the ladies. He proposes that the three of them come clean about their lives, no use hiding from each other. Why don’t they each admit why they’re really here?
He decides to go first. He’s in hell not just because he’s a deserter, but also because he treated his wife badly.
As soon as Garcin says her name, he sees his wife back on earth. But he maintains that his primary interest is in his colleague Gomez back on earth; he always wants to know what Gomez is saying about him.
Anyway, Garcin continues, he used to womanize even when he was married. She always knew about his affairs but didn’t do anything about it. He claims she was "a born martyr," "a victim by vocation."
Inez wants to know why he hurt his wife so much; Garcin responds that it was easy, that he liked to tease and that she never cried. He saved her from a life of poverty, after all, he reasons. He regrets nothing, and concludes the only problem was that she admired him too much.
This doesn’t mean anything to Inez, since nobody ever admired her.
Garcin tries to make the situation more clear for her. Once he brought a girl home to live with him as his mistress. He used to have sex with her while his wife listened, and in the morning he would stay in bed with the mistress while his wife served them coffee.
Now it’s Inez’s turn to confess. It seems she had an affair with a married woman named Florence, resulting in both women’s death and the death of Florence’s husband. (More details coming soon.) Inez is distracted by the scene back on earth she gets to witness. She observes that they are renting out the room she used to occupy and finds this "ridiculous."
And here come the details. Florence’s husband was Inez’s cousin, and Inez lived with the couple.
As Garcin presses for more details, Inez confesses that, while she doesn’t regret what she did, she isn’t exactly keen on reciting the whole thing for Garcin’s sake right now.
And yet she does. Inez slowly turned Florence against her husband until she left him and the two women got an apartment together. Then the husband was hit by a tram and died. Inez used to tell Florence, with pleasure, that they killed him together. "I’m rather cruel, really," she tells Garcin.
Garcin thinks he is, too, but Inez tells him no, he’s something different. She explains that she can’t get by without making people suffer. She likens herself to a live coal living in other people’s hearts; if she’s alone, she flickers out and dies.
She explains that one night, while she was sleeping, Florence got up and turned the gas on in their apartment, killing both of them.
Now it’s Estelle’s turn, but she claims she has nothing to confess. She can’t figure out why she’s in hell.
So Garcin tries to help. He knows that, when Estelle first arrived, she was afraid of seeing a man with a smashed face. Who is that man, he asks?
As he pushes Estelle for information, she reveals that he was a friend of hers and that he shot himself in the face. Then she freaks out, doesn’t want to talk anymore, and runs to the door. It’s locked, so she bangs on it for release. She pushes the call-button, but the bell doesn’t ring. Estelle gives up. Inez and Garcin press her for more information, and she admits that the man with the smashed-up face was her lover, and a poor man, too (Inez guesses that tidbit).
Estelle reveals that, contrary to her earlier claim, she did indeed have an affair with the young man (Roger). In fact, she got pregnant with his child. She ran away to Switzerland to have the baby away from her wealthy, older husband.
Roger was happy; Estelle was not. So she drowned her daughter in the lake while Peter watched helplessly from the balcony above.
Then she returned to Paris, Roger shot himself in the face, and Estelle’s husband never suspected a thing (despite his wife’s absurdly long trip to Switzerland).
Estelle bursts into tears and declares herself a coward. Inez tries to comfort her and tells Garcin not to look so judgmentally upon her.
He begins to take off his coat, but remembering that Estelle hates men in shirt-sleeves, goes to put it back on. Estelle, still distraught, tells him not to bother.
Garcin asks Estelle not to be angry with him. She’s not, she says. She’s angry with Inez.
Garcin proposes that, now that they’ve all come clean, they should help each other. He reasons that the three of them are "inextricably linked," that if one of them raises an arm, the others will feel the breeze.
Inez is distracted, witnessing in her head a scene back on earth. They’ve rented out her apartment to someone new. She watches the couple making themselves at home in her bed. The scene goes dark, and she concludes that she is done with earth and can’t see anymore. She is now firmly rooted in this room.
Garcin again implores her to help him best the system here in hell. It only requires some human feeling, he says.
But Inez finds this impossible. "I’m rotten to the core," she tells him.
Garcin points out that Estelle is likely there to act as Inez’s torturer (since Inez will be attracted to her and she will never return the feeling).
Inez counters that he, too, is in a trap, that "they" have planned out everything – all his words, actions, and responses.
Garcin advises that Inez let go of everything; but she’s not the kind of girl to do that. She knows she’s in a trap, she knows she can’t do anything about it; she knows she’ll burn here in hell forever, and she doesn’t even feel sorry for herself.
Garcin grips her by the shoulders and tells her that he feels sorry for her, even if she can’t feel sorry for herself. He feels they are both "naked" now that they’ve revealed everything about themselves, and he vows not to hurt her.
But Inez just shakes his hands off and tells him not to pity her. She advises that, since there are traps set for him, too, he’d best look after his own interests, not hers. She tells him to leave her and Estelle to themselves.
Then Estelle chimes in. She wants Garcin to help her. But he refuses; if Estelle wants help, she should turn to Inez, not him.
Inez goes up and stands behind Estelle, who is facing Garcin. In the following conversation, Inez speaks to Estelle, but Estelle keeps her eyes on Garcin and responds to him, as though she’s conversing with him instead of Inez.
Estelle begins observing a scene back on earth, narrating it aloud: her friend Olga has taken Peter – an eighteen-year-old boy who used to be in love with Estelle – to a cabaret. She’s angry, because she feels Peter belongs to her.
Inez explains that Estelle is dead – nothing on earth belongs to her anymore. However, here in hell, the blue couch belongs to her. Inez claims that she also belongs to Estelle.
Estelle doesn’t really listen. She speaks to Peter (though he obviously can’t hear her), claiming that part of her is still on earth and that he should continue to love her, not Olga.
To her horror, Olga is discussing her with Peter. She’s explaining all the horrible things Estelle did while she was alive. Finally, Estelle gives up, telling Olga that she can have Peter. Then, in the scene she observes, the music fades and the lights go dark. She realizes that, like Inez, she’s lost her tenuous connection with earth.
Estelle begs for Garcin to take her in his arms and comfort her. Inez and he try to orchestrate the situation such that Estelle will turn to Inez instead of to him.
That doesn’t work so much. Estelle is definitely interested in Garcin, and tries to convince him that she’s more pleasant to look at than anything else in the room (therefore, he should look at her). She insists that Inez doesn’t count, because she’s a woman.
Inez tries calling Estelle by the same pet names she revealed Peter used to call her ("my glancing stream, my crystal)".
Again, this doesn’t work. Estelle claims that she is "shattered" (as in, no longer a pretty crystal) because she drowned her baby. She knows she’s a "hollow dummy."
Inez offers that Estelle see herself through her (Inez’s) eyes, but Estelle refuses, claiming Inez has no eyes.
Then she spits in Inez’s face, lest her message remain ambiguous.
Inez blames Garcin for this injury.
He shrugs and moves toward Estelle, who again insists that she needs him. Garcin advises her to be careful, as he’s not some eighteen-year-old boy who goes dancing (like Peter).
Estelle doesn’t care. She promises to just sit on the couch and not bother him at all.
Inez ridicules this conversation, calling Estelle a "silly bitch" fawning over Garcin.
Estelle tells Garcin to ignore Inez, since she has no eyes and ears.
Garcin decides to placate Estelle and so bends toward her. Inez shouts that the two of them are not alone – they must remember that she is in the room, too. In so many words, she begs them not to have sex while she’s present.
Garcin pushes her away, stating firmly that he has no compunction about hitting a woman.
Inez says, "Fine, have it your way," but she reminds them that no matter what they do, she will be there watching. And they’re just going to have to deal with it.
Garcin moves to kiss Estelle, but suddenly stops. It seems he’s distracted by yet another scene back on earth, once again concerning his friend Gomez. He concludes it’s been six months on earth since he died (they have all established that time moves faster on earth than in hell). He listens to Gomez (whom he calls a "swine) talking about him (Garcin).
Then he turns back to Estelle and asks if she’s going to love him and trust him.
Estelle evades the question. She’s giving him her body, so who cares about trust? She suggests that Garcin must have something ghastly on his conscience to be so concerned with trust.
Garcin reminds her that he was shot to death, though now he admits that the reason for his execution was "not exactly" because he refused to fight…
He trails off as he loses himself again in the scene going down back on earth. It seems that Gomez is making a fairly strong case against Garcin, who it turns out was a deserter in the army – he tried to run away to Mexico to avoid fighting. Still, Garcin wonders what, as a pacifist, he could have done instead – gone to the general and explained his personal philosophy? Hardly.
Estelle says it’s fine, and she doesn’t judge him for it. Inez explains that he feels guilty over his cowardice – that’s what’s eating away at his conscience.
He tries to defend himself, but Inez gets him to ask the difficult question: what was his real motive in running away? She tells him that "fear and hatred and all the dirty little instincts one keeps dark – they're motives too," and asks that he be honest with himself "for once."
Garcin says yes, he’s been thinking about that since he decided to run away. He finally concluded that if he had faced death like a man, he could prove he wasn’t a coward.
Unfortunately, he faced death with cowardice.
He tells Estelle to come closer, to look at him. He says he likes green eyes.
Inez laughs and asks Estelle if she likes cowards.
Estelle says she doesn’t care. She just wants a man to kiss and be with.
Garcin looks back to earth again and sees his friends sitting around, all thinking him a coward.
Inez asks about his wife, and Garcin reveals that she died about two months ago, essentially of grief over his death.
He starts to cry; Estelle takes his hand and puts it on her neck. She tells him to forget about the men back on earth.
But Garcin’s concern is that they won’t forget about him; his legend will live and he’ll be known forever as a coward.
Still, he maintains that he and Estelle can really love each other if they strategize correctly. All he needs to be happy is for one person to believe that he isn’t a coward –and Estelle should be that person.
Estelle assures him that she doesn’t think him a coward and that she loves him.
Garcin is ecstatic; now they can climb out of hell together.
Unfortunately, Inez, everyone’s favorite sadist, chimes in. She tells Garcin not to be stupid, as Estelle is obviously lying just to make him happy.
Estelle admits that this is true.
Disgusted, Garcin dismisses both women and heads for the door, determined to leave. It’s locked. He tries the bell; it doesn’t work. He pounds on the door, yelling that he just can’t take it anymore. Estelle runs to him, but he pushes her away and calls her a slimy octopus.
Estelle begs Garcin not to leave her alone with Inez. Meanwhile, Inez is thrilled with the prospect of being left alone with Estelle.
No, Estelle counters – if Garcin leaves, she’s going with him.
Meanwhile Garcin is really going at it with the door. He screams for them to open up and let him out, insisting that he’ll endure any tortures they have to offer – red-hot pokers or racks – as anything would be better than this "agony of the mind."
Suddenly, the door flies open. After a long silence, Inez declares that he is free to leave.
But Garcin doesn’t move. Instead, he muses, "I wonder why that door opened." Then he declares that he will not leave. Estelle doesn’t go, either.
Inez finds this all shriekingly hilarious. "We’re – inseparables!" she yells.
Estelle jumps to fight Inez and calls for Garcin to help push her out into the hallway. Inez doesn’t want to be kicked out, so she struggles back. Garcin refuses to help, explaining that it’s because of Inez that he’s remaining in the room.
Everyone finds this odd. Inez tells him fine, close the door. So he does.
Then Inez asks him to explain what he meant. Garcin elaborates: Inez knows what it means to be a coward. She knows all about fear and shame and guilt – she knows "what evil costs," and she knows it from her own experiences.
He concludes that he couldn’t leave, because she would remain to gloat over her victory and to think horrible thoughts about him. She is the one he has to convince to regard him as a brave man. She is the one who matters.
Inez says such a task won’t be easy; she’s not exactly forgiving. But they both agree that there’s plenty of time for him to try.
Garcin puts his hands on Inez’s shoulders and shouts his defense aloud. He tried his whole life to be a man, and he "courted danger at every turn." Can he possibly be judged a coward because of a single moment in his life?
Inez responds that yes, he can. He dreamt himself a hero his whole life, but when the moment came to prove it, he failed.
Garcin counters that he didn’t dream himself a hero – he really was one! He claims a man is what he wills himself to be, but Inez counters that actions, not aspirations, are what matter. (That actions determine who you are is a core tenet of Sartre’s philosophy – more on it later.) "You are – your life, and nothing else," she says.
Garcin despairs, but Inez tells him to pull himself together and continue his defense. When he wilts under her request, she tells him that he is only a coward because she wishes it, even though she herself is weak and formless. She knows that he must convince her of his bravery, which means he is at her mercy for the time being.
Estelle joins the party. She tells Garcin to kiss her as a way of exacting his revenge on Inez.
Garcin is buoyed. He may be at Inez’s mercy, but she is at his, as well.
He kisses Estelle, and Inez squeals while she watches. Go ahead, she tells them, comfort each other. She claims that love is "as deep and dark as sleep," but that she won’t let either of them slumber.
She continues to mock them, explaining that they can never escape her gaze, that she constitutes an entire crowd watching them.
Garcin despairs. He asks if night will ever come. No, Inez says, night will never come, which means she will always be able to see him.
Garcin goes over to the mantelpiece and strokes the bronze statue. He understands that he is in hell, he says, that he’s standing in front of the mantel and that, behind him, intent eyes are staring at him, devouring him. This is hell, he says. There’s no need for torture devices or flames or pokers, because hell is other people.
(FYI, this is one the most famous lines Sartre ever wrote. Well, this one and his detailed description of a giant, angry lobster.)
Estelle tries to comfort him, but he turns her away. He can’t love her while Inez is watching.
Estelle picks up the paper-knife and rushes at Inez with it, with the intent of stopping her from watching.
Inez only laughs – she’s already dead, so Estelle can’t kill her. Then she picks up the knife herself and jabs it into her own body, laughing and ranting that they’re going to be here forever.
Estelle, too, realizes that his is funny, and starts laughing herself.
Garcin joins in, too, until the three of them collapse on their respective sofas. They stop laughing and silence ensues.
Finally, Garcin says, "Well, well, let’s get on with it…"