No Exit is famous for its memorable conclusion: "Hell is other people!" From an existentialist’s point of view, hell is other people because of competitive subjectivity. When two people are in a room together, they fight over who gets to be the subject and who is forced to be the object. When in the presence of others, one’s subjectivity, agency, and freedom will always be threatened, simply by the others’ gaze. For Sartre, the agony of this threat of objectification truly constitutes hell.
Questions About Isolation
- According to Sartre’s existentialism, if the three characters had done as Garcin suggested and kept their heads down without speaking, would they have gotten by without the mental torment? Why or why not?
- Is it the words, the gaze, or the presence of other people that constitutes hell in this play?
- Why does Garcin wish to be alone to work out his thoughts in his head? What does he expect to accomplish?
Chew on This
Inez is Sartre’s example of the human desire to be God in the search for ultimate subjectivity.