by Jean-Paul Sartre
Joseph Garcin Timeline and Summary
- Garcin enters with the valet and complains about the Second Empire furniture. He’s surprised that hell looks this way.
- They discuss Garcin’s lingering human needs, like toothbrushes and a bathroom.
- He determines that they never sleep in hell, and that this in itself is a sort of punishment. It means "life without a break."
- After the valet leaves, Garcin finds that he can not tolerate his own company. He tries to call-button, but it doesn’t work.
- Garcin meets Inez and is amused at her assumption that he is her torturer. He says he’d rather be alone to sort through his issues, but he’ll make do with her company.
- To hide his twitching mouth from Inez, Garcin buries his head in his hands. When Estelle enters, she yells that he should not remove his hands, as he has no face under there.
- Garcin reveals his face, much to Estelle’s surprise.
- He gives up his couch to Estelle when she asks for it.
- Garcin reveals that he died of twelve bullet wounds to the chest, and that he’s from Rio.
- Looking back to a scene playing out on earth, Garcin watches his wife at the barracks, unaware that he’s been killed.
- Garcin begins to remove his jacket, but stops when Estelle makes it clear that she prefers men in jackets.
- Garcin theorizes that the three of them were thrown together for a reason.
- He explains more of his past. Garcin ran a pacifist newspaper and continued to publish when his country was at war. As a result, he was shot to death. He mentions that he had a wife whom he "saved from the gutter."
- When Inez proposes that they are supposed to torture each other, Garcin refuses. He suggests that they sit in silence instead.
- Garcin tries to remain silent while the other two women chatter. He is too distracted to think or to carefully observe the scene back on earth, where his colleagues talk about him.
- Garcin puts his hand on Estelle’s neck, explaining that he was quite the player when he was alive. He admits that he treated his wife badly, and that that’s probably why he’s here.
- Garcin questions the other two women as they make their own confessions.
- He proposes that the three of them try to help each other, since they are "inextricably linked."
- He debates with Inez regarding human feeling and comes to believe that a trap has been set for all of them. He agrees to leave her and Estelle alone.
- Estelle isn’t into a romance with Inez, so Garcin is drawn back into the triangle. When he makes a move on Estelle, Inez calls out for him to stop.
- Then he is distracted by another scene back on earth, where, six months after his own death, his buddy Gomez is trash-talking him. Garcin tries to defend himself, explaining that he shouldn’t be damned for sticking to his pacifist principles.
- Garcin reveals that his wife died about two months ago, of grief over his death.
- He decides to be with Estelle. All she has to do is think that he’s a brave man, and Garcin believes that will actually be brave. Estelle agrees, but Inez ridicules this game as a farce. Estelle admits that Inez is right.
- Upset, Garcin runs to the door and begs to leave. When the door finally opens, however, he doesn’t move.
- Garcin explains that he’s remaining because of Inez. She knows what crime and guilt and fear mean. So she is the one he needs to convince of his own bravery.
- He explains to Inez that his whole life has been about proving himself a brave man; why should he be judged by his death? He thinks each person is what he aspires to be. Inez believes each person is defined by his actions alone.
- Angry with Inez, Garcin kisses Estelle in revenge. Everyone despairs that, with no nighttime, they will always be looking at each other, which is torture in itself.
- Garcin strokes the bronze statue and concludes that hell is other people. They all laugh at the absurdity and collapse on their respective sofas. Garcin says they had better get on with it.