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No Exit

No Exit


by Jean-Paul Sartre

Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type : Overcoming the Monster

Except not really. The problem with assigning this plot to No Exit is that 1) it’s hard to figure out what or who your monster is – bad faith? Other people? And 2) that monster is most certainly not overcome. It’s fair to say that the monster (whichever one you pick) owns everyone. So let’s call it "Trying to Overcome the Monster and Failing Miserably" and go from there.

Anticipation Stage and "Call"

Garcin is alone in hell

In this stage, the hero "anticipates" the monster. In No Exit, this anticipation comes across through Garcin’s questioning – what is hell? How is he going to be tortured? What is he going to do for all eternity? He keeps trying to figure out what "the management" or "they" have in store for him. If you assign "other people" to the role of the monster, then this is the torturous device Garcin anticipates. If you view Sartre’s bad faith as the big bad, then we can already see it rearing its ugly head when Garcin tries to convince himself he wasn’t a coward in the course of his life.

Dream Stage

Garcin has an idea

Garcin’s solution – the three of them sit on their respective couches, bury their heads in their hands, and ignore the others – is as close as you’re going to get to a dream stage in hell. If they’re not looking at each other, the three characters don’t have to compete for subjectivity (one of Sartre’s ideas that is discussed in "Character Analysis). They also don’t have to deal with objectification or sexual desire (again, you know where to look for more).

Frustration Stage

Well that didn’t work!

Garcin’s plan fails miserably. As the characters question and harass one other more and more, they all become increasingly frustrated with their scenario. They also retreat further into self-deception. The truly destructive nature of the monster – whether it be other people or bad faith – is now gut-wrenchingly clear.

Nightmare Stage

Garcin and Estelle try to love each other, but Inez interferes

This is the last interaction before the play’s climax and ending stages. Garcin engages in bad faith by looking to Estelle for approval and definition, and the inherent problem of other people and their eyes is clear when Inez threatens to use her gaze as a weapon.

The Thrilling Escape from Death, and Death of the Monster


No Exit ends in the midst of the nightmare stage. Sorry. Garcin remains in bad faith by looking to Inez (since it didn’t work with Estelle) for approval and assessment rather than to himself. The hell that is other people is burning more intensely than ever as Inez torments Garcin with the power she holds over him.

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