by Jean-Paul Sartre
No Exit Philosophical Viewpoints: Existentialism Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue. We used the translation by S. Gilbert found in No Exit and Three Other Plays, published by Vintage International in 1989.
GARCIN: And suppose I took that contraption on the mantelpiece and dropped it on the lamp – wouldn't it go out?
VALET: You can't move it. It's too heavy. (49-50)
It’s as though the props in Sartre’s hell are specifically designed to torture the inhabitants – as much from their lack of ostensible meaning as anything else (that is, the characters torture themselves trying to figure out what the purpose of the bronze statue is, the purpose of the paper-knife, and the other furniture in the room.)
GARCIN: I beg your pardon. Who do you suppose I am?
INEZ: You? Why, the torturer, of course. (67-8)
It is both comic and absurd that Inez’s original misconception actually gets at the truth. Sartre wrote about the difference between knowing something and being conscious of it – and this is a great example of that distinction.
INEZ: I'm always conscious of myself – in my mind. Painfully conscious. (215)
Indeed, Sartre believes that consciousness is painful. He claims that we spend much of our time with unreflected consciousness, but occasionally foray into reflective consciousness (consciousness that is aware and thinking of itself, as Inez is here). This awareness is always fleeting, since it is too painful to be experienced continually.