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MonkeyNotes-No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre
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OTHER ELEMENTS

Symbolism

The mirror (or lack of it) is an important symbol in No Exit. During her life, Estelle kept a mirror with her at all times; in fact, she always felt that she did not exist if she could not see her own reflection. Instead of defining herself as who she was, she defined herself by what she saw. Thinking herself to be lovely, she convinced herself that she was lovely and refined. In truth, she was an evil, hypocritical adulteress and murderess. In Hell, she has no mirror to see herself. She is forced to accept herself as Inez and Garcin see her. With the absence of a mirror, she is finally forced to face the truth.

Hell is the most important symbol in the play. For Sartre, the Hell that these people create for themselves and from which they refuse to escape is really no different than the Hell that they created for themselves on earth. In Sartre's existential thinking, life is hell, filled with torture, absurdity, and nothingness, just as the existence in the Second Empire drawing room is filled with torture, absurdity, and nothingness.

Inez, Estelle, and Garcin also become symbols. Through them, Sartre is showing the condition of the society in which he lives. People have locked themselves into a closed room with no windows to see out into other ways of life. Satisfied with their meaningless existence, they feel no need to better themselves or society. They have closed their minds to anything fresh or new. Even when the door to hell swings open, they are unwilling to go out. They choose their own Hell.


Language of the play

The language of the play intentionally matches the setting; it is stark and devoid of lengthy description. It consists of sentences that seem to go round and round, reflecting the sealed past of the characters who have no future. In trying to reduce the significance of their evil past, the characters' language becomes succinct, sometimes to the point of having little meaning. It is like they speak a dead language since they are themselves dead.

Existentialism in the play

Inez, Estelle, and Garcin had the freedom to choose what they wanted to be in life, but they condemned themselves in the process, choosing evil, meaningless existences. In essence, they became their choices, for they are judged by their actions. To Sartre, to choose is to do. When Garcin deserted the battle, he became a coward, and nothing can change that. When Estelle threw her baby into the lake, she became a murderess, and nothing can undo that either. When Inez took her first female lover and sucked the life from her through total control, she became an evil being. Since they all three lived torturous lives with no meaning, Hell is not greatly different for them. As a result, when the door of Hell swings open, none of them choose to leave. There is "no exit" from the nothingness for any of them.

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