Theatre / No Exit

"This bronze. Yes, now's the moment; I'm looking at this thing on the mantelpiece, and I understand that I'm in hell. I tell you, everything's been thought out beforehand. They knew I'd stand at the fireplace stroking this thing of bronze, with all those eyes intent on me. Devouring me. What? Only two of you? I thought there were more; many more. So this is hell. I'd never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the burning marl, Old wives' tales! There's no need for red-hot pokers. HELL IS—OTHER PEOPLE!"

A classic play by Jean-Paul Sartre that's highly popular in Existentialism, No Exit is an often darkly comic look at the Self-Inflicted Hell faced by its three protagonists. They are Garcin, an insecure journalist; Ines, a lesbian postal clerk, and Estelle, a beautiful and charming young aristocrat.

Contains examples of:

  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Once he gets over the fact that he's not being sent to a Fire and Brimstone Hell, Garcin asks why he's not been given a toothbrush. The Valet explains this is common for new arrivals.
    The Valet: All our guests ask me the same questions. Silly questions, if you'll pardon my saying so. Where's the torture-chamber? That's the first thing they ask, all of them. They don't bother their heads about the bathroom requisites, that I can assure you. But after a bit, when they've got their nerve back, they start in about their toothbrushes and what-ot.
  • Asshole Victim: You don't get to Hell by accident.
  • At Least I Admit It: Ines is the first to realize that they're in Hell, and she makes no bones about what a terrible person she was. Garcin and Estelle, by contrast, attempt to keep up their genteel facades for a while, over which she browbeats them relentlessly. Eventually it's Garcin who suggests they all come clean and admit why they've been damned.
  • Attention Whore: All three of them, which is a major reason they're perfect for tormenting each other— they're completely incapable of leaving each other alone.
  • Badass Pacifist: Garcin thinks he's this, but he's really a Dirty Coward.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Estelle appears nice at first, but she's truly vicious.
  • Brutal Honesty: Ines doesn't mince her words.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Ines is quite self-aware of what a terrible person she is.
  • The Casanova: Garcin. One of his flaws is his lust.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: A precursor to cell phones, when showing off the room the Valet draws attention to the service bell that the protagonists are to ring if they want something from the staff. He casually points out that the wiring on the bell is bad and it tends to be unreliable, never ringing when someone actually needs something. Sure enough, the bell breaks immediately after the Valet leaves, and only serves to mockingly reinforce the fact that our protagonists are sealed in together alone.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: In life, Garcin was fond of bringing his conquests home in full view of his wife, and making her serve them coffee in bed. He does it with Estelle during the course of the play whilst Ines offers running commentary, in a very awkward scene.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Hell involves locking you in a small hotel room with two similarly unpleasant people... forever. Better yet, the door isn't locked. It even pops open near the end. No one has the nerve to leave.
  • Dead to Begin With: Our protagonists are introduced entering the hotel, which is hell.
  • Dirty Coward: Garcin deserted and met his end by firing squad.
  • Domestic Abuse: Garcin was emotionally abusive to his wife, who he also openly cheated on. That more than his deserting the army sent him to Hell.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: A uniquely dark and disturbing example since the people are in hell and their laughter could be them going insane.
  • Evil Is Petty: The pettiness of all three is readily apparent, and as the play goes on we see how deep their evil deeds go.
  • Freudian Trio: Garcin is Ego, the harshly critical Ines eventually becomes the Superego (while acting like Id at first), and the psychotic Estelle reveals herself to be Id.
  • The Gadfly: Ines appears to be this at first, and while she's the most pronounced, all three are soon revealed to be Gadflies to each other.
  • Hell Hotel: Arguably, this is the inversion (rather than an Earthly hotel being hellish, Hell is a rather normal Earthly hotel–on the surface anyway).
  • Insistent Terminology: Garcin and Estelle tend to fall into this a fair deal to try and distance themselves from what's become of them. Garcin avoids mentioning Hell by name to the Valet, referring to it as "This residence" while Estelle insists they all refer to themselves as "absentees" as opposed to dead people.
  • Ironic Hell: A very stripped-down, bare-bones version. You got sent to hell because you're an unpleasant person. Your punishment is to be locked into a room with two other unpleasant people. Forever. And you're not even locked in- it's only your psychological flaws, the ones that got you sent to hell in the first place, that keep you there.
  • It's All About Me: All three are this, leading to the sins that caused them to become damned to begin with. They spend a good deal of time in hell fussing about how they're remembered on Earth, and (claiming) their friends are remembering them unfairly.
  • Jerkass: The three of them in life, which comes to be used as their mutual hell.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Garcin: another french word for kid. It comes from his desire to be seen as a hero or a man.
    • Estelle: Est-elle or "is she". Comes from the fact that she can't know if she's real or not without seeing herself in a mirror.
  • Mundane Afterlife: As seen the page quote, the characters are amused that Hell is a mundane looking hotel. The dialog does make it clear that Hell isn't like this for everyone, though.
    Garcin: (Gesturing a the decor) Are all the rooms like this one?
    The Valet: How could they be? We cater to all sorts.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: After taking a liking to her cousin's wife, Ines manipulated his murder so she'd have her to herself.
  • Offing the Offspring: Estelle, after being impregnated by her lover and not wishing her husband to find out, drowns the baby in a lake.
  • Only Sane Man: Garcin believes himself to be this, being a provider, and a pacifist, and therefore has no reason to be there. He's neither. When he and Estelle begin lying, painting themselves as better people, and the fact that there must be a mistake, Ines sees through them, and accuses them, and herself, of being all rotten people, who should just admit what they did. She's also the first to hammer in the fact that they're in hell, and deserve to be there.
  • Ontological Mystery: The play begins with them in a hotel, which they determine to be hell and then puzzle out why they are there.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Ines. It's never outright stated that she's a lesbian, but it's pretty clear she is.
  • Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: The play's setting. As it turns out, it doesn't have to be sealed.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: The context of the famous "Hell is other people" quote. Each of the protagonists' natures as horrible people is the only reason that hell is anything like hellish. Made even more poignant by the fact that the protagonists are given several opportunities to escape during the play, but are held back every time by their own flaws, fears and anxieties. Not only is hell other people, YOU are its security system.
  • Servile Snarker: The Valet takes immense pleasure in welcoming the new guests, letting them figure out the nature of their hell for themselves and answering questions only when prompted.
  • Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: This is part of the entire point. At the end of the story, it's implied that the main characters could leave at any time they wished to, but their own character flaws and lack of empathy with each other prevent them from doing so.
  • Triang Relations: Played with all over the place. Hell picks the roommates very well; every one of them is CAPABLE of respecting each other at least superficially, but when any two start getting along, the third person will try to break it up out of jealousy; all three are attention whores and cannot stand the other two being friendly. Estelle causes problems by making romantic overtures at both of them, Ines by picking one to degrade in the eyes of the other, and Garcin by trying to make himself look superior to one or the other. The three are perfectly suited to constantly making each other miserable via social shenanigans, and yet incapable of dealing with the idea of leaving the other two.
  • Trophy Wife: Estelle was this in life, the young, pretty wife of a much older (and wealthier) gentleman.
  • Villain Protagonist: All of the characters are horrible people that have done horrible things. That's why they're in Hell, but only Ines recognizes this fact at first.
  • Yandere: Estelle was displeased by one of her lovers, so she took a horrible revenge by throwing their child off a balcony in front of him.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: During the play, the characters have visions of life progressing without them on Earth, and it seems like unlike usual Hells in which an eternity is actually a second, what feels like a brief time in Hell is actually several months on the outside.
  • Your Cheating Heart: A major part of Garcin's emotional abuse of his wife, which is what put him in Hell in the first place.

Alternative Title(s): Hell Is Other People

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Theatre/NoExit