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:

  • 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.
  • The Casanova: Garcin. One of his flaws is his lust.
  • 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.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: A uniquely dark and disturbing example since the people are in hell and their laughter could be them going insane.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Ironic Hell: Possibly the most stripped-down, bare-bones example in the history of fiction. The only things making the hotel room a place of eternal torment are the exact same psychological flaws and unpleasantnesses that got you sent there in the first place.
  • 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.
  • 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 even have to be sealed.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: Literally, there is no need for Fire and Brimstone Hell because "Hell is other people". 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, but its security system is yourself.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Hell Is Other People