Garcin's "earthly" life was certainly not without reproach. Taking advantage of his wife's timidity, he brought another woman into the house with whom he had sex while his wife was upstairs and then had her serve coffee to the adulterous pair. Claiming to be a pacifist, Garcin tried to flee to Mexico to avoid fighting but was captured and shot as a coward. He is tormented by the need to believe he is not a coward and seeks validation for bravery, which the others cannot provide. Garcin is the character who best understands the position he is in and the best way to adapt to it. Because the three are placed together to torment one another for eternity, his solution is for each to ignore the other.
A former post office clerk, Inez suffers from and is frustrated by her desires. She resents the physical attraction between Garcin, whom she treats with contempt, and Estelle, whom she tries to seduce. Inez rejects Garcin's attention and prevents Estelle from seducing him. Inez realizes that they are not assigned randomly to the room and that their needs and desires will torment them eternally. At the end of the play, she struggles to remain in the room and keep an eye on the other two.
Estelle's arrival completes the triangle of characters. She is the youngest and most pretentious. At first she tries to continue her behavior as in life—arrogant, seductive, and vain. However, she eventually weakens and reveals the details of erotically competitive relationships that persist in tormenting her after death. She continues to see her lover's mutilated face after he shot himself when she killed their child. And she is tormented as another lover shows interest in a friend as the two dance—in life. Her attempts to seduce Garcin will fail eternally, for Inez's piercing eyes will define who she is and forever will prevent Garcin from responding to her.