No Exit | Study Guide

Jean-Paul Sartre

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No Exit | Quotes


I had quite a habit of living among furniture that I didn't relish, and in false positions.

Garcin, Scene 1

This is the first statement of "truth" in the play. Garcin reacts immediately to the sight of imitative, ornate, and decorative objects that have kept him in what he calls false positions during his life. These objects, like the bronze statue, reflect a false life, which relates to the themes of vision and choices in life, the existentialist belief individuals have complete free will but complete responsibility as well.


Where are the instruments of torture ... the racks and red-hot pincers?

Garcin, Scene 1

Garcin still thinks of hell in terms of the common images of devils with pitchforks and other, often religious, tortures. However, he will find the "instruments" of torture are the lies he and others have been telling, the inability to make choices and be responsible for them, and the inability to exist without the judgments of others will be the real torment forever.


There's a passage ... more rooms, more passages, and stairs ... that's all.

Valet, Scene 1

The valet's simple description of hell is an understated nightmare of endless sameness with no exits, no windows, only the one entrance through which Garcin has already passed. He will have to tell the others who arrive later they are completely trapped there in an airless hot room.


I'm sure we'll manage to pull along together somehow ... being extremely courteous to each other.

Garcin, Scene 3

Garcin still is thinking as if they are alive. Being courteous might help living people survive an imprisonment, but they are not alive, and this is not a prison like anything they have known. Inez immediately rejects his advice as she has more insight than he and informs him she has no interest in being polite with him.


You're very pretty. I wish we'd had some flowers to welcome you with.

Inez, Scene 5, Section 1

Inez immediately acts on her attraction to Estelle, who reacts with vanity and self-interest as if she will become the "queen" of the room, with the others admiring her. However, it's the start of her torture since she does not want this relationship with Inez, and Garcin will reject her advances to him as they all reject each other over and over. The flowers could easily be more to do with death than life.


Oh, I don't care much for men any way.

Inez, Scene 5, Section 1

Inez, a lesbian, is very open in her attitudes and needs, while the other two will have to adjust to them. Such an adjustment will not be easy because the three-way relationship will be impossible and at the same time inescapable. Her judgment seems sexual here, but the play itself also has a low regard for the false lives of all people, not just men.


We are criminals, murderers ... We're in hell ... and people aren't damned for nothing.

Inez, Scene 5, Section 2

Inez gives the first and clearest understanding of the condition and situation she and the two others are facing. They will have to confront the truths they have been hiding about themselves and see how they did indeed cause the deaths of others. These acts are the ultimate betrayals.


I prefer to choose my hell ... to look you in the eyes and fight it out.

Inez, Scene 5, Section 3

Inez, having suffered much in her life, speaks more openly than the other characters in taking her responsibility for her role and her desires. She does not care to remain silent and ignore the others. She sees she is more of an outsider yet is bound to them as they are to her. She is ready to struggle at this point even knowing she cannot escape.


We're chasing ... each other, round and round in a vicious circle ... That's part of their plan.

Garcin, Scene 5, Section 4

Garcin is also enlightened now as to the entangled imprisonment they all face for the acts they committed. Although he has no idea who is responsible for "their" plan that tortures the three, he continues to speak as if some intelligence has devised it. However, by the end of the play he will see where the real responsibilities lie.


Oh, leave me in peace. You haven't any eyes.

Estelle, Scene 5, Section 4

Estelle rejects Inez in looking for peace she will never find in the room. The imagery of the eye is important throughout the play. Characters are defined falsely by how others see them. They cannot ignore those perceptions and must resist them to find themselves. Estelle notices Inez, like Garcin and herself, cannot blink her eyes, and her vision, too, is similarly distorted.


If you make any movement ... Estelle and I feel a little tug ... we're linked ... inextricably.

Garcin, Scene 5, Section 4

Garcin continues to see some plan in their predicament, thinking of the unbreakable dynamic that links them as similar to a cobweb. He knows they cannot escape this trap and still sees some malign force that ensnares them. By the end, they all will see themselves as both alone and controlled, but not from the outside.


I can't put myself in your skin. You must decide that for yourself

Estelle, Scene 5, Section 5

Garcin has been imploring the women to give him some proof he is not a coward. He cannot accept what he has done or take responsibility for betrayal and thinks others can give him justification. Even Estelle in her passion for him realizes he must do this for himself.


Others will come after them to carry on the legend. I've left my fate in their hands.

Garcin, Scene 5, Section 5

Garcin realizes his image in the eyes of others is something he cannot control, and he is tormented by the reality that people who knew him may judge him a coward. He will have to reach the point where he will reject that image or find the way to accept it for himself. But he is as he is for eternity and can't do anything more.


I died too soon. I wasn't allowed time to do my deeds.

Garcin, Scene 5, Section 5

Garcin voices the belief of many people who cannot accept their limits. Inez replies people are always saying their lives were too short or too long, but a person's life is the totality of who they were and what they did—nothing else.


There's no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is—other people!

Garcin, Scene 5, Section 5

The most famous line of the play does not mean people should live alone because others annoy them. Progressive solidarity is vital in politics. Instead it means others' judgments can condemn individual people to suffering unless they stand for themselves and define themselves by their actions.

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