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Literature Study GuidesNo ExitScene 5 Section 2 Summary

No Exit | Study Guide

Jean-Paul Sartre

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Course Hero. "No Exit Study Guide." Course Hero. 13 Feb. 2018. Web. 1 Dec. 2022. <>.

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No Exit | Scene 5, Section 2 | Summary



Estelle tells a partial truth about her earthly life, which she wants the other two to believe. She found a way to escape poverty in her youth by marrying a much older man. After six years she met another man whom she really loved, but she died of pneumonia before having to decide whether to leave her husband. Garcin also reveals partial truths. He ran a pacifist newspaper and was shot for upholding his pacifist principles. Inez, however, reminds Garcin and Estelle they're "tarred with the same brush ... We are criminals—murderers—all three of us. We're in hell ... and people aren't damned for nothing." She calls their positions "childishly simple."

Expecting more traditional torture, the damned characters realize no torturer exists beyond the role each will play for the others forever. Garcin says he will never torture anyone, and they resolve to stay clear of one another, as he will "with only [his] thoughts for company." Inez then sings a solitary song about a public execution.


Now that the real action and dynamics of the play are established, the tension heightens and the mood becomes more desperate, culminating in Inez's gruesome song, sung both for herself and the others, about an execution with a "merry" atmosphere and ladies "dressed so fine" as they witness a public killing. She has already forced Garcin and Estelle to face what she realizes is endless misery at the hands of the other occupants of the single room they have been given.

Like Inez, readers may wonder at the truth of Garcin's and Estelle's stories, for the characters seem quite clueless here and their actions unworthy of damnation. But their revelations seem questionable to Inez, as well they should. Inez realizes they "have to pay the reckoning" for what they have done to others in their lives, and she demolishes both Estelle's attempt at reason and Garcin's solitary passivity as he withdraws further into himself. She says they are in hell and will be torturing each other for what they did in life, thus assuming responsibility for their existential choices. The play now begins to be clearer in its setting and content, with a strong sense of doom hanging over it.

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