Literature Study GuidesNo ExitScene 5 Section 3 Summary

No Exit | Study Guide

Jean-Paul Sartre

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No Exit | Scene 5, Section 3 | Summary



Estelle continues to obsess about her appearance, her makeup in particular, and frets about having no mirror. The mirror is important to her: "When I can't see myself I begin to wonder if I really and truly exist." Inez looks for a mirror in her purse but discovers it is no longer there. She invites Estelle to look at herself in her (Inez's) eyes as a reflection, but Inez's intense persistence troubles Estelle, who is more interested in attention from Garcin. He, however, has been trying to ignore them both, suggesting they all "look at the floor and ... try to forget the others are there." From her own frustration Inez challenges his indifference and tries to involve him, claiming "I prefer to choose my hell; I prefer to look you in the eyes and fight it out face to face." Drawn out of his passivity he tells Estelle to begin leveling with the others and confess what brought her to the room, but she won't do it quite yet. Adding to his original confession, he then recounts how he would come home "stinking of wine and women," his wife never reproaching him. His final betrayal was having sex in their house with someone else while his wife was upstairs and then "served [them] morning coffee." Although his execution by firing squad pained her, she had already lost her trust in him and shed no tears.

Inez then tells of her life and death. Referring to herself as "a damned bitch," she lived with her cousin and his wife, Florence. Turning Florence against her husband, Inez "crept inside her skin, she saw the world through my eyes." The two women left him to be together. After he died in a tram accident, "a silly sort of end," Inez continued living with Florence, for "I had her on my hands." Admitting she "can't get on without making people suffer," Inez tormented Florence by reminding her how badly they had treated her husband. Finally one night Florence "got up and tuned on the gas while I was asleep," killing them both.

Now Estelle must tell her story. Reluctant at first she claims to have nothing to reveal. She tries to leave the room but cannot because it's locked. She finally tells the pieces of her story. During her marriage she also had a lover who wanted her to have a child. When she found out she was pregnant, she went to Switzerland to give birth but then drowned the baby by throwing her off a balcony into the water. Estelle's lover, Roger, who witnessed the event, shot himself in the face from grief, and Estelle returned home alone.


This part brings the three characters together in their crimes. Obviously, remaining silent and apart will never be possible, especially with the presence of Inez who is compelled to create trouble, and each enacts a kind of confession without help from any outside source or personal belief. There is no sense they are better off or relieved from having done so. United as betrayers and exploiters of others, still they remain isolated in their guilt and the hostilities they express for the witnesses to their actions. Garcin realizes they are linked in terrible ways, and even if they might think about helping each other, at this point they cannot. Their situation is "like a cobweb," he tells Inez: "If you make any movement ... Estelle and I feel a little tug. Alone, none of us can save himself or herself; we're linked together inextricably" in what they know of each other and the needs they have exposed.

Estelle's need for a mirror to validate her existence highlights the theme of vision. She is incapable of seeing herself as she is, needing others to give her "essence." According to Sartre, individuals can determine their own essences, or who they want to be, but in doing so they must assume complete responsibility for their behavior. Unlike Estelle, however, Inez clearly sees who she is and has accepted her "essence." She needs no one's eyes through which to see.

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