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Friday, April 3, 2015

Sartre's No Exit


"Hell is other people."

How aptly does that sum up this short play? However, though comedic in a sense, this play by existentialist Sartre isn't only about distaste for other people, but is always a lesson on life. As Inez states, "Everyone dies too so or too let, yet when you are dead your life is complete." In this single statement we see the sum total of what Sartre is getting at in the play. Life is ended abruptly and, no matter what you say or rationalize, you have completed it. You may be labeled coward or killer or liar and you may think you can change it, yet that cannot be so as your time has ended.

This play is, in its way, simple. It is easy to see that this play speaks to the human spirit and the desire to rebel against death. It shows that, even in death, people are willing to fight and complain and to beg because there is so much more. It is, then, simple to see that, to Sartre, it is human nature to, as Dylan Thomas said, "rage against the dying of the light." At first glace, such simplicity may seem to be boring. Of course hell is other people. To be stuck in a room with only opposites is more a punishment than any stripping of the flesh. This is so simply and easily displayed in the first few pages of interaction, and yet everything seems to so fresh.

Of course people wish to fight against their own end. Of course, as is noticed by Inez' infatuation with the other woman in the room, that when you like someone so much you reflect what they like back at them. Of course, and this is the big one, everyone wants what they can't have. Salvation is sought not in action, but in the acquisition of the one thing you want and yet cannot have. Yet it is from these simple things we can discern truth. It is from these inward looking's we see what makes us most human. That is the true beauty of this short play. It is brilliant in its earnestness and its simplicity.