By Jean-Paul Sartre
No Exit is a play about three souls trapped in Hell who find that they are to torture each other for all eternity in a never-ending circle. The characters; sadistic lesbian Inez, socialite and baby-killer Estelle, and Garcin the war-deserter chase each other around a Second-Empire drawing room - an existential version of Hell.
[More calmly.] Yes, of course, you're right. [He looks around again.] And why should one want to see oneself in a looking-glass? But that bronze contraption on the mantelpiece, that's another story. I suppose there will be times when I stare my eyes out at it. Stare my eyes out - see what I mean... All right, let's put our cards on the table. I assure you I'm quite conscious of my position. Shall I tell you what it feels like? A man's drowning, choking, sinking by inches, till only his eyes re just above water. And what does he see? A bronze atrocity by - what's the fellow's name? - Baredienne. A collector's piece. As in a nightmare. That's their idea, isn't it? ... No, I suppose you're under orders not to answer questions; and I won't insist. But don't forget, my man, I've a good notion of what's coming to me, so don't you boast you've caught me off-guard. I'm facing the situation, facing it. [Garcin starts pacing the room.] So that's that; no toothbrush. And no bed, either. One never sleeps, I take it? ... Just as I expected. Why should one sleep? A sort of drowsiness steals on you, tickles you behind the ears, and you feel your eyes closing - but why sleep? You lie down on the sofa and - in a flash, sleep flies away. Miles and miles away. So you rub your eyes, get up, and it starts all over again.
Let that be. It's only a side-issue. I'm here because I treated my wife abominably. That's all. For five years. Naturally, she's suffering still. There she is: the moment I mention her, I see her. It's Gomez who interests me, and it's her I see. Where's Gomez got to? For five years. There! They've given her back my things; she's sitting by the window, with my coat on her knees. The coat with the twelve bullet holes. The blood's like rust; a brown ring around each hole. It's quite a museum-piece, that coat; scarred with history. And I used to wear it, just think! ... Now, can't you shed a tear, my love? Surely you'll squeeze one out - at last? No? You' can't manage it? ... Night after night, I came home blind drunk, stinking of wine and women. She'd sat up for me, of course. But she never cried, never uttered a word of reproach. Only her eyes spoke. Big, tragic eyes. I don't regret anything. I must pay the price, but I shan't wine... It's snowing in the street. Won't you cry, confound you? That women was a born martyr, you know, a victim by vocation.
[To the two women.] You disgust me, both of you. [He goes towards the door.] I'm going!
I'll make them open it! [He presses the bell-push. The bell does not ring.] I tell you they shall open! [Drums on the door.] I can't endure it any longer, I'm through with you both. [Estelle runs to him, but he pushes her away.] Go away. You're even fouler than she. I won't let myself get bogged in your eyes. You're soft and slimy. Ugh! [Bangs on the door.] Like an octopus. Like a quagmire.
Open the door! Open, blast you! I'll endure anything, your red-hot tongs and molten lead, your racks and prongs and garrotes - all your fiendish gadgets, everything that burns and flays and tears - I'll put up with any torture you impose. Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws, and fumbles, and caresses one and never quite hurts enough!
You, anyhow, know what it means to be a coward. And you know what wickedness is, and shame, and fear. There were days when you peered into yourself, into the secret places of your heart, and what you saw there made you faint with horror. And then, next day, you didn't know what to make of it, you couldn't interpret the horror you had glimpsed the day before. Yes, you know what evil costs. And when you say I'm a coward, you know from experience what that means. Is that so? ...So it's you I have to convince; you are of my kind. Did you suppose I meant to go? No, I couldn't leave you here, gloating over my defeat, with all those thoughts about me running through your head.
That's the one and only thing I wish for now. I can't hear them any longer, you know. Probably means they're through with me, for ever. The curtain's down, nothing of me is left on earth - not even the name of coward. So, Inez, we're alone. Only you two remain to give a thought to me. She - she doesn't count. It's you who matter; you who hate me. If you'll have faith in me I'm saved.
This bronze. [Strokes it thoughtfully.] Yes, now's the moment; I'm looking at this thing on the mantelpiece, and I understand that I'm in Hell. I tell you, everything's been thought out beforehand. They knew I'd stand at the fireplace, stroking this thing of bronze, with all those eyes intent on me. Devouring me. [He swings around abruptly.] What? Only two of you? I thought there were more; many more. [Laughs.] So this is Hell. I'd never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the "burning marl." Old wives' tales! There's no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is - other people!
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