No Exit

Existentialist Philosophy in Sartre's "No Exit"

Though brief and comedic, Jean-Paul Sartre’s play “No Exit” offers great insight into the basic ideas of his existentialist philosophy. The commonplace setting of the work and the diversity of the basic character types allude to the applicability of the themes to reality. The main principles behind Sartre’s philosophy are detailed through the three main characters and the transitions that they undergo as the play progresses.

The setting seems purposely ambiguous in the exposition of the play, allowing Sartre to establish an atmosphere and relate to his audience before delving into his main ideas. The entire play takes place in a single room, which is initially described as “a drawing-room in Second Empire style,” with “a massive bronze ornament stand[ing] on the mantelpiece” (3). In the opening, the main character, Garcin, walks in “accompanied by the room-valet,” and begins to make casual small talk with him about the style of the furniture and where his “toothbrush” might be (3-4). If it were not for Garcin’s abrupt inquiry about the location of “the racks and red-hot pincers and all the other paraphernalia,” the audience would assume that the setting is merely a drawing room in a normal upper- or middle-class household (4)....

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