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World Literature Essay- Jean Paul Sartre's representation of Hell

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Name: Lea Heusinger-Jonda Candidate Number: 003854-008 Literature in Translation Essay English A1 Literature Standard Level No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre How does Sartre establish a concept of Hell? Far from the traditional perception of life after death, Jean-Paul Sartre?s conceptual Hell is based on the Existentialist theory revolving around how one is possessed and controlled by the ?other?, as the ?other? defines one?s actions and exterior being. Jean-Paul Sartre, a French philosopher, novelist and playwright, was a leading Existentialist who dealt with the nature of human life and the structures of consciousness in his philosophies. His play ?No Exit? clearly illustrates the conflict of otherness[1] and the underlying argument established throughout the play is that ?Hell is other people?[2]. Using only three characters and a single room, Sartre evokes a new concept of Hell, and concludes that Hell is not a physical place, but that it is in fact all around us; a man made concept driven by our choices and actions. This concept is further underlined through Sartre?s use of visual set construction, the characters? dependency on one another, their internal conflict and the idea of competitive subjectivity. ...read more.


Thus Garcin believes that it is Inez whom he has to convince that he is not a coward, as he will otherwise be defined as one, unable to escape the ?others?? judgment. Estelle, like Garcin is unwilling to see herself objectively. She does not want to accept that she is in Hell, and claims: ?I tell you I haven?t a notion [why I?m here].?[14] This shows the disunity within her character, as she acts innocent but is in fact a murderer. Sartre uses this disunity to show that without ?the other?, the characters are unable to judge and comprehend their actions in life objectively. Sartre?s concept of Hell consists of forcing the characters to be confronted with the objective view of their actions and mistakes in life. Sartre develops the idea of competitive subjectivity to further substantiate the concept of Hell. If you are looking at a person, they become an object and you become the subject.[15] However, as soon as there is another person in the room, they reduce you to an object and become a subject as well. You lose your subjectivity as soon as another person is looking at you. ...read more.


Throughout the play, the characters realize that everything they do, think or feel, is shaped by the gaze of ?others?. What it means to be a hero, villain or coward cannot be defined internally, but only by the external actions and judgment of others. While people are able to escape objective self-reflection in life, Sartre?s Hell is a place where this cannot be avoided. Sartre proclaims in one of his works that, ?Man is only what he does. Man becomes what he chooses to be.?[24] While Inez has accepted that her actions and choices in life have defined her as a bad person, Garcin and Estelle need the ?other? to define them objectively, as they have lived their lives in ?bad faith?[25]. The presence of the ?other? is what makes up Sartre?s concept of Hell. The characters in Sartre?s play let themselves be detained by means of the ?others? judgment, which will eventually become their own. The concept of Hell is thus established through the inability of the characters to then surpass this ?arbitrary image?.[26] Although Sartre concludes that ?Hell is other people?, he also believes that only a man in ?bad faith? is at the mercy of ?the other?.[27] Sartre?s concept of Hell can be combated through freedom of choice, action and accepting one?s responsibility in life. ...read more.

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