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The main theme of the play is man's cruelty to his fellow man, as seen in the actions of the three protagonists who are condemned to Hell for their behavior during life. Garcin treated his wife cruelly, enjoying the way he tortured her and having adulterous affairs. Estelle married an older man for his money and then took a younger lover, who, when she gave birth to his child, she drowned the baby in a lake, not wanting to be bothered with the child. Inez mistreated her friends and acquaintances, literally sucking the energy from them with her vampire lust. Amazingly, none of them seem to have any remorse for their evil ways; however, it is because of the cruelty that they inflict on others that all three of them are led to Hell after their deaths. In the end, Garcin realizes that Hell is really the way mankind treats other people.
Closely linked to the main theme of the play is the theme of man's hypocrisy. Both Garcin and Estelle lie to themselves and others; they try to convince everyone, including themselves, that they are really refined and noble people. In addition, Garcin tries to pose as a brave soul, when he is really a total coward. Inez, who is at least realistic about her evil ways, sees through the lies of Garcin and Estelle and finally makes them confess the evil truth about themselves.
The mood of the play is tragic. The three major characters are damned to Hell forever because of the cruelty that they inflicted on others during life. Even in Hell, they torture one another. Understanding that they can never escape Hell, whether on earth or in the underworld, they do not even try to leave when the door to Hell suddenly opens. Because of their basic natures, they accept that they are stuck forever with No Exit.