Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Inez inquires about Garcin's wife. Garcin informs her that she died two months ago. When Garcin sobs over his wife and his cowardice, Estelle sympathizes with him. She then persuades him to touch her and forget about the people on earth, reminding him that eventually all of them will die. Garcin, however, laments that others will be born and continue to judge him as a coward. All he wants is for someone to believe he is not cowardly; Estelle tries to reassure him. Inez interrupts and mockingly says that Estelle would assure him of anything, for she desperately wants a man.
Garcin, feeling totally frustrated, goes to the door to leave. Amazingly, the door opens, but Garcin does not depart. When Estelle sees that he is going to stay, she decides to do the same; however, she tries to push Inez through the door so that she will have Garcin all to herself. Garcin demands that Estelle leave Inez alone, explaining that he has chosen to stay so that he can convince Inez he is really not a coward. He tells Inez, "If you'll have faith in me I'm saved." She, however, refuses to help Garcin and is unrelenting in her criticism of him; she points out that for thirty years, Garcin had deluded himself into thinking that he was a hero. Then at the critical moment, he had run away from the war. Since he acted like a coward he is a coward, for what one does reveals what one is. Garcin tries to defend himself by saying that if he had lived longer he could have amended his ways.
Estelle interrupts and tells Garcin to kiss her, an action that will torture Inez. When he bends over Estelle, Inez cries out and curses Garcin. Estelle asks Garcin to make love to her, but he pushes her away and expresses his inability to be intimate while Inez is watching. In the climatic moment of the play, Garcin screams that "Hell is - other people."
The entire play has led up to Garcin's climatic revelation. Throughout the earlier scenes, Inez, Estelle, and Garcin have been pictured torturing one another, both unintentionally and intentionally. Now Garcin realizes that Hell is other people - whether on earth or in the underworld. It is a very negative view of life.
This key scene in the play is filled with ironies. Estelle, who has longed for Garcin throughout the play, finally persuades him to touch her and make love; he, however, is unable to satisfy her, for he can do nothing intimate with Inez watching, and she has promised to watch forever. As a result, Estelle and Garcin are doomed to eternal frustration; at the same time, Inez is frustrated that she cannot have Estelle.
It is also ironic that when Garcin has the chance to walk out the door and leave Hell, he does not depart. He stays in order to gain Inez's approval; he cannot leave her behind believing he is a coward. Of course, Inez is not about to lie to him; she tells him in no uncertain words that he is a coward, which is what he does not want to hear. Ironically, throughout the play, he has sought Estelle's approval, but it is really the approval of Inez that he desires. When Estelle tries to push Inez out the door, Garcin demands that she be left alone, saving his own torturer.
In this climatic scene, Sartre's existentialism becomes clear. He believes that man has the freedom to choose who or what he is, but that he chooses his own destruction. Garcin could have walked through the door, but he chose to remain; he also saved Inez, who will continue to torture him. Without her approval, Garcin's existence will have no meaning. As he says it, he cannot be "saved" without her acceptance.