Wednesday, September 16, 2015

No Exit - Sartre (69)

This is about another play from the 100 Drama series.

'No Exit' opens with a man being shown a simple room by a valet.  The valet explains that there is no need for food or sleep anymore.  The room will be closed and the only means of communicating will be with a bell that is capricious in its operation.  The man asks about the upcoming torture but there are no instruments of torture or a torturer in evidence.  We come to understand that the man is dead and he believes he is in hell.
Two women join him and they each expect torture.  They talk and discover that none of them knew each other while they were living.  Each of them feels strong guilt about actions when they were alive.  All of them suspect that one of the others is a spy of some sort and the torture will soon begin.  They distrust each other.
But they also want comfort and love.  They want reassurances that they weren't awful people while alive.  They want to know that they are still lovable and desirable.  However, they can't seem to find some easy state that allows the others to be happy.  Slowly it dawns on them that they will torture each other.  The play observes that 'hell is other people'.

I'd never read this before.  The message is simple and powerful: we make our own lives, and the lives of people around us, miserable.  Sartre doesn't offer any relief from this and perhaps he doesn't believe there is any.  While reading it, I couldn't help but think that it wouldn't be too hard for me to pick people that would make eternity hell for me.  (Certain former co-workers came to mind.)  In fact, if I was trapped in a room with two other people for all time, I don't know if there would be any possible two that would keep it from becoming hell.  What an exquisite torture Sartre has thought of.

The play is a bit of a gimmick but I don't think that is much of a strike against it.  The illusion that you must accept is a solid one and the rules are easy to grasp.  Staging this play would be relatively easy and the cast is only four people.  I don't have a feel for the popularity of the show.  It really doesn't scream for a wide audience.  I bet it made an impact though.
'No Exit' is a play that I will think about for some time.  That's what it aimed for and it struck that target hard.

No comments:

Post a Comment