Table of Contents
Part I. Character Sketch
- Garcin: Joseph Garcin is a journalist who lived in Rio and was killed by a gunshot during World War II when he attempted to leave the battlefield. He was the first prisoner in hell and the only one with whom the Valet spoke. Even though he is at first hesitant, he does not deny his sins and realizes that there is a greater purpose of the group being together. He is a dynamic character since he greatly develops and grows from the beginning to the end of the play.
- Inez: Inez Sarrano is a lesbian and a postal clerk by profession. She is a practical and negative person, often coming off as harsh and rude. She even calls herself a “damned bitch.” She tries to seduce Estelle and provoke Garcin throughout the play. She died because of a gas leak deliberately caused by her lover. Inez never denies her sins or accuses her placement in hell as being incorrect. Ultimately, she is the strongest of the three and naturally takes charge.
- Estelle: Estelle Rigault is a wealthy, blonde housewife who died because of pneumonia and believes that she was wrongly placed in hell. She is obsessed with finding a mirror and seeing her reflection and is scared by Inez’s advances and flirtation when Inez offers to describe Estelle’s appearance. Throughout the play, Estelle tries to seduce Garcin as she wants to be with a man.
Part II. Character Sin
- Garcin: Garcin’s main sin and cause of death is cowardice since he ran away from the battlefield during an active battle. He also admits to mistreating his wife emotionally and physically. He blatantly cheated on her and even brought his affairs to their home. Even in hell, he lies about being a pacifist and lusts after Estelle. Garcin admits that his sin was a part of his personality when he deliberately hurt his wife. He states, “You see, I’m fond of teasing, it’s second nature with me-and I’m used to teasing myself…I don’t tease nicely” (31). This also adds to his coward nature as his only way to become manly is through oppression.”
- Inez: Inez is guilty of seducing and having an affair with her cousin’s wife while living at their house. She is also guilty of indirectly killing her cousin as he was killed by his wife because of Inez’s influence as she turned the spouses against each other. Her present sin in hell is that she continues to manipulate and bully the other two prisoners and lust after Estelle. She states, “When I say I’m cruel, I mean I can’t get on without making people suffer. Like a live coal. A live coal in others’ hearts” (299).
- Estelle: Estelle is guilty of committing adultery, lusting after other men, and killing her illegitimate baby. She is also guilty of indirectly killing her lover as he shot himself after mentally and emotionally torturing by Estelle after she denied any true affection towards him and killing his baby in front of him. Her sin in hell is lying to cover up her previous sins and lusting after Garcin. She was previously and is presently guilty of possessing pride and shallowness, being concerned only for her own gain.
Part III. Character Goals
- Garcin: Garcin ultimately wants to overcome his cowardice, which was the sin that placed him in hell. He hopes to achieve salvation by doing so. He desperately wants to become manly and not punish others (like his wife) for his deficiencies. This goal also involves him trying to please Inez first and proving to her that he is not a coward. This is because he believes that Inez still has the sense to tell between cowardice and bravery and she will be able to give him a true approval and hopefully and exit out.
- Inez: Inez’s goal is to be honest with herself and the other characters and to spend eternity in the most pleasing manner as possible. She realizes that they are all each other’s hell as they will torture each other with their words and actions. She is set on staying realistic and staying the most dominant out of them three. It is a survival of the fittest game for her and she is determined to stay at the top forever.
- Estelle: Estelle wants to go back to her past life and is often in denial throughout the play. Her actions such as stabbing Inez show that she is impractical and highly emotional. When she realizes she is stuck there and the living has moved on, she sets another goal of seducing and staying with Garcin as she cannot stay without men and depends on them. Basically, she wants to stay happy at any cost and not be left in solitude.
Part IV. Character Solution
- Garcin: The problem for Garcin is that he realizes his sin and is afraid of being reminded of it for eternity and being tortured by the two women. Therefore, he opts for solitude as the answer to peace but realizes that even if he can be silent, he cannot escape the others’ physical presence, specifically their gaze. He also starts to ignore Estelle and focus on Inez more as she is the last part of sense for him in hell.
- Inez: Inez’s problem is that she wants the other two characters to accept reality for what it is. She also wants to seduce Estelle successfully and bully Garcin since she does not like men. She solves these problems by in fact having the opposite results: she ends up making Estelle abhor her and Garcin get closer to her because of her intellect. This works out as she has programmed herself to accept reality for what it is. She also wants the other two characters to take responsibility for their crimes, which are accomplished through her manipulative ways.
- Estelle: Estelle’s problem is that she wants to become closer to Garcin and find mirrors to look at herself. However, she does not find a solution as Garcin is distanced from her and the other characters can only act as her mirrors. This can be only solved if Estelle starts to trust the other two and be satisfied with their testimonies to achieve happiness.
- At the end, Garcin states, “Let’s get on with it” (556) which can imply a couple of things. Firstly, the characters start laughing before this line is said when Estelle tries to unsuccessfully kill an already dead Inez out of anger. The absurd aspect of the play is shown through this and all characters accept their fate. They realize that they will be stuck in hell forever and therefore, it is up to them to live this fate any way they want. Secondly, it implies that the group has decided to keep on living in absurd ways such as killing each other over and over or laughing and displaying other nonsense acts. This option will allow them to be completely at peace with their fate and lose their sense of the past world along with developing new identities. This is the only way they will not be “tortured” as all three will be willingly engaging in such behavior. Lastly, this can imply that the characters accept defeat and are mentally ready to live eternity torturing each other. This will involve them holding firm to their present personalities.
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