No Exit: Overview

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Author: Gary M. Godfrey
Editor: Lesley Henderson
Date: 1995
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Work overview; Critical essay
Length: 882 words

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Sartre's widely acclaimed one-act play, No Exit, was first performed in Paris in 1944 during the German Occupation. The play tells the story of three people who have died and gone to hell, where they are condemned to spend eternity with each other. The work is based on and masterfully illustrates Sartre's philosophy of Existentialism, and is valuable for that reason alone. The play's literary appeal transcends its philosophical implications, however, and its probing into the truths of human existence endows it with a measure of universal appeal.

No Exit is at once modern and traditional. It is especially modern in tone. The language is colloquial, and the characters are ordinary people who exhibit the concerns of their times. They are preoccupied with their roles in society and how society might judge them. One is a coward, another a lesbian, and the third a nymphomaniac, and their personal failures and appetites have led them to commit terrible crimes for which they must now accept responsibility.

Conversely, No Exit is linked by both its forms and its themes to traditional French theatre and to the classics. In almost every respect, the play observes the formal rules of 17th-century neo-classical French theatre. Sartre carefully observes the unities of time, place, and action, and to an extent even the bienséances, the rules governing...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420007101