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«No Exit», Jean-Paul Sartre

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GARCIN: Your eyelids. We move ours up and down. Blinking, we call it. It's like a small black shutter that clicks down and makes a break. Everything goes black; one's eyes are moistened. You can't imagine how restful, refreshing, it is. Four thousand little rests per hour. Four thousand little respites-just think!…So that's the idea. I'm to live without eyelids. Don't act the fool, you know what I mean. No eyelids, no sleep; it follows, doesn't it? I shall never sleep again. But then-how shall I endure my own company? Try to understand. You see, I'm fond of teasing, it's a second nature with me- and I'm used to teasing myself. Plaguing myself, if you prefer; I don't tease nicely. But I can't go on doing that without a break. Down there I had my nights. I slept. I always had good nights. By way of compensation, I suppose. And happy little dreams. There was a green field. Just an ordinary field. I used to stroll in it…Is it daytime now?

VALET: Can't you see? The lights are on.

GARCIN: Ah, yes, I've got it. It's your daytime. And outside?

VALET: Outside?

GARCIN: Damn it, you know what I mean. Beyond that wall.

VALET: There's a passage.

GARCIN: And at the end of the passage?

VALET: There's more rooms, more passages, and stairs.

GARCIN: And what lies beyond them?

VALET: That's all.

GARCIN: But surely you have a day off sometimes. Where do you go?

VALET: To my uncle's place. He's the head valet here. He has a room on the third floor.

GARCIN:I should have guessed as much. Where's the light-switch?

VALET:There isn't any.

GARCIN:What? Can't one turn off the light?

VALET:Oh, the management can cut off the current if they want to. But I can't remember their having done so on this floor. We have all the electricity we want.

GARCIN:So one has to live with one's eyes open all the time?

VALET: To live, did you say?

GARCIN: Don't let's quibble over words. With one's eyes open. Forever. Always broad daylight in my eyes- and in my head. And suppose I took that contraption on the mantelpiece and dropped it on the lamp- wouldn't it go out?

VALET: You can't move it. It's too heavy.

GARCIN: You're right. It's too heavy.

VALET: Very well, sir, if you don't need me any more, I'll be off.

GARCIN: What? You're going? Wait. That's a bell, isn't it? And if I ring, you're bound to come?

VALET: Well, yes, that's so- in a way. But you can never be sure about that bell. There's something wrong with the wiring, and it doesn't always work.

GARCIN: It's working all right.

VALET: So it is. But I shouldn't count on it too much if I were you. It's- capricious. Well, I really must go now. Yes, sir?

GARCIN: No, never mind. What's this?

VALET: Can't you see? An ordinary paper-knife.

GARCIN: Are there books here?

VALET: No.

GARCIN: Then what's the use of this? Very well. You can go.

(Garcin is by himself. He goes to the bronze ornament and strokes it reflectively. He sits down; then gets up, goes to the bell-push, and presses the button. The bell remains silent. He tries two or three times, without success. Then he tries to open the door, also without success. He calls the VALET several times, but gets no result. He beats the door with his fists, still calling. Suddenly he grows calm and sits down again. At the same moment the door opens and INEZ enters, followed by the VALET›)

How does Sartre create a sense of place through dialogue? Can you imagine what it feels like to stay awake all the time with the lights on with no hope of leaving a specific place? How does GARCIN react to this hell? How could you twist your daily activities around so that everyday habits become hell? Is there a pattern of circumstances that reinforces the experience of hell?

VALET:Did you call, sir?

GARCIN: (About to answer "yes", but sees INEZ and says) No.

VALET: This is your room, madam. If there's any information you require-? Most of our guests have quite a lot to ask me. But I won't insist. Anyhow, as regards the toothbrush, and the electric bell, and that thing on the mantelshelf, this gentleman can tell you anything you want to know as well as I could. We've had a little chat, him and me. (Exits.)

INEZ: Where's Florence? Didn't you hear? I asked you about Florence. Where is she?

GARCIN: I haven't an idea.

INEZ: Ah, that's the way it works, is it? Torture by separation. Well, as far as I'm concerned, you won't get anywhere. Florence was a tiresome little fool, and I shan't miss her in the least.

GARCIN: I beg your pardon. Who do you suppose I am?

INEZ: You? Why, the torturer, of course.

GARCIN: Well, that's a good one! Too comic for words. I the torturer! So you came in, had a look at me, and thought I was-er-one of the staff. Of course, it's that silly fellow's fault; he should have introduced us. A torturer indeed! I'm Joseph Garcin, journalist and man of letters by profession. And as we're both in the same boat, so to speak, might I ask you, Mrs.-?

INEZ:Not "Mrs." I'm unmarried.

GARCIN: Right. That's a start, anyway. Well, now that we've broken the ice, do you really think I look like a torturer? And, by the way, how does one recognize torturers when one sees them? Evidently you've ideas on the subject.

INEZ: They look frightened.


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