Critical Evaluation

Jean-Paul Sartre, professor, philosopher, and author, was internationally known as an existential writer and thinker. His many works explore how the individual is free to act and how such freedom of choice, in an otherwise meaningless universe, can be overwhelming and frightening. In France, Sartre was a leading novelist, having written La Nausée (1938; Nausea, 1949) and L’Âge de raison (1945; The Age of Reason, 1947), and a playwright, with such credits as Les Mouches (pr., pb. 1943; The Flies, 1946) and La Putain respecteuse (pr., pb. 1946; The Respectful Prostitute, 1947). He also wrote a number of philosophical works devoted to existentialism; his most famous book on the subject, L’Être et le néant (1943; Being and Nothingness, 1956), was published one year before No Exit made its stage debut. In 1964, Sartre’s scorn for elitism led him to refuse a Nobel Prize in Literature.

No Exit was written and first produced late in World War II, when France was occupied by Germany. The play therefore had to pass the Nazi censors, who read all scripts that were performed in the private theaters of Paris during the Occupation. Although there is nothing in the play that explicitly challenges German rule, audiences in 1944 regarded No Exit as subtly subversive.

For example, Garcin makes references to prewar pacifists, who at the...

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