Joseph Garcin, a pacifist journalist from Rio who reached Hell by means of a firing squad, after an attempted escape to Mexico. Garcin affects a macho style and denies his fear of Hell. He is the first of the central characters to survey the set and is the first and the last to speak. As the play progresses, his swaggering façade crumbles. He is exposed in his fear of the judgment of his colleagues on earth and his companions in Hell, because his life was cut off at an ambiguous point. Was he a coward, running away from danger, or a hero on his way to glory? Garcin employs varied tactics to stave off recognition of this fear by his fellow prisoners, realizing that the suffering endured from them is worse than physical torture. He delivers the play’s best-known line, “Hell is other people.”
Inez Serrano, a postal worker killed in her sleep when her lesbian lover/victim turned on the gas in the night. She enters Hell sure of her reasons for damnation and brutal in her contempt for men in general and Garcin in particular. She realizes the specific necessity for each inmate of their room in Hell as torturer for the others. Inez is attracted to the lovely Estelle and competes with Garcin for her attention, thus becoming vulnerable to suffering through desire. Her savage lucidity rejects excuses and cover-ups, forcing the group confrontation of their hellish situation. It is this quality...
(The entire section is 505 words.)