An Anti-Existentialist Interpretation of Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit .


Sarah Fones

Document Type


Publication Date



The traditional reading of Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit, published in 1943, seeks to identify the various tenets commonly associated with Sartrean existentialism, namely that man is an absolutely autonomous individual, determined by his own will alone, for whom his consequent separation from others facilitates infallible liberty and free choice. No Exit is widely regarded as the literary expression of another Sartrean work, Being and Nothingness, published the same year. Though decidedly a philosophical text, the latter work, like No Exit , is not reducible to a singular meaning. That is to say, complexities inherent to both works compel the reader to re-examine and question the dominant interpretation. I have taken two consecutive sentences from Being and Nothingness which I believe exemplify the primary contradiction at the crux of the play: "The Other is the one who excludes me by being himself, the one whom I exclude by being myself. Consciousness are directly supported by one another in a reciprocal imbrication of their being." Ultimately, No Exit illustrates the contradictions of Being and Nothingness, calling into question the solitude of a single consciousness and the opposition between interiority and exteriority. The intersubjective community, as opposed to that of innumerable separate entities, is our inescapable reality.


Warren Montag




Ford Research Fellowship

This document is currently not available here.