Summary and Analysis
Estelle is taken aback by Inez's offer to serve as her "mirror." She wants Garcin to intervene, but he remains buried in his hands; Inez says that he doesn't count. Inez helps Estelle with her makeup and says that it looks much better than when she entered: She now looks more "diabolical." Estelle does not respond to Inez's come-on, so Inez begins to torture her with comments about her appearance: "What's that nasty red spot . . . a pimple?" Inez reminds her that she is now Estelle's mirror. Garcin is not interested in the two women. Inez attacks Garcin because he wants passivity and silence: She claims that his presence is everywhere, and that Estelle wishes only to please him. Clearly, there is no such thing as forgetting about the others: They are present, regardless.
Inez prefers to choose her own Hell, to look Garcin in the face and fight it out with him. Garcin announces that they should tell the truth about their lives: Maybe this will save them from disaster. Garcin mistreated his wife and eventually slept with another woman in his own house. Inez was living with her cousin, who was married to Florence. When the man got on their nerves, the women moved out and lived together. He was killed, and in despair, Florence turned the gas oven on one night, killing both Inez and herself. Inez had made Florence see things through her eyes, and this bitterness was too much for her. Hence, the suicide/murder; Inez is in Hell for her cruelty. Estelle had an affair with a man and became pregnant; she went to Switzerland for five months and gave birth to a daughter. Her lover, Roger, wanted the child, but Estelle didn't, so she drowned the child; later, she died of pneumonia. Roger shot himself in the head.
The characters have now unveiled their reasons for being sent to Hell. Garcin wishes to get on with things in an effort to help each other. The damnation period is suspended for a moment while they restore peace. It comes in fits and starts; this demonstrates Sartre's theory of freedom: If they wish to create something un-hellish for themselves, they can do so. But by dwelling on the past, negative, sordid aspects of their lives, they deprive themselves of calm. Their past actions matter only insofar as their present choices are concerned. They are now becoming more and more aware of their need for one another.