Existentialism Compare and Constrast Essay

This essay has a total of 1282 words and 5 pages.


"Existence precedes essence". These are the few words that many people live by. These
words describe a philosophy called Existentialism. The philosophical term, Existentialism,
came from Jean Paul Sartre, a French philosopher. Jean Paul Sartre wrote "No Exit", where
he portrayed his philosophy negatively. On the other hand, Albert Camus, who wrote The
Stranger, portrayed Existentialism positively through his characters. Each author uses the
characteristics of Existentialism positively or negatively to define their own story as
well as their characters as true Existentialists or not

Existentialism has been described as a philosophical movement especially of the 20th
century that stresses the individual position as self determining agent responsible for
his or her own choices. Basically a true Existentialist will create their own beliefs,
take responsibility for his of her own actions, and is very honest. If they were to do
something wrong, they would take responsibility for their actions and not make excuses or
put the blame on someone else. Furthermore, a true existentialist believes there is no God
and thus man becomes alone with only ourselves as a guide to making the decisions that
define our existence. They also believe that Life has no meaning and that everything
happens by chance.

Jean-Paul Sartre examines the basic themes of existentialism through his three characters
Garcin, Inez, and Estelle. Garcin seems to appear an existentialist, but upon a closer
look, he violates the rules time and again. Next, Inez seems to fully understand ideas
deemed existential. Estelle is the third person, and does not seem to understand these
ideas well, nor does she accept them when they are first presented to her.

One similarity amongst the three is that they all at some point seem to accept that they are in "hell" for a reason.
Garcin is "hell" because he beat his wife and cheated on her. However, he doesn't wish he
had acted differently. He shows and proves this when he says: "I tell you I regret nothing
(p. 24)." By saying this, Garcin is taking responsibility for his own actions; hence he is
following the laws of Existentialism. However, he sometimes violates these laws. For
example, he is so preoccupied with the idea that he is a coward that he makes the women
tell him that he wasn't a coward and makes her tell him that he was right in doing so. He
is so dependent upon this that he wouldn't get involved with Estelle until she tells him
what he wants to hear. Again Garcin is showing his Non-existential characteristics because
he shouldn't have to rely on another for confidence or want other people to judge him.

Inez is in "hell" because she had stolen her cousin's wife, then conspired to make his
life miserable, until he finally he killed himself. She had also brought guilt upon
Florence and then she killed Inez by poisoning her with gas. Then after she killed Inez,
she committed suicide. Inez doesn't regret anything she has done. She proves this by
saying: "I was what some people down there called ‘a damned bitch (p. 25),'", "You know,
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