The Stanford Freedom Project on the Heidegger in Sartre
's Huis Clos
No Exit takes place in Sartre’s conception of Hell, a setting which reflects many existentialist ideas including Dasein, Facticity, freedom, and subjectivity. In the opening act of the play, the Valet’s enigmatic answers to Garcin’s questions about the world outside the room imply that Hell is in a void. This is confirmed later when Garcin manages to force the door open, only to find a dark, silent expanse beyond the doorway. The room’s location echoes Heidegger’s description of Dasein, which he defines as “being held out into the nothing”. “The nothing” which Heidegger discusses and Sartre chooses as his play’s setting is not just “the counterconcept of beings” in the same way that up is the opposite of down and light is the opposite of dark. Instead, the nothing is more like a force which acts on all beings, including humans; it cannot be seen or manipulated, but its effects can be felt. The nothing is at the base of everything, and we confront this when we realize how meaningless our ideals and social mores really are. Most importantly, the nothing “originally belongs to [beings’] essential unfolding” and development, serving as the base of our subjectivity.