Hell is Other People

Possible meanings for the phrase “Hell is Other People”

“Hell Is Other People”

Author: Jean Paul Sartre
Novel: No Exit

Common interpretation:
The quote has been hailed as the slogan for introverts and a way to explain any dissatisfaction we encounter with family members, strangers on public transport and our time-stealing co-workers.

However, it cannot be literally true that other people are hellish. Alternate explanations exist based on the context of the novel which has three characters trapped in a room together. Each character wants to escape the watchful gaze of the others. But none can escape because because they’re dead and the room is hell.

Thus, being unable to escape from the gaze of other people who can potentially judge you and assign tags can be a hellish experience.

Alternate Explanation 1:

Without others, I was someone free.
When someone comes along, the new person restricts me with their own idea of what I am.

Alternate Explanation 2:

Once we die, we’re permanently trapped in other people’s interpretations of us.
See also: “Death makes angels of us”

When we are alive we can still do somethings to fix. But once we’re dead, we can no longer speak for our actions.
See also: “History is written by victors”

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