Infernal Obsolescence

This is an interesting piece by J. Peter Nixon about how traditional views of hell are increasingly seen as tiresome, motivationally inefficacious, and generally outré.  The story neglects an important piece of the banalization of hell, of course.  From Sartre’s No Exit — as you remember, the scene is a drawing room decorated in Second Empire furnishings (which I’ve always kind of liked, though to Sartre’s modernist taste, it looked “rather like a dentist’s waiting room”) in which three people are trapped with nothing but each other.  — MOD

Garcin: Will night never come?

Inez: Never.

Garcin: You will always see me?

Inez: Always.

Garcin: This bronze.  Yes, now’s the moment; I’m looking at this thing on the mantelpiece, and I understand that I’m in hell.  I tell you, everything’s been thought out beforehand.  They knew I’d stand at the fireplace stroking this thing of bronze, with all those eyes intent on me.  Devouring me.  What?  Only two of you?  I thought there were more; many more.  So this is hell.  I’d never have believed it.  You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the “burning marl.”  Old-wives’ tales!  There’s no need for red-hot pokers.  Hell is — other people! 

One response

  1. Perhaps Beckett’s Endgame—featuring the blind Hamm and his servant, Clov—has also been neglected:

    Hamm: … What time is it?
    Clov: The same as usual.
    Hamm (gesture towards window right): Have you looked?
    Clov: Yes.
    Hamm: Well?
    Clov: Zero.

    —DRS

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