Three characters shown to the same room by a valet. It’s Hell, and the whips, fires and electrodes are replaced by three characters in the same room. It’s the source of the well-known “Hell is other people”, a realisation uttered by the male character, Garcin, near the end. Shortly before that he asks “Will night never come?”, a plea picked up by Vladimir in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (thanks to Rob Short and ‘anamnese’ for identifying the tramp).
Sartre develops the ideas that the eternal torment deserved by his three evil-doers (2 murderers and, appropriately enough for its wartime production, a coward) is constituted by each other: Estelle tries to get physical love from Garcin, but the dominant and lesbian Inez keeps them apart with jibes and manipulation. Garcin attempts to ‘save’ himself by getting either of them to believe he isn’t a coward, but gives up in failure when he realises that in this environment people will have no consideration of honesty, but will say whatever gives short-term expediency – nothing has meaning. They are, therefore, on the one hand driven by insecurity and the need to attempt communication, but can never communicate anything of genuine meaning. A real paradox which will keep them going, in torment, for eternity.