Sartre’s hell seems particularly apt to school, and certainly the next time we read that text in class I’ll raise the similarities. I’ve always felt that the hellish nature of Sartre’s’ version is the absence of agency and purpose, though. Without a reason for why they are all in that room together, the denizens are left to discover the purpose purely through dialogue and the understanding that they are also being punished for crimes they don’t understand. One sometimes gets the feeling that half one’s students harbor the same suspicion.

I’ve also often felt that Sartre’s poor condemned would have suffered less had they been given something meaningful to do, some purpose or task, or suffered more if given meaningless work. Had they found themselves in the room each speaking a different language, for example, it might be years before they even shared a common enough tongue to speak to each other, and who knows what would have changed among them in that time.

Thoughtful and thought-provoking essay. Thanks for sharing.

just another frustrated teacher

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