No Exit

Earlier, in my post about episode 12, I proposed that following Doctor Jacoby’s comment, it feels like Audrey is trapped in a bourgeois version of Hell. In that episode, she appeared unable to move from her standing position in front of the fireplace beneath a landscape painting. In episode 13, the same situation occurs, she just manages to cross the room in which she stands (under another painting) in order to sit in front of Charlie.

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This idea of Hell in a bourgeois setting, coupled with the comment by Charlie about existentialism leads me to believe that she might very well be trapped in the Sartrean version of Hell described in his play No Exit (1944).

The ninth level and lowest cycle of the underworld in Dante’s Divine Comedy (Inferno) is called Cocytus. It is a frozen lake, home of traitors. Is it possible that Audrey could be imprisoned in such a place because she was a traitor to her family?  This is very much how her father sees her, especially if apply the version of Ben Horne described in Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks.

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No Exit is a play that describes the story of three damned souls (Garcin, Olga & Estelle) brought to the same room, furnished in (French) Second Empire style. Unable to cope with each other, continually annoying each other, they are incapable of leaving the room, and end up agreeing that “hell is other people”.

In Audrey’s version of hell, she’s actually the only one who seems unable to cope with her present state. Charlie appears to be in control, going so far as threatening to “end her story”. It is yet unclear what he means by that, speaking of Audrey as if she were a fictional character, but it is possible to link this to the existentialist idea that “existence precedes essence”. This means that according to Sartre, our actions define who we are, not our “nature”. Audrey cannot really be certain of who she is until she actually does something. But like Garcin in the play (“I shall not go”), when given the chance to exit the room (to go to the Roadhouse) she backs down, she does not act. Frozen in the ninth circle of hell, she appears unable to act and therefore to define who she truly is. In No Exit, the characters are essentially immobile, confined to hell by their own choosing.

Another interesting parallel with Twin Peaks is the fact that in No Exit, time on earth passes at a different speed than in hell. “How quickly the time passes, on earth!” Estelle exclaims.

After Sartre, I’ll conclude with a quote from another giant of 20th Century literature, James Joyce. I believe this quote also applies to the world of Twin Peaks developed by Mark Frost and David Lynch. Joyce commented on deciphering his novel Ulysses (1922), his magnum opus (the story of a return back home, like season 3): “If I gave it all up immediately, I’d lose my immortality. I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality“.

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