The Flies Jean-Paul Sartre

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78 pages


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The Flies  by  Jean-Paul Sartre

The Flies by Jean-Paul Sartre
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Sartre revamped the Orestes story (see Aeschylus, The Libation Bearers- Sophocles, Electra- Euripides, Electra) by adding Zeus as an ironic and despicable character, a plague of large flies fouling the wretched city of Argos, and his existentialMoreSartre revamped the Orestes story (see Aeschylus, The Libation Bearers- Sophocles, Electra- Euripides, Electra) by adding Zeus as an ironic and despicable character, a plague of large flies fouling the wretched city of Argos, and his existential perspective that recasts the Greek events in an entirely new light.

This play came out the same year, 1943, as Sartres Being and Nothingness, which emphasizes key existential ideas.The situation in Argos would have resonated with the original audience as resembling the situation of the Nazi Occupation of Paris and its attendant dilemmas. Clytemnestra calls it a quarantine, a sort of pestilence others are afraid of being infected by (68). (Camus will use the same metaphor for the same historical phenomenon in The Plague.) Existentialism can be seen as a noble French reaction to the German occupation and the Vichy politicians insofar as it is a philosophy of self-respect when one is powerless and surrounded by evil.Having left the prison camp, Sartre actively involved himself in the French opposition movement called the Resistance.

He could not publish anything that attacked Nazi rule directly, since the censors would not allow it. Like several other authors of the same time, Sartre chose a Greek play to provide a cover for his anti-fascist beliefs. The censors missed the message of the play, but the audiences picked it up- it is clear enough in the writing. The conditions in Argos as Sartre describes them closely mirror the state of affairs in France. Aegistheus murders the true king of Argos and takes his place, while the queen, Clytemnestra, gladly joins him and supports his every repressive action.

Aegistheus, then, can allegorically stand for the German occupation, while Clytemnestra can represent the collaborationist Vichy government. The Flies is a call to the French people to recognize their freedom to act and rise up against their oppressors.For Sartre, the people of Argos represent the old collective power that is enslaved and propagandized (Jean-Paul Sartre).

Although Aegistheus, who with his lover the Queen Clytemnestra murdered her husband Agamemnon fifteen years earlier when the latter returned home from the Trojan War, is ultimately responsible for creating pseudo-religious rituals that keep the populace focused on their abject sinfulness instead of recognizing their own freedom and power, the people themselves willingly cower within this miserable comfort zone (53, 54). Contemporary parallels?What may possibly be called the psychology of Sartre is his study of the various means by which man tries to evade the necessity of choosing and creating his existence.

Mans dream is to become placidly immobile like a stone, insensitive. This is his fundamental cowardice, his desire to play the social comedy of conformity, to appear before all other men as one of them. (Jean-Paul Sartre)



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