by Jean-Paul Sartre
When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.
Literature and Philosophy
While these texts are never explicitly referenced in The Flies, Sartre's play builds on the three Greek tragedies, which were founded on the same ancient myth. These works are:
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet – Electra's description of her mother in bed with Aegisthus (1.1.122) bears more than a passing resemblance to Hamlet's condemnation of Gertrude's sexual activities.
- The Pied Piper of Hamlin – The final speech of The Flies features a description of a mysterious piper luring the rats away from an infested city.
- Jesus Christ and Christian Theology – The old woman's reference to an "original sin" (1.1.59) likely alludes to the Biblical Fall of Adam. In addition, in Act III, the discussion between Zeus and Orestes includes the mention of a "slave on the cross." Considering that Orestes takes the sins of the people of Argos upon his own back and declares himself their "savior," this could be a reference to Jesus Christ. If so, however, Orestes is a very different savior than Christ. The Flies condemns moral institutions (like the Catholic Church) and the penitent, remorseful lifestyle they prescribe. Orestes is at most a mock-Christ figure, rendering this an ironic shout out.