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The Flies

The Flies

by Jean-Paul Sartre

Choices Quotes Page 1

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

THE TUTOR
So along with youth, good looks, and wealth, you have the wisdom of far riper years; your mind is free from prejudice and superstition; you have no family ties, no religion, and no calling; you are free to turn your hand to anything. But you know better than to commit yourself – and there lies your strength. (1.1.96)

According to Sartre, the Tutor is right – in a sense. Orestes is free. And yet, he makes no use of this freedom until he chooses and acts. The Tutor would be wrong then, when he advises Orestes not to commit himself. Orestes isn't free until he acts on that freedom by committing himself to an action of his choice.

Quote #2

ORESTES
Some men are born bespoken; a certain path has been assigned them, and at its end there is something they must do, a deed allotted. So on and on they trudge, wounding their bare feet on the flints. I suppose that strikes you as vulgar – the joy of going somewhere definite. (1.1.97)

Pay close attention to the various speeches in which Orestes discusses the idea of a "path." There is a joy in having a path, he knows, but it is not until later that he discovers the importance of choosing one's own. The Tutor seems to see two options: being path-less, or being committed to a path that someone else has chosen for you. Orestes will later discover that he can commit himself to a path he has chosen for himself. In this way he maintains his freedom while still giving himself the weight and substance he desires.

Quote #3

ORESTES
A king should share in his subjects' memories. […] If there were something I could do, something to give me the freedom of the city; if, even by a crime, I could acquire their memories, their hopes and fears, and fill with these the void within me, yes, even if I had to kill my own mother… (1.1.105)

When Orestes ultimately does kill his mother, is it for self-serving purposes, or selfless ones? Does he do it, as he says here, to fill the void within himself, or does he do it, as he claims in his closing speech, to free the people of Argos?

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