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The Flies

The Flies


by Jean-Paul Sartre

Electra Timeline and Summary

  • Electra enters the stage with a jar of ashes, which she proceeds to pour all over the statue of Zeus while rubbing herself inappropriately against it.
  • When she's done with these vulgar preoccupations, she finally notices Orestes.
  • Orestes introduces himself as Philebus from Corinth.
  • Electra wants to know all about his hometown and is fascinated by the stories of a place where people are happy. This is apparently foreign to anything she's ever known.
  • Electra gives a bit of her own personal history. She explains that she's treated like a slave in the palace, and references the sexual activities of her mother and stepfather.
  • She reveals that she's waiting for someone or something; it's painfully obvious that she's talking about her brother Orestes, whom she imagines as a vengeful, angry man.
  • Clytemnestra enters the stage, looking for her daughter.
  • Mother and daughter go at it for a bit. They fight over the upcoming Ceremony of the Dead; Electra doesn't want to go.
  • They also openly discuss hating each other, though the Queen claims that she only resents Electra because she recognizes herself in her daughter.
  • Electra counters that the Queen is jealous of her good looks.
  • Electra explains to Philebus (i.e., Orestes) what the Ceremony of the Dead actually is. She advises him to stick around, as it should be an interesting show.
  • At the Ceremony of the Dead, Aegisthus is perturbed at his daughter's absence.
  • He's even more perturbed when she shows up in an inappropriate white dress (instead of the mandated black conservative funeral attire) and dances atop the temple steps.
  • As she dances, Electra tries to explain to the people of Argos that, actually, there aren't hundreds of invisible dead ghosts running around. It's all in their heads.
  • Everything is going great until Zeus smashes the boulder into the temple steps. Electra finds the whole thing amusing, and promises her stepfather that, though she failed this time, she'll bring the people around next time.
  • So Aegisthus banishes his stepdaughter and forbids anyone to speak to or help her in any way.
  • Orestes begs his sister to run away with him, but she refuses.
  • He reveals that he is Orestes.
  • Electra is at first disappointed, but then declares that she loves this Orestes (the real Orestes) more than she did the fantasy.
  • Then Orestes undergoes a transformative epiphany.
  • Electra is fully aware of the change that's come over her brother and comments on it extensively.
  • Orestes offers to kill the Queen and King with her.
  • In the palace, Electra hides out with Orestes while Zeus converses with Aegisthus.
  • Once the god leaves, she watches her brother slay her stepfather.
  • Electra doesn't handle the death scene so well. Her will weakens, and she's hesitant to go after Clytemnestra next.
  • But Orestes doesn't flinch so he leaves Electra alone with the dead body of the King while he heads to the Queen's room.
  • Electra freaks out for a bit and has to close the eyes of the dead Aegisthus so he can't look at her. She hears the screams of her mother as Orestes kills her.
  • Together, she and Orestes head to the temple of Apollo.
  • While they at the feet of Apollo's statue, the furies stand around them.
  • Electra's sleep is disturbed by nightmares, and she wakes in fear and anger at her brother.
  • Apparently the furies have "ravaged" Electra's face while she slept.
  • Though her brother warns her not to, Electra engages the furies and allows them to taunt her.
  • She's clearly distraught at her actions a few hours earlier.
  • When Zeus shows up, he offers Electra a solution.
  • He tries to convince her that she never really wanted the royal couple dead and that all she needs to do now is spend the rest of her life repenting.
  • Orestes and Zeus argue over freedom and guilt and crime while Electra stands by helplessly. Ultimately, she chooses to repent rather than face the anguish of her own freedom. This saves her from the furies.