The Flies
The Flies
by Jean-Paul Sartre
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The Flies Theme of Guilt and Blame

The Flies tells the story of a town in Ancient Greece consumed by remorse over a crime committed fifteen years earlier. The guilt is imposed by the kingdom's rulers – King Aegisthus and Zeus – who use remorse as a tool to repress their subjects. While the populace is busy repenting and regretting, they are distracted from living. Most importantly, they are distracted from their personal freedom. They forget that it is up to them to choose a value system and decide what is right and wrong. Instead of choosing for themselves, they allow an external force to impose a system of morality on them. They end up repenting for a "crime" that they never chose to interpret as a crime.

Questions About Guilt and Blame

  1. Clytemnestra argues that she doesn't regret murdering Agamemnon – in fact, she took joy in it. For what, then, does she repent?
  2. At the end of The Flies, Electra is spared the furies, yet Orestes is chased off stage. If Orestes has embraced his freedom and is free from the torment of remorse, why is he the one who gets attacked by the "Goddesses of remorse"?
  3. Orestes says that "the most cowardly of murderers is he who feels remorse." What, then, is "courage" in this play?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

At the end of The Flies, Orestes has successfully freed the Argives.

The Argives are no better off at the end of The Flies than they were at the beginning.

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