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The Flies

The Flies

by Jean-Paul Sartre

Identity Theme

Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialism proposes that the self is created and re-created in every moment of life through choice manifested in action. The Flies explores this idea through dramatic fiction. The ancient myth of Orestes and Electra becomes a story about choosing and creating identities. The story's protagonist becomes its existential hero when he recognizes that he has personal freedom, and chooses a value system of his own. The negative examples are those who refuse to choose at all, or those who choose and then regret their decisions on account of someone else's judgment.

Questions About Identity

  1. In Aegisthus's "Character Analysis," we talk about the role he uses (that of being king) to define himself. What "roles" do the other characters in The Flies play use? Do these other characters confuse their identity with their roles, or do they exist in authenticity outside of them?
  2. For Sartre, what constitutes a "crime"? Who are the "criminals" in this play?
  3. Why does Orestes hesitate to share the details of Clytemnestra's death with his sister?

Chew on This

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

For Sartre, not choosing a value system at all (represented by the action of the Tutor) is worse than choosing a problematic one (represented by Aegisthus).

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