Study Guide

The Flies Choices

By Jean-Paul Sartre


Because existentialists believe in radical personal freedom, everything is a matter of choice. We choose our values, we choose our identities, and we even choose to be alive. In creating and continually re-creating the self, man must choose a set of values through action. It's important to note that action, not thoughts, beliefs, or aspirations, constitutes this choice. By choosing a certain value (honesty, freedom, remorse, etc.), we create it. For Sartre, to avoid choice is to flee from personal freedom, and to engage in bad faith or self-deception.

Questions About Choices

  1. Sartre argues that value systems don't exist until we choose them. How is this reasoning reflected in The Flies?
  2. We argue in this guide that Orestes chooses a value system which holds freedom above all else, Zeus does the same with remorse, Aegisthus order, and Electra revenge. What system does Clytemnestra choose?
  3. Does Orestes choose to be free, or are all the characters in The Flies inherently free? In this respect, what differentiates Orestes from the general population of Argos?

Chew on This

Committing to murder Aegisthus and Clytemnestra is the first real choice Orestes makes in his life; it is the only decision manifested in action.