Les Mouches – The Flies, Jean Paul Sartre

Why you need to read this play..

The ideology of existentialism presents the notion of finding the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. It has a slight penchant towards atheism since this same concept also alludes to being self reliant and independent ( not relying on external sources, a higher being etc)

So the play mainly presents us the city of Argos which is in great agony (great agony, I know! Colloquial language! sigh!) because the new tyrant king has successfully brainwashed the people into thinking that they must share the guilt of his murdering the legitimate king. For this reason, they celebrate a ridiculous festival of the dead, (‘festival des morts’) to ask the dead for forgiveness for living while they stay frozen in the land of the dead. Then there is the God Jupiter who seems to be happy about the whole situation and actually feeds off of people’s guilt. His aim is to keep a person crippled and under his power by reminding them of their guilt. Jupiter does not fail to remind the current king that the slain king’s blood is on his hands. The queen (Clytemnestre) who is also guilt ridden has a deathly face which is as cold and as unfeeling to the point that her own daughter Electre can not stand being around her.

The pivotal and didactic part of the play comes up with the arrival of Orestre who refuses to go with the culture of guilt that exists in the city. Orestre is important because he is the legitimate hier to the throne; as a baby, he is given to strangers who are leaving to another city so he is unable to grow in his own legitimate country; but luckily he grows in the care of an affluent couple in a city where life, beauty and harmony reside so to arrive in his native country and meet a place that is physically filthy and reeking of guilt, fear and regret is something Orestre is simply unable to accept. He reveals himself to his sister Electre and together they decide to assassinate the king and their mother who they both agree is disgusting. After the initial murder of the king, Electre crumbles with guilt and is unable to go shake the guilt off or continue with the two’s initial plot. Now the flies are literally the workers of the God Jupiter who feed off of people’s guilt and create this false sense of being a safe haven. Jupiter and the flies’  secret aim though is to encourage dependency so that he/they uses this tool to forever remind the victim of his or her guilt which makes him/them happy.

Why I love this play

This play has a background that touches slightly on French history and hard times the German occupation of France brought in 1943. The play is also very dramatic and has strong symbols that are used to convey good ideas. Example are how the flies/ Les Mouches are the physical representation of the guilt one feels. Flies are attracted when there is something unpleasant or something that appeals to them (which we generally know is disgusting), therefore the flies used in this play communicates a sense of the damaging and ugly effects of guilt. If you reek of guilt, you attract flies which hound you for life until you get the courage to shake them off. We also learn that one of the components that attract guilt is regret. I like this play because it draws you in and throws a lot of issues at you but at the same time, it contains rich information perfect for analyses.

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