The Flies, Freedom And Self Identity

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In Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Flies, freedom and self-identity are difficult concepts for Aegistheus and Electra to realize, as each character is unable to take responsibility for their actions, heightening the importance of role-playing in the work. Sartre claims that “man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards”1, thus existence precedes essence. One who is ‘free’ is not subject to the constraints of time (past/future self) nor the pressures from external forces. One who is ‘free’ continually re-creates one’s self in the present to take action on their system of values and accept responsibility for the resulting ‘anguish’. The concept of ‘bad faith’, deceiving one’s self into thinking that they do not have freedom to make choices for fear of the resulting consequences, is quintessential to Aegistheus and Electra’s adoption of social roles. Both characters adapt value systems alien to their own as a mechanism to escape personal responsibility and the ‘anguish’ from the decisions they have made. Aegisthus utilizes his role as King, as a way of vindicating his actions. Electra confines herself to the idea of revenge and the role of destiny in her life choices. She does not, however, act in agreement with her set of values. Contrastingly, Orestes creates the ‘role’ of existential hero by realizing and acting on his inherent freedom. Aegisthus spent the entirety of his reign cultivating an aura of fear to maintain order,

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