The Flies Background

The Flies Background

The Flies is a play written in 1943 by French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Born in 1905, Sartre was a philosopher and writer whose political and world view were greatly changed by the Germans occupation of France during World War Two. This invasion in 1940 opened his eyes to the way in which the Vichy government led by Marshall Petaim collaborated with the Nazis leading to a loss of freedom for the French people. After being released from a German prison camp in 1943, Sartre joined the Resistance movement, an underground organization whose bravery and disregard for the inherent danger of their pro-Allied actions contributed to the flow of information from France to Britain and greatly influenced the outcome of the War.

Sartre could not directly attack the Germans in his writings because he would be censored, but like his contemporaries with similar views he chose to express his views through Greek plays. The Flies is an adaptation of Aeschylus' "The Libation Bearers" and it is a vehicle for Sartre's anti-fascist beliefs. Conditions in Argos mirror conditions in France. Aegistheus murders the true king of Argos and takes his place (representing the invading Germans) whilst Queen Clytemnestra supports him (representing the French government). The play is Sartre's call to action to the French people, urging them to rise up and take back their country.

The play not only shows us where Sartre was in his political beliefs at the time but also on his own philosophical development. He was starting to become preoccupied with the idea of personal freedom and responsibility, and had begun to see freedom as something that blinded people so that they did not realize they were free. He also starters to believe in self government, postulating that if man was able to govern himself with total freedom he would choose to do the right thing without being ordered because he would feel a responsibility to do so. The Flies combines not only politics and philosophy not also combines Sartre's two main philosophical beliefs, existentialism and liberalism.

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