Study Questions and Essay Topics
What is the role of weapon imagery in this play? Swords and axes are mentioned several times at crucial points in the plot. Do different individuals wield weapons for different reasons? What, for example, is the difference between Aegistheus's use of the axe to kill Agamemnon and Orestes's fantasy of turning into an axe to smash through Argos?
Describe the effects of Aegistheus's rule on some of the characters in the play. Some good examples are Orestes, Electra, Argives, Jupiter, and Aegistheus himself. Compare and contrast between the effect of power on those who wield it with the effect on those who are subject to it. Does anyone win when a human being holds power over others?
What does Jupiter mean when he says that Orestes is an intruder in this world? More importantly, what does it mean to say that Orestes is foreign even to himself? This latter notion may be usefully tied in with an individual's relation to his or her past and future and the role freedom plays in this relation.
Suggested Essay Topics
Why does Orestes refuse to take up the throne? Why is he bound to reject Jupiter's offer to allow him to rule in place of Aegistheus? Since Orestes is free, he can choose to rule Argos even if he will not do so for the reasons that Jupiter wants. What might motivate Orestes's leaving? Is there any moral reason why he should stay, e.g., has he really succeeded in freeing the Argives?
Discuss the importance of eyes in the play. Orestes seems to note only when eyes are dead. Jupiter tells people to look him in the eyes when he wants them to obey. Electra refers to eyes throughout and in different contexts, but the way she refers to them and to her reasons for doing so seem to change from case to case. How do these mentions of eyes serve to illuminate relations between the characters?
Compare and contrast The Flies with Aeschylus's Oresteia. What features of the original has Sartre chosen to leave out? What does the intentional exclusion of these features add to the message of the play? Possible topics of focus include Sartre's exclusion of the first and third work of the original trilogy, the roles of destiny and revenge, and the importance of obeying the gods.
How does Sartre's view of freedom, as presented in The Flies, differ from the common sense view of freedom? What is lacking in the sort of freedom that the Tutor believes Orestes possesses at the beginning of the play?
Describe the role of farce in The Flies. What is the importance of the extended conversation between the soldiers at the beginning of Act II, Scene Two? What does their unintentional humor in discussing ghosts suggest about our view of Aegistheus's idea that the dead come back to haunt the living every year?
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