Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews December 13, 2023
December 6, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
Born in 1905, Jean-Paul Sartre studied and taught philosophy throughout most of his life. In 1938 he gained fame with the publication of his first novel, Nausea, which attempted to present his philosophical views at the time. The hero of Nausea is an antisocial recluse who, having realized the separation of human consciousness from nature, mocks all political commitment and has particular disdain for people who commit themselves to actions. These views were quickly changed when, in 1940, France was invaded by the German army and placed under the collaborationist Vichy Government of Marshal Petain. The importance of freedom and of political action appeared in Sartre's writings in response to the occupation.
While in a German prison camp in 1940, Sartre wrote and produced a play called Bariona, or the Sun of Thunder, which presented Sartre's newfound belief in the importance of free action. In 1943 he continued in the same spirit, writing The Flies for a performance by some of his friends. The play is a modern adaptation of Aeschylus's The Libation Bearers, and Sartre makes a number of important philosophical points by changing the details of the original text.
Having left the prison camp, Sartre actively involved himself in the French opposition movement called the Resistance. He could not publish anything that attacked Nazi rule directly, since the censors would not allow it. Like several other authors of the same time, Sartre chose a Greek play to provide a cover for his anti-fascist beliefs. The censors missed the message of the play, but the audiences picked it up; it is clear enough in the writing. The conditions in Argos as Sartre describes them closely mirror the state of affairs in France. Aegistheus murders the true king of Argos and takes his place, while the queen, Clytemnestra, gladly joins him and supports his every repressive action. Aegistheus clearly stands for the German occupation, while Clytemnestra represents the collaborationist Vichy government. The Flies is a call to the French people to recognize their freedom to act and rise up against their oppressors.
Resistance politics was not the only driving force behind the play, which is why it still holds an interest for us today. In 1943, the same year The Flies was written and performed, Sartre published his major philosophical work, Being and Nothingness. In this book, freedom takes center stage. Human consciousness is not bound by natural laws: it can interpret them and decide how to act on them. Sartre explains, in page after page of meticulous detail, the various ways in which human beings may become blinded to their freedom. The picture of humanity that results from that is somewhat drastic: human beings are completely alone in the world, isolated from each other and their environment, but absolutely free to choose their actions, create their meaning, and interpret the world.
By this point Sartre had clearly moved beyond the themes in Nausea. Human alienation from the surrounding world is no longer his dominant obsession. Far more important is what this alienation gives rise to: freedom. This development in his philosophy gave Sartre a way to combine his philosophical beliefs with his political ones, since both aspire towards the same ideal. The Flies is a major attempt to combine philosophy and politics in order to reconcile existentialism and liberalism.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Flies!