The Flies

by: Jean-Paul Sartre

Motifs

Lightness and Heaviness

Orestes feels light before he acts because he has not yet shaped himself. He complains that he is light as air because he has no home, no real character. He has not yet invented his own values and given a meaning to his life, so that he feels like a ghost or a shadow. Once he commits his murder, he attaches himself to his action. His life takes on a meaning that he himself has given it through his own free choice. This meaning makes him heavy, and Electra comments on how heavy his hand became in order to strike down Aegistheus. Before the murder, Orestes lacks content: he is just like any object, being acted upon and acting without responsibility. After the murder, he has shaped himself, and thus bears the weight of responsibility for his action.

Power and Farce

Sartre directs his satirical wit towards ridiculing authority figures. Jupiter shows his powers by waving his hand and speaking nonsense. He creeps around on tiptoe to eavesdrop on conversations. To demonstrate his greatness, he lapses into silly melodrama. When Jupiter and Aegistheus meet, Jupiter makes fun of Aegistheus's tone of voice and perpetual complaining, while Aegistheus sarcastically rejects Jupiter's claims that he is terrifying and awe inspiring. A scene directly in the middle of the play shows two soldiers in the throne room asking each other absurd questions about ghost flies and whether the ghost of Agamemnon is as fat as he was while alive. The scene is intended to lighten the solemnity of the king's seat of power. Throughout the play Sartre relies on humor to suggest that all power over others is grounded on a farce.