Sartre, Jean-Paul (Vol. 13)
Sartre, Jean-Paul 1905–
Sartre, a French playwright, essayist, philosopher, politician, and novelist, is considered by many to be the most influential thinker and writer of our time. The founder of existentialist philosophy, Sartre has examined virtually every aspect of human endeavor from the position of a search for total human freedom. Early in his career Sartre forged a philosophy of fiction revolving around the reader-author relationship which became a pivotal perspective of the New Novel school. Sartre called for the implication of the reader in fiction and the establishment of highly subjective points of view. He maintained that chronology could best be handled through a series of constantly unfolding and ongoing present moments. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964. (See also CLC, Vols. 1, 4, 7, 9, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.)
Sartre's plays, and especially The Flies, are generally considered to be vulgarizations of his previously elaborated philosophical positions. This assumption is misleading. The Flies is the first work in which Sartre presents what can be taken as an ethics of freedom. Being and Nothingness concerns not ethics but ontology, freedom not as value but as a structure of Being, that essential freedom which makes it possible and meaningful for man existentially to make himself free. In a footnote to the chapter of Being and Nothingness, "Concrete Relations with Others," Sartre indicates that his description of human reality does not exclude "the possibility of an ethics of deliverance and salvation." But, he continues, "this can be achieved only after a radical conversion." Such a radical conversion takes place … in Act II of The Flies; it involves a complete transformation in Orestes' understanding and use of his freedom. In committing murder, Orestes overthrows the moral and religious laws established by Jupiter. He kills Aegistheus and Clytemnestra in the name of his own liberation and that of the people of Argos. He has discovered that there are no a priori values, and that he must therefore bear the anguish of full responsibility for inventing values by his acts. (p. 12)
Clearly, Sartre intends Orestes to convey the idea that "existentialism is a humanism." The ethics of freedom embodied...
(The entire section is 5765 words.)
Catharine Savage Brosman
Although a number of scholars have noted the presence in Jean-Paul Sartre's fiction of images of insects and crabs, the role of numerous other animal images in La Nausée and their psychological and philosophical suggestiveness have not been fully explored. In the present essay I shall be concerned to study these in relation to its thematics and to draw some conclusions concerning Sartre's early view of nature. (p. 107)
In La Nausée, I count some 77 similes and metaphors in which an object or the human body—usually the latter—is compared in part or in whole to an animal or a part of an animal…. In addition, they are supported by at least 43 instances (excluding those in fixed locations) where names of animals or their characteristics occur in a non-comparative use…. There is thus a notable awareness of, and appeal to, the animal kingdom in this novel, set entirely within an urban setting, in which the main character expresses neither personal nor professional interest in animals. Considering that much of the language of the book is non-metaphoric, we can conclude that the use of animal imagery is noteworthy. The variety of animal forms and behavior offers the novelist a wide choice of metaphoric suggestions.
Since this is a first-person novel in the form of a journal, all the images can be taken to express the hero's own evaluation or reaction; they are supposed to derive immediately from his...
(The entire section is 3298 words.)
[Nausea is] an onslaught on the "normal" or what is ordinarily taken for the normal. Unlike Sartre's later political novels, it is interesting because the attack is phenomenological, not political, an examination, that is, of the way things are.
What interests us about Roquentin, the protagonist of Nausea, in the present context is his conscious and deliberate alienation from those very aspects of French culture which by ordinary standards one would judge as eminently normal, for example, the apparently contented lives of the provincial bourgeoisie and the successful lives of the savants of the academy of science. (p. 368)
It is important to notice that Nausea is no ordinary free-thinking rationalistic-skeptical assault on the Catholic bourgeoisie. For Roquentin (and Sartre) have as little use for the opposition, the other triumphant sector of French society, the anti-clerical members of the academy, famous doctors, generals and politicians. (p. 369)
[What] are we to make of Sartre's and Roquentin's alienation?…
[Is] Sartre saying something of value about the condition of Western man in the twentieth century or perhaps about the human condition itself?
Or is Sartre's existentialism to be understood as only a way station in his transit from a bourgeois intellectual to a Marxist ideologue?
If Sartre is correct, then things...
(The entire section is 343 words.)