How is sexuality portrayed in Sartre's short stories?

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Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) was a French writer and existentialist who was the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Among the many topics Sartre examined in his voluminous writings was human sexuality. This is explored most comprehensively in his 1943 non-fiction book Being and Nothingness. However, Sartre also uses sexuality as a device in many of his short stories, often to explain an underlying condition of some aspect of the human character.

In "Childhood of a Leader," for instance, Sartre's protagonist evolves into a fascist mindset due, in part, to sexual confusion experienced in childhood. In "Intimacy," meanwhile, Sartre examines a woman whose companion is sexually repressed and who seeks solace in another man before ultimately deciding to remain with her husband out of what ultimately amounts to her greater comfort in the quantity of the known. (This plot, in fact, is drawn a philosophical problem Sartre presented in Being and Nothingness.)

The themes in "Childhood of a Leader," "Intimacy," and other of Sartre short stories play into his underlying thesis that posits a rational approach to human sexuality.

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