The Flies Proposal

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Theconcept of human freedom or freewill is quite controversial. Theconcept is mainly evoked when determining the moral responsibility ofan individual (Clark 501). The proposed study will analyze theconcept of human freedom in light of the play “The flies”. Theanalysis will be accomplished by providing a critical discussion ofthe issue of human freedom, making some contribution to the issue,and analyzing the play with the main focus on the main character,Orestes. The proposed study will seek to respond to the questions

  • Why Orestes refuses to assume the throne?

  • Why Orestes rejects an offer made by Jupiter?

  • Whether Orestes succeeds in freeing Argives?


Contributionto the conversation

Orestesdefends his decision to kill his mother and the king of Argo usingthe principle of freewill. He claims to be a free man, who intends tofree the people of Argo. However, a critical observation of Orestes’conduct reveals that he was overcame by the desire to revenge for hisfather’s murder, and his actions may not necessarily have beenmotivated by the pursuit of human freedom. Research has shown thathuman beings are more likely to evoke the idea of free will whenconfronted with immoral dilemmas as compared to decisions that aremorally neutral (Clark 501). In the case of Orestes, killing the kingand his mother was immoral and a sign of revenge, but he could beable to justify the act by using the principle of freewill. Aftercommitting the crime, Orestes leave the Furies claiming that he hastaken the sins of Argives with him, but he does not take time to seethat they are truly free.


Theplay “The Flies” explores two major themes, which include thethemes of responsibility and freedom. The two themes are illustratedby the transformation of Orestes from a peace-loving intellectual,who become a hero by killing his own mother and the king of Argo as away of setting Argives free (Cox 82). The life and actions of Orestesinform that the past cannot prepare a person for the presentchallenges by the past experiences, but a free man should be guidedby the future consequences of the present actions. By being freemeans that one is able to choose what to do at the moment dependingon circumstances and potential benefits, instead of being constrainedby the past (Cox 82). This was the case of Orestes, who had theoption to leave Argos and goes his way, but chose to avenge hisfather’s death and fight for the freedom of the Argives. Inaddition, Orestes accepts responsibility for his actions, but hebelieves in the limitless freedom of humankind. A man can beconsidered to be a total sum of his actions, but men’s freedomdetermines their ability to judge between what can be considered tobe wrong or right. This is because moral values stem from humanfreedom.


Takingup the throne

Orestesbehavior and actions demonstrate several themes that are advanced inthe play “The Flies”. Under normal circumstances, it would beexpected that a strong young man who discovers the killer of his ownfather and a man who denied him the privileges of the royal familywould revenge and do all that is humanly possible to become the king.However, Orestes refuses to assume the throne and become the King,even when all conditions favor him. Orestes reveals his unwillingnessto become the king in the first play when he tells his servant “No,my good slave, you need not fear the time for that is past” (Paul34). This leads to the reason why Orestes refuses to become the king,which is the lack of touch with the residents of Argo.

Bystating that the “time for that is past, Orestes means that hemissed the opportunity to socialize with the people of Argo. Theresidents also missed the opportunity to see and understand Orestesas their king. However, there are some instances in the play thatindicate that Orestes was willing to become the king, but had doubtson whether the people of Argo would accept him. For example, Orestestells his tutor, “If there were something I could do to give me thefreedom of the city, even by a crime, I could acquire their memories,their fears, and their hopes” (Paul 34). This implies that Orestesrefuses to assume the leadership that was rightful his because of theperceived social and cultural distance that exists between him andthe people of Argo.

Refusalof Jupiter’s offer

Orestesdemonstrates his unwillingness to rule Argo when Jupiter offers himthe opportunity to take the position left by Aegistheus, but herejects it. By this time, Orestes had already committed the crimethat he had told his servant that he would commit as long as it wouldhelp him get the memories of his folks. He had already killed hismother, Clytemnestra, the king Aegistheus, but the Argives stillrejected him and wanted to kill him. It is at this point when Orestesdeclares that his intention of killing the king and his mother wasnot to become the king, but to save his folks from the yolks of theirpast sins. The Argives used to repent for the sins they committed inthe past, including the killing of Orestes’ father by theirincumbent king.

Therefore,Orestes might have refused the offer made by Jupiter for two reasons.First, becoming the king was not part of Orestes’ primary missionto Argos. Orestes intention was to free the people of Argos. Whiletrying to escape from the temple where he hid after killing the king,Orestes tells the Furies that he had assumed their crime and theyought to learn how to live without remorse (Roman375). He adds that he wished to become a king without a specifickingdom, which implies that he did not commit murder in order to takethe position left by king Aegistheus. Secondly, taking the positionleft by a man that he had killed would haunt him. The possibility ofa feeling of guilt is confirmed by the fact that Orestes hadcondemned Aegistheus for taking the position of Orestes’ fatherafter killing him. In the first play, Orestes criticized Aegistheusby stating, “So now the murderer is on the throne. For fifteenyears he has enjoyed the fruits of crime” (Paul 30). Therefore, bybecoming the king after killing Aegistheus, there would be nodifference between him and the murderer of his own father. Thisjustifies his decision to refuse Jupiter’s offer. In addition,taking up the throne as Jupiter wished would have neutralized hisprimary objective of freeing the Argives and create a perception thathe was fighting for political powers.

Successor failure in freeing the Argives

AlthoughOrestes did all that he could (including foregoing a throne that wasrightfully his and committing murder) in order to free the people ofArgos, it is evident that his efforts were exercises in futility.Orestes believed in the concept of freedom, which ditches people fromthe yolks of their past sins (Cox 82). Argives, on the centrallyspend the whole of their life atoning for their past sins, whichimplies that their present as well as their future was defined bytheir past. Orestes is a free man who can act according to his wishesand interpret the past in a way that will transform his future. Hewishes the same for people who would have been his subjects had hisfather not been killed before transferring the mantle of kingship ofArgos to him. Unfortunately, Argives fail to conceive his objectiveof killing his mother and the king, but instead the Furies chaseafter him. Towards the end of the third play, Orestes tell the Furiesthat he will leave Argos, taking the dead, sins, and flies of Argiveswith him, which will set them lead free lives and without remorse,but they chase after him (Cox 82). This confirms that Argives neitherunderstood Orestes’ intentions, nor did they benefit from hisdeliberate crime that was intended to free them. Therefore, Orestesdid not succeed in freeing the people of Argos or the Argives.


Orestesbehavior and actions are guided by the perception that he is free anda free man should do what is considered to be right at a given time,instead of being constrained by the moral rules of other people.Orestes refuses to assume the kingship of Argo for different reasons,including a feeling of social as well as cultural distance. Orestesrefuses the offer made by Jupiter to assume the position left by theslain king of Argo because accepting the offer would jeopardize hisprimary mission of liberating the Argos from their past sins.Although Orestes did all that he could to free Argives, it is evidentthat he did not succeed because they chased after him after he killedtheir king and his own mother.


Clark,J. and Luguri, B. “Free to punish: A motivated account of free willbelief”. Journalof Personality and Social Psychology106.4 (2014): 501-513. Print.

Cox,G. TheSartre dictionary.London: A&ampC Black, 2008. Print.

Paul,Jean. Noexit and three other plays.Paris: Theatredu Vieux-Colombier, 1944. Print.

Roman,L. and Roman, M. Encyclopediaof Greed and Roman mythology.New York, NY: InfoBase Publishing, 2010. Print.

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