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The Flies | Study Guide

Jean-Paul Sartre

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The Flies | Symbols


The Flies

The flies, which are a manifestation of the Furies, are a symbol of punishment from an unjust authority. They are misery and remorse that hang over those who do not know they are free and thus accept the rule of Zeus. Those who are truly free cannot be harmed by them, or any powers of the gods. Orestes points out to Electra in Act 3 that her weakness gives the Furies strength.


Eyes are mentioned frequently in The Flies. The eyes are windows into a character's soul, and when nothing else has changed in a character's appearance, their eyes give away their emotional state. Orestes's eyes begin as "eager" and "shining" but become "dull and smoldering" once he becomes committed to murdering Aegistheus and Clytemnestra. Upon seeing his mother for the first time since infancy, Orestes is surprised by Clytemnestra's "dead eyes." Once Electra has submitted to guilt and regret, Orestes says she has "dead eyes ... [l]ike Clytemnestra."

The gaze of the dead is also mentioned multiple times as judgment, both in the high priest's invocation to raise the ghosts of Argos and in Electra's fretful vigil over Aegistheus's corpse. She covers and uncovers his face, trying to make peace with his "dead and staring" eyes.

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