This essay sample essay on What Is The Main Idea Of Existentialism? offers an extensive list of facts and arguments related to it. The essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion are provided below.
“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.” Jean-Paul Sartre states this, which happens to be one of the main ideas of an existentialist’s mind. Jean-Paul Sartre uses his play No Exit to show people the ideas of existentialism.
Existentialism must first be defined before the ideas of it are shown. Those ideas are being aware of one’s existence, freedom to make choices, to be responsible for one’s actions and what they result in.
The word Existentialism first appeared in 1941. It is a philosophy based on the situation of the individual in an absurd or meaningless world that humans have free will. Its roots are inside the works of S. Kierkegaard and F.
Nietzsche. Sartre took it as a philosophy of human decision and views. It has been described as a “Philosophical movement oriented toward two major themes, the analysis of human existence and the centrality of human choice.”1 Others have also define it as a “radical stress on the concept of identity. . .”.2 Some has a more elaborate definition. ” . . .is the endeavor to understand man by cutting below the cleavage between subject and object which has bedeviled Western thought and science since shortly after the Renaissnce.”3 However all of them tie into each other for the main idea is that as human beings; have free will to make choices, regardless of things that could otherwise stop us.
“The chief theme of existentialism, of course, is existence itself. Flowers, animals, and stones all exist. But people exist in a different way.”4. To Sartre, to “exist” meant to “be”. What he meant when he stated this is that in order to exist, you must first be aware of your existence. He compared this to the action of counting how many of something there is. Using this he said that “in order to count, it is necessary to be aware of counting”5 . He went further to help his thought make more sense by talking about pleasure and that “Pleasure can not exist “before” consciousness of pleasure”6 In other words, Something can’t exist before there is an awareness that it exist (this includes actions , items , people and one’s self)
With Sartre’s ideas and views in mind, he uses all of them inside the book. It is found almost as if Sartre said it directly to the readers. One example is the character Inez, thinking and reflecting on what life meant to her. As she does this, she realizes that her life is what she had been.
“Inez: One always dies too soon or too late. And yet one’s whole life is complete at that moment, with a line drawn neatly under it, ready for the summing up. You are – your life, and nothing else.”(p.43)
Making a direct statement to an existentialism idea, it appears that Sartre didn’t mean for his message to go without notice. He bluntly places brief ideas that are apart of existentialism. Using the idea of the fact that one cannot helped but to exist – whether they are conscious of it or denying it, He makes the character Garcin try to pretend to “not be in the room”. Inez then reminds him that “. . . You can nail up your mouth, cut your tongue out but you can’t prevent your being there.”(p22) Sartre very own definition of being is a bit harder to figure out “. . .The individual’s unique pattern of potentialities.” and that those would be “a unique pattern for this particular person.”6 Inside the play , he uses this idea by showing the many outcomes that can come from the threesome being stuck in hell, including leaving it. All of them can be saved, given different things by each other, but because of each of them being what the other needs, clashes with the chance of being “saved” and no longer being torturer or tortured.
It becomes apparent that the idea of existence is a large message inside the play, for it shows there is even existence after death.
Sartre, aside from how he felt about existence, felt that “freedom of choice by all means” meant that everyone has the freedom to choose and pick how they wanted to live their lives. Sartre once stated that “My fear is free and manifests my freedom”7 What that meant is that he chose to have fear and thus choosing to have fear in itself reflects his freedom. Inside the book, all kinds of choices were made.
“Inez: Estelle! I beg you, let me stay. I won’t go, I won’t go! Not into the passage.
Garcin: Let go of her
Estelle: You’re crazy. She hates you.
Garcin: It’s because of her I’m staying here.” (p42)
When Garcin pulled the door open, he had the choice to leave. This could have resulted in the end of the torment and would’ve in turn become free. But he picked to stay because he wanted Inez to view him as a “tough” (a strong, real man). They all stayed in turn because what they desired stayed, bound into one another because of what they wanted. All this is based “on the principle that each individual chooses what he wishes to be and expresses his choice in every aspect of his behavior. . . “8 Another idea that existentialists believe came with freedom is the idea that freedom to choose “scares” individuals to the point of denial.
“Garcin: So it’s you whom I have to convince; you are my kind. Did you suppose I meant to go? No I couldn’t leave you here, gloating over my defeat with all those thoughts about me running in your head” (p42)
This was in turn , showing the fact that when Garcin had been granted a way out of the room he had been “damned” to , he didn’t want to leave and felt like he couldn’t, although, he very well could have. His freedom, open to him just as he had wish to gain, looked him in the face and he threw the idea out the window. Garcin, saying that he couldn’t show that he had the freedom to convince himself that he could not leave, Supported the idea showed by all the characters in the book that “they try to escape from this anxiety by ignoring or denying their freedom . . .”9
Sartre believes that in the changing of one’s path by one’s desires. He felt that one’s desires are the limitations that are place on one’s freedom.
“. . . I project myself towards my ends. The recovery of former motives – or the rejection or new appreciation of them – is not distinct from the project by which I assign new ends to myself and by which in the light of these ends I apprehend myself as discovering a supporting cause in the world”10
This idea appeared inside the play as each of the characters interacts with one another. Each one, chasing after something only the other could give to them. For instance, the character Inez chases Estelle because she desires her. Inez, preferring the company of a woman, chased Estelle while Estelle, preferring the company of a man, ran from her.
“Inez: Come to me, Estelle. You shall be whatever you like: a glancing stream, a muddy stream. And deep down in my eyes you’ll see yourself just as you want to be.
Estelle: Oh, leave me in peace. You haven’t any eyes. Oh, damn it, isn’t there anything I can do to get rid of you? I’ve an idea. [She spits in Inez’s face] There!”(p.34)
The fact that Inez wants Estelle is what keeps her from being free of her torture and suffering. But because of her desires, she will be forever damned to be in this same situation. Same applied to Estelle as she chased Garcin.
“Estelle: [raising her hand] Please, Garcin.
Garcin: What do you want of me?
Estelle: [rises and goes up to him] You can help me, anyhow
Garcin: If you want help, apply to her” (p.31)
Estelle only desired for a man to hold and kiss her. This being the bases of her torture, Garcin wanted nothing to do with her. This cycle remained only by the limits that each of them set on themselves.
Cause and Effect are things we implicit inside our lives by nature. There is a basic understanding that when things happen, it also in turn, has an effect. With having freedom, comes the responsibility of our actions and choices. Sartre believed that in all moral choices, one has to uphold one moral and disobey another.11 Sartre showed that all characters inside of the book were responsible for their placement inside hell. “Garcin:
Let that be. It’s only a side-issue. I’m here because I treated my wife abominably. That’s all. “(p24) some felt that “responsibility is the dark side of freedom. When individuals realize they are completely responsible for their decisions, actions and beliefs, they are overcome with anxiety.”12 But to be responsible for one’s actions didn’t mean that one had to see the outcome of them.
“This does not mean, of course, that one must foresee all the consequences of his actions. The emperor Constantine when he established himself at Byzantium, did not foresee that he would create a center of Greek culture and langaguage , the appearance of which would ultimately provoke a schism in the Christian Church and contribute to weaken the Roman Empire”13
This just meant that you didn’t have to know what the result would be in order to be responsible for your actions. This idea is one of the bigger themes inside the book as each character had been introduced; each of them denied that they deserved to be damned to hell. The group in turn, realizes the wrong doing that dealt them their fate, and accepted it. The acceptance of the reality of their damnation is the taking responsibility of the deeds done on earth. Yet they could have never foreseen that the result would be hell (no pun intended)
Sartre showed, all throughout the book No Exit, very big and apparent messages that are existentialism views. Sartre showed that one must be aware of one’s existence, freedom to make choices, to be responsible for one’s actions and what they result in. Each character inside the play in turn showed all these ideas in different forms and actions. This brings alive the statement made by Sartre saying that “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”