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The Life of Jean-Paul Sartre - Essay Example

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Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre, regarded as the "father of Existentialist philosophy," (Stanford Encyclopedia), was born in Paris on June 21, 1905 in a bourgeois family to father Jean-Babtiste (who died fifteen months later) and mother Anne-Marie (Schweitzer)1 Sartre…
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The Life of Jean-Paul Sartre
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Download file to see previous pages The years that followed marked the life of a man with great creativity, talent in writing, deep thinker and a man of strong political will and persuasion. All these characteristics coupled with his childhood experiences led to his astounding achievements through his plays, novels, books, essays and lectures.
Sartre's childhood was filled with much bitterness and confusion. The first natural pain to deal with was having no father, after the first fifteen months of his life. Sartre was clearly hurt by the fact that he never had a chance to be acquainted with his father, and was never told anything significant about the relationship they had; whether his father had ever taken him "in his arms," or if he had even loved him (The Words 20).
Sartre then grew up with his grandparents who were rather fond of him, or at least depicted that in their mannerisms (Experiential Influences, par. 5). However, he felt that it was just family "play-acting," and a "system" that "horrified" him. (The Words 84; 112; 222).
Sartre also faced an identity crisis. Despite his family's claim of him being the "miracle child" and "wonder child," he saw himself as ugly. His peers had also given him that impression. He was short, small-built cross-eyed and awkward in stature. Added to this, his mother treated him like a girl, not allowing him to play the seemingly rough games that other males would play, and keeping his hair long. It was his belief that she had silently prayed for a girl (Experiential Experiences, par. 7).
He also felt forced into a lifestyle of reading and writing, because that was what his grandfather Charles admired, having been a writer himself. It however became a pleasant escape for him from the unhappiness he experienced at home. In his autobiography The Words, he states that "By writing I was existing. I was escaping from the grown-ups." It also positively affected his intellectual development as he became familiar with famous authors of his time (qtd in Experiential Influences, par. 11).
As if this was not enough for Sartre to deal with, he also suffered from ill health. He notes in his autobiography, The Words:
Things would have been fine if my body and I had got on well together. But the fact is that we were an odd couple [] If he suffers bodily as a result of needs and sickness, his unjustifiable state justifies his existence. His right to live is based on hunger, on the constant danger of death. Breathing, digesting, defecating unconcernedly, I lived because I had begun to live. I was unaware of the violence and savage demands of that gorged companion, my body, which made itself known by a series of mild disturbances, much in demand among grown-ups [] I had almost died at birth (88).
His father had actually been quite ill himself when he met Ann-Marie in 1904. At that time he was suffering from entercolitis, which he developed when he visited China. He however married her and soon after she became pregnant with his child, Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre feels that his father's illness had a major role to play in his own illness. He describes in The Words how his mother had stayed up many nights worrying and had stopped breastfeeding him very soon because "her milk dried" (16). He was thus sent away nearby to be nursed. He meanwhile was ailing from enteritis.
His mother's re-marriage had a negative effect on him as well. He felt alienated and lonely. Moreover, he was unhappy about having had to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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