English 1B, Tu-Th
25 March, 2013
Persuasive arguments of Marat/Sade
Peter Weiss develops an important philosophical dialogue in his play Marat/Sade, by mixing contemporary concepts with prominent french revolutionist theories. Jean-Paul Marat, a Jacobin, usually characterized as the voice of reason, justice, and equality, fighting for the liberty and freedom of the French people. While Marquis de Sade, a member of the Girondist, is viewed as a nihilistic, perverted absurdist, looking only to exploit and fulfill his sexual desires. This play is often characterized as an intellectual struggle between two powerfully radical revolutionists, debating heavily over the important central themes of the piece, Nihilism, Revolution and social justice, violence, freedom, and most importantly, equality. While Sade creates compelling and concise arguments that need to be considered, Marat is clearly victorious because of his positive expectations of the revolution and society as a whole.
Sade argues that nature is a cold and “unbreakable iceberg-face” that is unmoved by the death of man, and he expresses his hatred for nature adamantly. But where Sade comments about his hatred for nature by saying “Every death even the cruelest death/drowns in the total indifference of Nature/Nature herself would watch unmoved/if we destroy the entire human race/I hate Nature” (24), Marat shows his optimism for the very same point in which Sade argues by responding “Against Nature's silence I use action/In the vast indifference I invent a meaning/I don't watch unmoved I Intervene/And say that this and this is wrong/and I work to alter them and improve them” (26). What Marat is conveying is that to be a Nihilist is to lack imagination, and to therefore intelligence. Marat believes that if life has no meaning, he will create meaning for it, therefore unhinging his possibilities. Where Sade simply gives up on trying to halt injustices or present any meaning to life, Marat witnesses the injustices and corruption around him and does whatever he can to prevent it. Jean Paul Sartre's ideas on existentialism are closely related to Marat's outlook on life. They both believe that man creates who he is and that man alone is responsible for himself. “Thus, existentialism’s first move is to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rest on him” (Sartre). Existentialism is a direct attack toward Sade and his beliefs because it argues the case that because man is responsible for himself then life has to have meaning.
Sade views the revolution as a meaningless event that wastes time and resources. He is extremely skeptical of radical ideas and is quick to destroy them. On top of that, he is extremely solipsistic in his argument that “imagination” is the only reality. “For me the only reality is imagination/the world inside myself/The Revolution/no longer interests me” (34). But to this, Marat is quick and effective with his argument that solipsism is a dead idea that delivers no progress to society, and that to effectively move forward a purging of dead ideas must occur. “We're all so clogged with dead ideas/passed from generation to generation/that even the best of us/don't know the way out/We invented the Revolution/but we don't know how to run it/Look everyone wants to keep something from/the past” (34). Erich Fromm discussed a similar idea that people will follow what they feel is “safe” and “secure”, but in reality, progress can not be achieved from “cliché thinking”, which is something Sade exhibits. “the trend to look for safe jobs, not to be concerned so much with high income but rather with satisfactory retirement provisions … the haven of matrimony; cliché thinking, conformity, and obedience to the anonymous authority of public opinion and of the accepted patterns of society” (Fromm). This is typically exhibited in society today and...