Existentialists: I Am Me, and You Are You


Existentialists view mankind as individuals whose unique past
experiences establish personal characteristics that set all of us apart. This
idea can be best expressed in an intuitive statement by a celebrated
individualist, Tarzan. “Me Tarzan, you Jane” is at the nucleus of the beliefs
of the existential atom. This seemingly simplistic statement relates to
existentialism by leading us to the idea of man\'s individualism, guiding us to
belief of existence before essence and ushering us to the notion of freedom of
choice. These three beliefs can then be related to the characters in the
existential writer Jean-Paul Sartre\'s “No Exit.”
At first reading of this statement, one notices Tarzan\'s word choice. “
Me Tarzan, you Jane” implies that Tarzan and Jane are not one and the same.
Instead, they are two different people who lead very different lives. Tarzan,
the Ape Man, is by nature different than his newfound lady friend.
Existentialists would further this train of thought to say that since people are
always different, they can never be the same. They would then argue that every
person is an individual, not a copy from a predetermined mold. Jean-Paul Sartre
also portrays his characters as individuals, not carbon copies of each other.
Garcin, a soldier who went AWOL, certainly lived a different life than the baby-
killer Estelle.
These individualistic qualities lead to us by Tarzan\'s statement, now
guide us to the existential belief of existence before essence. This idea
consists of the belief that people are formed from their own unique past
experiences. Tarzan, a lonely boy who was raised by a pack of gorillas, has not
experienced the touch of mankind. His isolation from the world is completely
opposite from that of Jane\'s past. Jane, a women raised in the indulgence of
the modern day, has experienced many unique events that have made her what she
is. Jane can never know what is like to be Tarzan because she can never
experience what he has gone through. Likewise, Tarzan, the Ape Man, can never
experience what it is like to be Jane because he can never live through the
unique events of Jane\'s past. Sartre also gives us characters with very unique
backgrounds. Garcin can never experience the troubled past that Inez had and
Inez in turn can never understand why Garcin needs to be told he is not a coward.
After now understanding that existentialists view people as individuals
who have unique past experiences that make them who they are, existentialists
would now usher us to the notion of each character\'s freedom of choice. By
seeing Tarzan and Jane as individuals with different pasts, existentialists
would argue that each would react differently to a situation. This choice is
based on their past experiences. Tarzan\'s primordial introduction is one
example.. His choice of words are based on how he was raised. “Me Tarzan, you
Jane” hardly sounds like the word\'s of an educated man. According to
existentialists, if Jane were to do the introducing it, would be more formal
than grunting. Sartre also shows this through the ways each of his characters
reacts to their eternal home. Garcin\'s past experience of being a journalist
influences his attitude upon arriving in the room. He takes a very investigative
look at it , noticing every detail of his new home while his roommates seem to
not really care.
Although, at face value, Tarzan\'s statement, “Me Tarzan, you Jane,”
seems very simplistic, by analyzing it in an existential view, we notice it is
more than what it appears to be. Existentialists, such as Jean-Paul Sartre, see
that this statement brings forth three concepts of existentialism:
individualism, existence before essence and freedom of choice.

Category: Philosophy