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Free «Literature Themes: Authenticity and In-Authenticity» Essay Sample


Sartre contends that anti-Semitism is self-sufficient psychological process that takes the form of a passion that is not motivated by any external causes, but rather by the idea that has been formed of the Jew. The idea of the Jew to Sartre is the most essential thing and the anti-Semitism is the choice of oneself. This paper discusses Authenticity in relation to the anti-Semite and Jew and relating it to the distinction of race and racism in Fanon’s Black skin, White masks.


Ronald notes that the term in-authenticity has become prominent. Authenticity may be misleading if the focus is only on one form of in-authenticity (67). The work of Jean-Paul Sartre “Anti-Semite and Jew” has focused on in-authenticity. The concept of in-authenticity can be linked without the loss of the essential loss of its connotations to other concepts of psychoanalytic framework. Inauthentic people as those using mechanisms of repression, denial and reaction-formation to handle ambivalence and conflict (Ronald 68).



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Authenticity in Anti-Semite and Jew consists of choosing oneself in a situation, in having a lucid consciousness of the situation, in assuming the responsibilities involved. A situation is used in the book widely enough to include the human situation or condition. According to Ronald, authenticity requires facing the facts of the unjustifiable freedom of the Semites and Jews, the condemnation to freedom and the responsibility in a world that keeps on resisting (75). The authenticity and in authenticity in Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew   is focused on situation rather than condition and is particularly towards the historical, social or local situation.

It is the understanding of Sartre that authenticity tasks vary according to the “givens” of one’s situation and the position of the person in the social strata. In order for the Jew to be authentic, he has to confront the anti-Semitism and the bad faith that is built into his historical and social situation. Sartre argues that Jews are constrained to be Jews by anti-Semites, and if they are inauthentic, their in-authenticity implies no moral blame. On the other hand, Jews cannot afford the metaphysical angst that is the linchpin of existentialism, insofar as it provides the ground for questioning one’s choices and, ultimately, one’s choice to act freely and authentically.

In the book, in-authenticity is experienced when the anti-Semites limit the freedom of the Jews. The anti-Semites are characterized by hatred of Jews due to lack of knowledge and thinking. The anti-Semites refuse to think in order to hate the Jews. Thinking requires the recognition that ideas change and grow. A thinking person never knows exactly what is true because he recognizes that ideas vanish like vapor, they develop and change as he gains new knowledge. However, the anti-Semite needs to have an ossified never-changing world, set in stone that he can lean on, gain support, and hold him up.

In-authenticity and the Truth as a Process

The anti-Semites do not like thinking. It is easier for them to blame the Jews for evil and speak of ridding the world of Jews to remove the evil, than seeing the true problems of society, thinking how to resolve them, and working to do so. Vaguely, without real thought, they are unable to define "evil" or "good," they argue that the harmony of their lives will be reestablished once the Jew is removed. His thoughts are vague, totally negative and destructive because they do not like the truth. This in-authenticity of the Anti-Semites does not reflect the truth process.

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According to Ronald, truth is based on facts derived from ideas. A thinking person can easily know the truth and distinguish it from false (80). However, the anti-Semites do not think and therefore cannot distinguish Jews based on ideas but rather passion. It is not only Jews, but also their thoughts of the world. Their hatred is similar to irrational faith because it is impervious to reason and to experience. Frantz indicates that the anti-Semite admits that the Jew is intelligent and hard working (25). The anti-Semites even confess to themselves that they are inferior in these respects. However, they think that their irrationality is better than the intelligence of the Jews because it is not contaminated with Judaism. Thus, it is true that they need the Jews in order to feel better, more than mediocre.

In-authenticity and Ethics

The anti-Semite does not think and therefore does not like the reality and truth. Their hatred for the Jews is open and it goes against the ethical rules in the society. Authenticity is the degree to which an individual is true about his personality. In-authenticity on the contrary is the degree to which one does not like his own personality and therefore does not like the truth. Anti-Semites are inauthentic because they do not like the truth that the Jews are intelligent and they exist among them. According to Ronald, In-authenticity exists around the anti-Semites as a negative space around authenticity. Ethical issues address the morality of a given society. In-authenticity goes against the morals in the society (83). Ethics is about freedom, truth, and acknowledgement of existence. However, the availability of in-authenticity in anti-Semites means that the anti-Semites go against the morals of the society.

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In-authenticity and Existence

Sartre’s aim was to depict Anti-Semites as inauthentic because they do not by themselves. They do not acknowledge the freedom of the Jews because they deny freedom. Freedom is a reality that every person should enjoy.  According to Lewis, becoming more Authentic means organizing our lives  around whatever we choose as our central meanings and purposes (96).  Even if we cannot overcome ultimate absurdity and meaninglessness, we can always choose to live what we regard as worthy human lives. Existence also depends on existence. Inauthentic existence is the existence that denies the truth, freedom, or the being of oneself.

Sartre’s distinction of authenticity and in-authenticity is similar to Fanon’s treatment of race and racism in “Black skin, White Masks”. According to Judaken, there have been mixed interpretations of Fanon’s work with some people arguing that he demonstrates the inevitability, if not the necessity, of racial categories (10). Fanon gives a lived experience of black and ends his work by moving away from racialism and seeing each human being as only man (no color). He gets to the universal conclusion by making his final prayer “O my body, make of me always a man who questions.”

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Lewis notes that racialists read and interpret the final chapter of the book as undermining the force and significance of the entirety of the text (56). The move away from race consciousness is only a move away from the past in order to bring about a new and different future; it does not require the elimination of race consciousness or a move to a universal notion of humanity. Fanon seems to deny the existence of the Negro and the white man when he states, "The Negro is not. No more than the white man.” However, Fanon does not require the Negro (or the white man) to reject race consciousness. Rather, he requires that they both "turn their backs on the inhuman voices of their respective ancestors in order to make possible the authentic communication.

There are two positions that are evident in Fanon’s work. It is either retaining race consciousness or working toward its abolition. Fanon exposes injustice by writing about experience and by projecting a future shared community of hope and freedom without clear indication of the role our group identities might play. If freedom is about being able to be in action, being able to make meaning in the world, then whether or not we will be raced is not as important a question as what race is about now.  He is clear about his stand on race. He is arguing for experiential analysis, which cannot be closed off by assuming we know what race will (or must) come to mean in the future.  He wants to be a man and not any other inferior thing.  However, the two positions cannot be contradictions and one can be a man as well as raced. Fanon challenges us to establish a goal of creating a new humanity. Much work has gone into discussing what role notions of race will play in that new humanity; however, more work needs to go into marking out phenomenology as the path to this new humanity.

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The theme of authenticity is also clearly brought out in the poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, a modern Persian woman poet. Her short life, she wrote poems that depicted her inner authentic depths of expression. Having been brought up in a repressive society that had closed voices, she promoted moderation, inclusion, freedom of speech and expression and the freedom of existence. She was the child of war, of what she had lived through and experienced under the Western occupation, and the Pahlavi’s regime (Mammad 2). The regime blindly subjugated its citizens without minding anything. She ganged up with other artists to condemn the leadership of Pahlavi. Many artists and thinkers became involved with the extreme left or fundamentalist views of liberation.

Farough experienced suppression within her modern family life and society.teh living climate that she lived provided a solid ground for outstanding works. She suffered as a woman from lack of freedom because she was denied the right to live with her only person that she loved. She was forced to marry another man that she did not love. This made to expose hypocrisy in the society. Her anger for the denial of freedom to live with her only beloved man can be expressed in the poem “The Captive” as below.

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I want you, and I know

That I can never take you in my arms:

You are like that clear, bright sky,

And I am a captive bird in this cage

(‘The Captive’, Selected Poems, 1955)

Additionally, her desire for freedom did not just emerge as she kept on writing. It was evident form some of first works. For instance, in her poem titled the Captive, she says,

I must say something

In the shivering moment at daybreak

When space blends with something strange

Like the portents of puberty

I want

To surrender to some revolt

I want

To pour down out of that vast cloud

I want

To say no no no.

Just like Fanon and Sartre, she exposes injustices that were happening to the people of Iran under the rule of Pahlavi. The forces of modernity were operating in Iran on one hand with the fundamentalists’ forces on the other hand. The confused leadership left people disillusioned and they looked up to the artists to expose their suffering and desires (Mammad 5). Her own subject matter and her desire was to express her freedom; she did not just chant slogans. She insisted on talking about how she felt and whom she wanted to share her body, life and freedom with. As she matures in the literary works, she comes to accept that she is born again but she still desires the much needed. It is clear form the poetry works of Forugh that her themes were similar to the themes in the works of Fanon and Sartre.


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