Sartre on ‘The Makropulos Secret’

Jen Stafford

‘The Makropulos Secret’ written by Karel Capek is about a woman, Emilia, who has a formula that has the ability and knowledge to survive 300 years. The characters in the story try to figure out what they are going to do with the formula and whether they should sell it, be greedy and keep the formula, or select only a few (un)lucky people to receive the formula. Emilia, who has used the formula, described how she is alone and how depressing it is to outlive others and after hearing her comments, the formula is destroyed.

Sartre is an ethical thinker that first paved the way for existentialism. Thoughts of  existentialism is that human  beings live in anguish and are condemned to be free. Instead they are thrown into existence and become aware with themselves by having to make choices. Every decision determines what we think a human should be. This is said to be no design for a human being as well as no God or existence of human nature. According to existentialism, anything can give life meaning but at the same time, nothing can as well. Sartre states that existentialism is a humanism and said humans exist first without any hard wired pieces and then up to the person to discover their own essence. No predetermined purpose in life and no God allowed. The fundamental concept of existentialism is existence precedes essence.



When using Sartre’s concepts to ‘The Makropulos Secret’, Sartre would agree with the decision to use the formula on everyone because being able to survive would enable humans to make changes in their lives based on their past to become their best version of what they would consider to be themselves. This can not be obtained with a typical human lifespan. However, it is not wise to have an addition of 300 years to one’s life on the earth because while the population is expanding, the world is not and the issues of resources comes into play as well as history, wars, religions, and technology. If everyone could live til they were 300, they would not want to after they faced the effects of the ‘formula’.



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