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The Sorrows of Young Jude - Sartre’s Concept of Freedom in Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life


  • Julia Karlsson

Summary, in English

Hanya Yanagihara’s novel A Little Life (2015) is about Jude St Francis, a successful lawyer
whose inability to recover from his traumatic childhood causes him to commit suicide. This essay
investigates why Jude is able to control and alter certain aspects of his life, but how he still is
ultimately and finally dominated by his emotional trauma. By applying the theory on freedom in
Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness (1943), as well as comparing it to other essays with
corresponding theory and focus, this essay examines where the depiction of Jude coincides with
Sartre’s idea of transcendent freedom, and where it does not. It draws the conclusion that
Yanagihara depicts the effects of psychological trauma as something impossible to transcend, and
hence the portayal of Jude ultimately suggests a deterministic rather than a Sartrerean
philosophical outlook on existence.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Literature
  • Sartre
  • Yanagihara
  • Existentialis
  • Freedom
  • Being and Nothingness
  • Tragedy
  • Determinism


  • Cecilia Wadsö-Lecaros (PhD)