Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Wiggins, Osborne P.

Author's Keywords

Jean-Paul Sartre; Walker Percy; Existential freedom; Edward Hopper; Human existence on the move; Mike Nichols


Sartre, Jean-Paul, 1905-1980--Criticism and interpretation; Percy, Walker, 1916-1990--Criticism and interpretation; Hopper, Edward, 1882-1967--Criticism and interpretation; Nichols, Mike--Criticism and interpretation; Existentialism in art; Existentialism in literature


Jean-Paul Sartre's existential philosophy concerns the free human individual, particularly his possibilities to continuously create his own identities. Human existence is never defined by objects, and he is only determined by his own actions. As long as he is alive. he possesses this freedom and never ceases to project himself into the future. The undefined nature of human existence is conceived as human beings on the move. A study of this sense as it is revealed in the art helps us feel and embrace the fundamental core of Sartre's thought. In this dissertation, I examine selected works of American novelist Walker Percy, painter Edward Hopper, and director Mike Nichols with special attention to the depiction of the human being as a conscious being who is keeping a sense of wonder so as to stave off the everydayness, who is imagining a new world into the unknown so as to demonstrate his strong interiority, and who is searching for a true life so as to exhibit his authenticity. Binx in Percy's The Moviegoer, women in solitude in Hopper's oil paintings, and Ben in Nichols' The Graduate are reflecting the sense of human beings on the move in graceful manner. My reading of artists' presentations of human consciousness links the chapters. When the human being is conscious of his existence, he is able to transcend himself, and he lives in hope. My understanding of the concepts such as being-in-itself, being-for-itself, bad faith, and authenticity are primarily formed in Sartre's Being and Nothingness and his Existentialism Is a Humanism.