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 new found 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 choices of words are based on how he was raised. "Me Tarzan, you Jane" hardly sounds like the words 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. - I Am Me and You Are You.