The Hairy Ape

In: English and Literature

Submitted By ednalop
Words 342
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The Hairy Ape

"The Hairy Ape" tells the story of a laborer, Yank. He is searching for belonging throughout the play. In the beginning, he feels secure in his role as a fireman of an ocean liner. But when Mildred Douglas comes to the stokehole, she sees him and calls him a filthy beast, which causes an identity crisis in Yank. He goes to New York and finds that he doesn't belong there, either. Eventually, he goes to see the gorillas in the zoo, and the beast kills him in the end of the play.
Yank is a representative of an early 20th century industrial worker who loses faith in the machine. The world in "The Hairy Ape" is bleak. Man has lost faith in himself. Many people have idealized wealth and privilege. O'Neill uses Yank's search for belonging to show that loss of faith ends up in death.
O'Neill uses steel throughout the story to represent strength. Steel also represents the cage that Yank feels that he is in. This cage is first symbolized by the fireman's forecastle of the ocean liner. "The lines of bunks, the uprights supporting them, cross each other like the steel framework of a cage."(1103) The workers are described as brutes, "hairy-chested, with long arms of tremendous power, and low, receding brows above their small, fierce, resentful eyes."(1104) This description could be used by many to describe the gorilla later in the play.
Yank represents their leader, and in the beginning of the story, the men agree with his opinion, and follow along with his jokes when he is trying to "t'ink". The men speak in unison and are compared to machines, suggesting they have been dehumanized. Yank describes his unhappy childhood, and Long, a socialist, agrees with Yank that the ship is the only home they know and "‘ome is 'ell."(1106) Long blames their unhappy state on the "lazy, bloated swine what travels first cabin."(1106) Yank calls the wealthy passengers "just…...

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