Worthington is a playwright and educator. In this essay she examines O'Neill's sense of alienation and despair as seen through the experience of Yank.
On the surface The Hairy Ape might seem to be a fairly political play. There is the marked contrast of the sweaty fireman whose brute strength propels the ship that provides diversion and pleasure to those privileged class denizens who inhabit the upper decks. There is obvious reference to exploitation of the workers. But The Hairy Ape, although laced with references to capitalism, socialism, and other concepts, is really about the existential condition of man, namely that humans rarely feel like they fit in, that they are essentially always alone and separate.
This play, which was a foray into expressionism for the playwright, presents a number of characters who are in essence only stick figures. There is Mildred, the precious princess who cannot...
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Hairy Ape as a Modern Tragedy
886 WordsSep 19th, 20134 Pages
The Hairy Ape displays O'Neill's social concern for the oppressed industrial working class. Eugene O Neill’s The Hairy Ape can be considered as a tragedy. But it is not a conventional tragedy in the Aristotelian tradition but is a modern one. Its subject matter and theme is the same, but its form is different. It is a great tragedy with a difference. In later part of my answer I’ll try to evaluate the play as a modern tragedy.
A modern tragedy is a term used in literature to often describe a playwright that depicts ordinary people in tragic situations. The hero is usually a victim of social forces, and is faced with difficult situations. Normally, all the central characters in modern tragedies die, or are destroyed in the end. Elements of…show more content…
He represents their most highly developed individuality-his belongings. He can eat coal and smoke. He is steel; he is the power which makes the ship go. He is an ideal stoker.
Again, the tragic hero must fall and suffer owing to his some error of judgment in his life acoording to the theory of tragedy by Aristotle.. He must have tragic flow in his life. This was considered necessary because the fall from greatness of a great man would not be tragic but merely shocking. This would make us doubt the goodness of God or the power that rule. We also know from Aristotle’s opinion that the tragic must suffer for his fault – not for other’s act or hostility.
In this respect, Yank- the hero of the play differs from the tragic heroes of Aristotle. He does not suffer from any fault of his own, but because of the attitude of others towards him. In the opening of the play he is quite contended and he has a sense of belongingness, and a sense of identity. This sense of security is soon shattered by the fool-fog of a girl who comes down to the stokehole to look down upon them as a wild beast in the zoo. She calls him a filthy beast and looks at him as if he were dead. For this treatment, his sense of belongingness is soon gone. He realizes that he is not steel and power. He understands that he is a slave of them who use him. Afterwards there is gradual regression in Yank’s personality. Since then he can’t go up rather down.