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JWU ILS 2090 - The Hairy Ape Reflection

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Acosta 1Lorraine AcostaILS20906 October 2019The Hairy Ape ReflectionThe effect of industrialization and technological advances on workers is the resounding theme of this play, The Hairy Ape. The industrial revolution reduced man into a machine; I especially felt this in the very first scene, when Yank shouts that “the ship is their home and nowhere else.” I felt that these people were expected to be devoted to the ship and the work that needed doing there to a point where they had to completely disassociate themselves from the idea that they had a home on dry land. The men are programmed to do one task, are turned on and off by whistles, and are not required to think independently. Today, the job of the coal stoker is done by a machine. Workers are thus forced into jobs that require nothing but physical labor and tough work, which caused a general deterioration of the worker. This is made clear by O'Neill's stage direction, which indicates that the firemen actually look like Neanderthals and one of the oldest workers, Paddy, as "extremely monkey-like." The longer the firemen worked, the further back they fell on the human evolutionary path, so Paddy, one of the oldest, is especially "monkey-like." As a whole, the play is a close investigation of this regressive pattern through Yank; the play marks his regression from a Neanderthal on the ship to an actual ape at the zoo.The environment in this play reveals bigger cultural and social realities. Yank and the firemen live in a cramped, hot forecastle and stokehole, described as a formidable cage. However, the promenade deck of the ship, Mildred and her aunt’s environment, is filled withAcosta 2space and fresh air and sunlight. The immense ocean gives the feeling of freedom. This situation is highly unfair to the workers in the forecastle and stokehole, it would be unfair to anyone. The promenade deck is also symbolically situated above at the top of the ship, far above the stokehole. Both the stokehole and the promenade deck setting epitomize the lifestyles and characteristics of the ship's literal decks and subsequent upper and lower classes aboard. Mildred and Yank represent the highest and lowest societal classes, however, while Mildred and Yank's lifestyles are on two opposite ends of “the work spectrum,” if you will. Mildred describes herselfas the "waste product" of her father's steel company, but yearns to find passion, while Yank, on the other hand, has felt too much of the "life" Mildred describes. Yank desires to topple the class structure by re-inscribing the importance and necessity of the working class. The Hairy Ape reveals how deeply and rigidly class is inscribed into American Culture and the cultural and financial boundaries it erects.Yank’s anger makes sense. I would be angry, too. Although he doesn’t reveal too many details about his family history, he does say that his mother died and that his father was abusive. He shares that when his parent would fight, on Saturday nights, they would break the furniture. This can be scary for any child to witness, so, here we have the beginnings Yank’s mental and emotional struggles. After his mother died, he ran away to avoid any more pain and punishments.Knowing that all of this happened to him, it’s no wonder that he is so adamant about the ship being their only home. Throughout this struggle, he defines belonging as power. When he feels he belongs to something, he gains strength; when Yank is rejected by a group, he is weak. However, Yank is rejected by all facets of society: Mildred, his fellow firemen, the street goers of5th Ave., the I.W.W., and, finally, the ape in the zoo. Yank symbolizes the struggle of modernAcosta 3man within industrial society; he can’t break class or ideological barriers, nor create new ones. Yank is the outsider and, eventually, just the freak at the zoo for people to cage and point at.Acosta 4ReferenceThe Hairy Ape, by Eugene O'Neill,


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