Symbolism In August Rodin's The Hairy Ape

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The literary elements, such as the motifs and symbols, as well as its tone, mood and central themes, contribute to the overarching focus of this work and the 1920s culture. Recurring motifs of The Hairy Ape include the question of one’s place in society and how they fit in. This is seen several times, first in Yank’s speech in scene one “… I gotter talk, see. I belong and he don’t…” (1.1) when fighting with Paddy, as well as in one of Yank’s speeches in the fourth scene, “…She didn’t belong, dat’s what. And den when I come to and seen it was a real skoit and seen de way she was lookin’ at me—like Paddy said—Christ, I was sore, get me…” (1.4) Yank, although never really concretely discussing how he feels like he doesn’t fit in, excessively…show more content…
Lemme alone. Can’t youse see I’m tryin’ to tink?” (1.4) since even thinking seems to be laborious for him. The concept of intelligence and thought is also reflected with some of the symbols present in the play. O’Neill relates Yank’s sedentary position, ironically enough, to August Rodin’s famous sculpture, “The Thinker.” This reference to a symbol so iconically associated with intelligence, just continues to satirize Yank’s character and the confusion people felt of the day. The allusion to “The Thinker” is also applied to the gorilla at the end of the play. This tie between the ape and Yank only furthers his similarity to an ape ties their connection even closer. The next symbol, maybe the most often employed, is the relation and the similarity between man and ape. This often applies to the lower classes, as they may be seen like animals. The environment of the blue-colored workers also probably influences their animal-like behavior, as it is not very civilized and makes them actually appear like animals while they are carrying out their duties. The symbol of the animal, and more specifically the ape, relates to the question, is the new technology of the 1920s dehumanizing the people working with…show more content…
The play properly demonstrates the main ideas of the Lost Generation especially since it was closely influenced by O’Neill’s own life. Eugene O’Neill was born into a family that was heavily involved in theatre, as his father was a traveling actor. Though his family accompanied his father as a unit and seemed stable, his parents had a toxic marriage, his mother a substance addiction, and his older brother alcoholism. By his early twenties O’Neill was a nomad traveling and living in famous port cities such as Liverpool, New York, and Buenos Aires, a severely depressed and unemployed alcoholic. Eventually, after Tuberculosis almost took his life, he got sober and started writing. After not having an easy life, it is quite conceivable that he felt confused and lost, especially with his faith, since he was raised a Catholic, but suffered so many tribulations. Like many of the Lost Generation frequently wrote about “the underdog”. His works featured those who society had scorned upon like the unemployed, alcoholics, prostitutes, and the lowest of the working class. He however, with a very intimate point of view, got audiences to embrace those who did not fit in. One of his most popular works, Anna Christie, supposedly convinced many audiences to empathize for the harlot with good intentions, such as The Hairy Ape did to the audience for an ignorant coal-worker who was only human. Many of the people during the 1920s, after the war, started to feel like the odds were against them.

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