The Hairy Ape by Eugene O’Neill

220px-The_Hairy_ApeThe opening scenes of this play show the origin of the main character Yank. He is the leader of the group of firemen whose occupation is to shovel coal for a Transatlantic Ocean Liner. They’re life knows nothing but coal, fire, and alcohol. The coal warming room is a very dark and dusty place, no windows for light to shine in, nor is there any fresh air.

Overall, the general theme of the story is searching for an answer to life. Yank has been kept below deck for so long he knows nothing about society, and therefore is very naive and is an outcast to the world. As a young girl dressed in an all white dress is escorted under deck out of curiosity, she meets face-to-face Yank and calls him a “beast” before she faints.

Angered by being looked at as if he were a “hairy ape” he decides to journey out to teach her a lesson. I enjoyed reading about his expedition outside of the ship, as he travels throughout New York City dealing with society, because it shows the perspective of an oblivious outsider.

Yank’s character resembles a modern day Hulk, as he is easily and often angered, which is followed by a huge rage usually causing much chaos.

Eventually, his behavior takes him to be locked up for thirty days in the local jail. He converses with the men in jail, still trying to find an answer to his place in society and still on the look for the girl.

His confusion leads him to question where he belongs. One night, he ironically finds himself in a zoo next to a monkey cage. He begins to talk to the gorilla and notes some similarities between the two, the ending of story comes here with a slight twist that changes Yank forever.

If you are the type of person who enjoys reading from another’s perspective, who in this case is very different from everyone else, surely you will enjoy this story. The ending really does bring closure, no cliffhangers here, and I believe the ending is quite an unexpected one.

By Michael T.


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