The Zoo Story by Edward Albee

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The Zoo Story by Edward Albee

In Edward Albee's play, The Zoo Story, Jerry tells Peter bizarre stories about people he has encountered that influence his shallow and lonely existence, to demonstrate Albee's view that society is unnecessarily consumed by indifference, unkindness, weakness, and emptiness. In an attempt to cause Peter to realize that his own life is filled with emptiness and shallowness, Jerry tells Peter about the lives of some of the people in his boarding house. He talks about the colored queen, the Puerto Rican family, the landlady, and the woman who cries all the time, in hopes of causing Peter to compare the meaninglessness of his life to their lives. In doing this, Jerry hopes Peter will realize that his life can have substance if he so chooses. Jerry is motivated to use his knowledge of the world around him to help Peter because he feels that it is important for him to use his observations to change the life of someone else for the better. He anticipates the vibrant attitude change that will consume Peter when he mentions early into their conversation that he will read about "it" in the papers tomorrow (Albee 15). Jerry is confident that he has what it takes to show Peter the light, and thus begins to tell him "The Zoo Story."

Some of Albee's negative views of society can be seen when Jerry describes the colored queen that lives in his apartment building. The colored queen is overly concerned with his outward appearance. Through Jerry's description of the queen, it becomes obvious that he is quite self-centered and narcissistic. According to Jerry, he usually has his door wide open, as if he is pleading for others to watch him. This is like many people in society who need constant attention in...

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...happy that he does not wallow in his self-pity.

By the finish of the play, it becomes apparent that Jerry is fulfilled enough with his existence, and can die a happy human being. He provokes Peter to the point where he will defend himself for control of the bench. Jerry succeeds in getting Peter to help him kill himself. Jerry impales himself on the knife from Peter's outstretched arm. Jerry kills himself because he is finally content with his existence. He realizes that he has the ability to cause changes in the lives of others, and he realizes that he has a perception of the world around him more acute than most people do. He realizes that by telling Peter about the sad, lonely, empty people from his boarding house, Jerry has caused Peter to have a heightened perception of reality, and therefore can die a happy man because he has fulfilled his life's work.
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