Yank as a Modern Day Oedipus in O' Neill's Play, The Hairy Ape Essay

Yank as a Modern Day Oedipus in O' Neill's Play, The Hairy Ape Essay

Length: 2260 words (6.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Yank as a Modern Day Oedipus in O' Neill's Play, The Hairy Ape


The representation of tragedy today has adapted itself to more humanistic, base and symbolic concerns. Often, they are commentaries on society just as much as they are on the nature of man. Although O' Neill insists that his play "The Hairy Ape" is not a tragedy, but rather a dark comedy, the play follows the definition of a tragedy. The basic points that make up a tragedy still remain the same, even if they have to be slightly modified to be relevant to today's audience. Despite this, The Hairy Ape bears a striking resemblance to the quintessential Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex.

The only direct challenge to the Aristotelian definition of tragedy is the portrayal of the tragic hero as not only not being a "noble" in the traditional sense, but usually as a working class, common man. Arthur Miller discusses this belief in his essay "Tragedy and the Common Man". In it, he insists that "we never hesitate to attribute to the well placed and the exalted the very same mental processes as the lowly" and "if the exaltation of tragic action were truly the property of the high bred character alone, it is inconceivable that the mass of mankind should cherish tragedy above all other forms, let alone be capable of understanding it"(Miller 1162).

According to Aristotle, a tragedy concerns a person of noble stature. In the modern sense, as explained by Miller, "noble" does not necessarily mean royalty or upper class, merely that the tragic protagonist "is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing - his sense of personal dignity"(1162). Yank is willing to do this. His sense of justice is primitive in that he is not concerned with the consequences of his reve...


... middle of paper ...


... leads him back to the realization that he was the criminal that he had been pursuing.

Works Cited and Consulted

Carpenter, Frederic I. Eugene O’Neill. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1964.

Clark, Marden J. “Tragic Effect in The Hairy Ape.” Modern Drama 10 1968

Egri, Peter. “'Belonging' Lost: Alienation and Dramatic Form in Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape” in Critical Essays on Eugene O’Neill. James J. Martine, ed. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1984.

Miller, Arthur. "Tragedy and the Common Man." Weales, Gerald, ed. Death of a Salesman: Text and Criticism. New York: Penguin Books 1996

O’Neill, Eugene. “The Hairy Ape” in Four Plays by Eugene O’Neill. New York: Signet Classic, 1998.

Vernant, J.-P. “Tensions and Ambiguities in Greek Tragedy.” In J.-P. Vernant and P. Vidal-Naquet, eds., Tragedy and Myth in Ancient Greece. Sussex, N. J. 1981.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Tragedy of Eugene O’Neill’s Play, The Hairy Ape Essay

- The Tragedy of Eugene O’Neill’s Play, The Hairy Ape Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape is the story of an alienated, low-class stoker named Yank. Yank’s life becomes a whirlwind when Mildred, the daughter of a wealthy steel owner, looks at Yank like he is a hairy ape. This action creates the withdrawal Yank exhibits. The remainder of the play is Yank’s journey to find his place in society’s realms. He searches for his place in a stokehole, at Fifth Avenue, and in jail. Ultimately Yank’s trek ends as a gorilla squeezes the life out of Yank—O’Neill’s suggestion that Yank can only belong in death (O’Neill 57)....   [tags: Hairy Ape Essays]

Powerful Essays
1768 words (5.1 pages)

Essay about O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape: Most Representative Play of Early 1900s

- American theatre in the early 1900s highlighted the changes that were occurring in society. Throughout this era, playwrights were making drama new by challenging traditions. Broadway’s establishment caused a rise in theatre that led to new plays and playwrights emerging. Among those emergent playwrights was Eugene O’Neill. O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape encompassed Modern characteristics such as alienation and industrialization, as well as characteristics of Naturalism. Although The Hairy Ape is one of the most representative plays of this era, many other plays are worth noting as influential during the early 1900s....   [tags: american theatre, drama, traditions]

Powerful Essays
1137 words (3.2 pages)

Essay on The Hairy Ape By Eugene O ' Neill

- The Hairy Ape by Eugene O’Neill shines a light on the differences between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat during the industrial age. While focusing on how the working class men are slaves to the new, industrial society, O’Neill purposefully describes Yank, and the other working men, in harsh ways. By dehumanizing Yank and focusing on the bad traits of the working class, the wealthy, upper class appears to fly under the radar of the reader, but by the end of The Hairy Ape, the virtually unnoticed bourgeoisie is actually made to look worse than the animalistic working class....   [tags: Working class, Sociology, Marxism, Middle class]

Powerful Essays
1281 words (3.7 pages)

What Side Are You on? Eugene O’Neill Explores Groups and Belonging in "The Hairy Ape"

- In the mist of a major conflict the most crucial decision made is deciding upon what faction to side with. The final choice stands as the product of introspection and a social projection of internal beliefs. However, often the presented factions do not coincide with our own beliefs in their entirety. In such case an individual is faced with a more complex and tumultuous question of belonging. Eugene O’Neill explores the issue of groups and belonging in The Hairy Ape. Written in 1921, the play is deeply rooted in the issues of the working class, and seems relative to the dilemma of the 1919 labor strike....   [tags: Eugene O’Neill, belonging, identity, psychology, p]

Powerful Essays
605 words (1.7 pages)

Methods of Characterization in The Hairy Ape Essay example

- Methods of Characterization in The Hairy Ape Eugene Gladstone O’Neill was born October 16, 1888, to Irish-American parents in New York City. His mother, Ella O’Neill, reserved and genteel (Sheaffer 15), came from a prosperous Cleveland family. His father, James O’Neill, from a poor family, was an actor who became synonymous with Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo, a role he performed over 3000 times (Sheaffer 8). Driven by fear of poverty, James worked nonstop and constantly tried his hand at get-rich-quick schemes, such as buying and selling real estate....   [tags: Hairy Ape Essays]

Powerful Essays
2333 words (6.7 pages)

Essay on Analysis Of Oedipus ' Oedipus The King The Play '

- What does it mean to have free will. From my perspective it is the ability to make your own decisions when confronted with problems in order to have an outcome you desire. According to dictionary.com it is “the doctrine that the conduct of human being expresses personal choice and is not simply determined by physical or divine forces.” Even with humans being capable of choosing their own destiny, is it possible to over come fate no matter how hard you try. There is a theory of life that is summarized as everything happens for a reason because that is your destiny....   [tags: Oedipus the King, Oedipus, Choice, God]

Powerful Essays
1239 words (3.5 pages)

Essay about Yank’s Absurd Inheritance in The Hairy Ape

- Yank’s Absurd Inheritance in The Hairy Ape It is intriguing how Eugene O’Neill stages the audience for The Hairy Ape. When the curtain opens upon the forecastle of the transatlantic liner, the audience is immediately beset by Yank’s seemingly unassailable sense of identity. “Everting else dat makes de woild move, somep’n makes it move. It can’t move without somep’n else, see. Den yuh get down to me. I’m at de bottom, get me!” (261). Yank trumpets himself, in effect, as the prime mover of the industrial world....   [tags: Hairy Ape Essays]

Powerful Essays
3197 words (9.1 pages)

Oedipus The King : A Greek Play Essay

- Oedipus the King Oedipus the King is a popular Greek play also known by its Latin title Oedipus Rex. Oedipus was written by Sophocles and was first performed in 429 BC. Over the thousands of years since its publication, Oedipus the King has been reviewed and analyzed by several renowned scholars who have all conceded that it is one of the best tragic drama pieces that draw their descent from ancient Greece (Rao, Wolf and Sophocles). This paper is a critical review of the ideas that the author of this drama had in mind as he was writing it....   [tags: Oedipus the King, Oedipus, Sophocles, Tragedy]

Powerful Essays
1401 words (4 pages)

Essay about Oedipus The King Is A Play Written By Scophocles

- Oedipus the King is a play written by Scophocles. In the play Oedipus is perceived as a hero and a great man to the people of Thebes. When Thebes was is in a time of trouble they would come to the King. In the story it talks about how the kingdom is suffering from a great plague and the King sends Creon to find an answer from a higher god named Apollo for help. Oedipus is a confident King, but as the story goes on his eyes are open to the suffering and sin he is living in all along. In the article written by Heller, one can see how suffering can be a time of growth as it is also shown in the play....   [tags: Oedipus, Oedipus the King, Creon]

Powerful Essays
730 words (2.1 pages)

O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones Essay

- O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones In Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones, Emperor Brutus Jones is an African American male who has risen, “from stowaway to Emperor (of Haiti) in two years” (343). Jones looks down upon his subjects, viewing them as nothing but animals, even though they are African just like himself. As payback, Jones himself goes through a transformation which dehumanizes him and gives him very primal, animal related characteristics. Through this juxtaposition, O’Neill makes his play a critique of the dehumanizing effects people in power have had over the black race....   [tags: O’Neill Emperor Jones Race Black Essays]

Powerful Essays
2383 words (6.8 pages)