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

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

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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).

Eugene Gladstone O’Neill was born on October 16, 1888, in New York City. His father, James O’Neill, was a popular actor, and introduced Eugene O’Neill to the theater at an early age. After being expelled from Princeton in 1906, O’Neill worked as a gold prospector in Honduras and later as a seaman in the New York area. Soon O’Neill became a regular at bars and clubs in New York City. In 1912, O’Neill contracted tuberculosis. It was during his recovery that O’Neill began to write plays. He wrote many plays and is one of the greatest American dramatists. O’Neill won four Pulitzer Prizes—Beyond the Horizon (1920), Anna Christie (1922), Strange Interlude (1928), and Long Day’s Journey into Night (1957). Eugene O’Neill also received the 1936 Nobel Prize for Literature. O’Neill was given the Nobel Prize, “for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy” (<http://nobelprizes.com/nobel/literature/1936a.html>).

Some critics point to The Hairy Ape as a satirical play. These critics suggest that "clearly O’Neill is a critic of American society and ...


... middle of paper ...


...mploys a chorus, and has an evident tragic flaw—hubris.

Works Cited:

Alexander, Doris. “Eugene O’Neill as Social Critic” in O’Neill and His Plays. Oscar Cargill et. al. eds. NY: New York University Press, 1963.
Colley, Bryan. Eugene O’Neill. <http://www.kc.net/~bryanc/apebackground.htm>.
O’Neill, Eugene. “Memorandum on Masks” in O’Neill and His Plays. Oscar Cargill et. al. eds. NY: New York University Press, 1963.
O’Neill, Eugene. “The Hairy Ape” in Four Plays by Eugene O’Neill. New York: Signet Classic, 1998.
Rollyson, Carl E. “Eugene O’Neill: The Drama of Self-transcendence” in Critical Essays on Eugene O’Neill. James Martine, ed. Boston: G.K. Hall and Co, 1984.
The Nobel Prize Internet Archive. Almaz Enterprises. <http://nobelprizes.com/nobel/literature/1936a.html>.
Turner, Ron. Ron’s Place. <http://www.connect.net/ron/oneill.html>.

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