Zoo Story Essay, Research Paper
When we are confronted with the word jail, we generally envision cold, hard concrete and steel bars; slits for windows that let in as little sunlight as possible and dangerous, fear-provoking criminals. These confinements are thought of places where the filth, scum and law-breaking degenerates of the world are kept. Surely, middle-class and upper class upstanding, law abiding citizens would never be categorized as prisoners.
In Edward Albee s, The Zoo Story, there appears the phrase, where ever better in this humiliating excuse for a jail (p.35). Albee asks us to think of the term jail in a different but similar context. Imagine if you would, a zoo. Animals roaming around in man-made settings that replicate their natural habitat and interacting with other creatures; however, what keeps the animals from attacking the people and/or running away from the zoo never to be seen again bars! Like the animals of the zoo people live and hide behind bars. In essence, the world as a whole can be viewed metaphorically as a jail.
This jail we as humans live in is often of our own creation; a prison, of sorts, that our minds conjure to protect us from emotional distress. Within the story it becomes blatantly obvious that Jerry s world is his jail. Jerry says, I live in a four-story brownstone rooming-house on the upper West Side I live on the top floor; rear; west It s a laughably small room, and one of my walls is made of beaverboard (p.22). He then goes on to describe the inhabitants of the floor, which he lives on. a colored queen which always keeps his door open when he is plucking his eyebrows (p.22). Later in the story he tells peter, I think the rooms are better as you go down, floor by floor (p.27). I think he is putting himself as being worse off than anyone else in the building by saying that it only gets better as you go down the floors.
Now Peter on the other hand, lives in a nicer jail or cage than Jerry; yet, he still is behind bars. These bars are Peter s protection from reality. In contrast to the notion that Jerry s reality is his jail , Peter s denial of reality is his jail . He lives in a safety-world that he created for himself where he believes his life is perfect. He has the wife, the two daughters, parakeets, and cats. All to the good, except for the fact that Peter would like a son, a dog, and no birds. There are there are two parakeets. One uh one for each of my daughters (p.18). Here, Peter exhibits embarrassment for the first time in the story; he shows that he really is not as pleased with his life as he lets others believe. At this early point in the story Peter has not yet realized that he has in fact barricaded himself in a sheltered environment, metaphorically speaking. In the amount of time that Peter has spent in his metaphorical jail which he created, the thicker the bars have gotten. Without being aware of it, Peter has become very lonely. He is starving for the companionship of anyone other than his family and/or co-workers; for this reason he is very tolerant of Jerry throughout the story. By the end of the play the biggest indication of Peter s solitude is the bench in the park that he frequents. The bench becomes symbolic of Peter s cage . Amidst Jerry s poking, Peter says, I sit on this bench almost every Sunday afternoon, in good weather (p.41); thus, indicating a predictable, monotonous, repetitive life style. Peter s need for salvation from the cage he lives in is ultimately what drives him to pick up the knife at the end and point it violently at Jerry.
We all put ourselves in these cages of life, some purposely, some sub-consciously; but, no matter how or why we do this it can take its toll on us eventually. Allowing the bars we put up to grow thicker and thicker is detrimental to the psyche. Unfortunately, if we are unaware of our unhappiness as Peter was of his, we can end up being more susceptible to the things we try to protect ourselves from. Although, have bars up isn t always a bad thing. Sometimes we need protection from people who want to cause us harm. In Jerry s case, he was coherent of his situation; however, it seemed as if he believed that the only way out would be death!