Zoo Story Essay, Research Paper
Jerry s Problems
In Edward Albee s The Zoo Story, Jerry has trouble distinguishing between emotions
of love and anger, because of his unhappy childhood. This is shown repeatedly throughout the
story in both is words and actions. His inability to organize his feelings is what ultimately causes
his own death.
When Jerry tells the story of the dog, he says he first fed the dog hamburgers in order to
gain its trust, and allow him free passage throughout his apartment. When this didn t change his
relationship with the animal, he fed it a poisoned hamburger in an attempt to kill. Later in his
story he tells Peter that I didn t want the dog to die. I didn t, and not just because I d
poisoned him (18). He reaffirms this again in the story when he says I loved the dog now, and
I wanted him to love me (19). At first, he showed the dog love with un-poisoned hamburgers.
Then his emotions changed to hate, and he attempted to kill the dog with a poisoned burger.
And finally, he felt love for the dog again. These types of mood swings are characteristic of
someone with a serious mental disorder. It is not surprising to see Jerry have the same sort of
mood swings toward the end of the play.
Jerry wants to connect with Peter, and relates to him much in the same way as he did
with the dog. At first, Jerry is friendly and benign as he talks with Jerry about his family. Then
Jerry tells the story of the dog, and afterward his emotions change to anger and hate. He
punches Peter in the arm and demands the bench to himself, which astounds Peter. He does
not understand why Jerry is acting in his schizophrenic way, even though it was told to him
through the dog story. Then Jerry pulls out a knife, and ends up falling on it and mortally
wounding himself. After this, he calms down and feels love for Peter, and says I came unto
you, and you have comforted me. Dear Peter (27). His temper finally caught up with Jerry,
and he paid with his life.
The reason for Jerry s emotional problems go back to his childhood. He tells Peter
early in the story that his mother died when he was ten and a half years old, and his father
followed a few weeks later. He moved in with his aunt, and she died a several years later. This
would have a terrible emotional impact on any child, and explains the erratic behavior exhibited
by Jerry. This also affected Jerry s sex life. I never see the pretty little ladies more than once,
he says (12). This is because of his inability to connect with people. He also expresses his
confusion during his speech about the dog; And, was trying to feed the dog an act of love?
And, perhaps, was the dog s attempt to bite me not an act of love? If we can so
misunderstand, well then, why have we invented the word love in the first place? (20). This
excerpt shows Jerry s inability to distinguish between love and hate. He questions whether his
feeding of the dog was showing love. If he doesn t understand the emotions behind his own
actions when dealing with animals, it will be difficult for him to apply them to human interaction.
Jerry has problems connecting to others people, resulting from an unhappy childhood.
Because of his mixed up emotions, he misunderstands the ideas of love and hate. It is this
confusion that ultimately causes his fight with Peter and his own death.