ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

"The Zoo Story": A contemporary hero for American society

Updated on October 3, 2011
Source

The mid-twentieth century was chock-full of events that would change the nature of America, including the American civil rights movement, the rise of feminism and gay rights, and the Vietnam War. Such significant and life-changing times cannot be left to carry on unimpeded by those who are affected; American citizens must not just keep tabs on current issues but also raise their voices if indecencies or crimes come about. Efforts must be made to curb wrongs and cease unfairness or else things can get out of hand; people cannot just isolate themselves from the rest of the world when times are difficult. This applies to today as well as the 1950s and 60's. Thus Jerry in Edward Albee's "The Zoo Story" emerges as a hero for mid-1900s and for present times, for he was one person to act out, to face his loneliness and social differences and to break the conceptual silence of American society.

In the play, Jerry crosses class boundaries and social disparities in order to cure his loneliness. He speaks to a complete stranger, Peter, who is a publishing executive and higher up on the social ladder than Jerry, who lives in a less-than-quality roominghouse, whose dysfunctional family is dead and whose relationships been very abnormal and dissatisfactory ("Mom walked out on good old Pop when I was ten and a half years old," "Pop...slapped into the front of a somewhat moving city omnibus," and "I hang my head in shame that puberty was late... I was a h-o-m-o-s-e-x-u-a-l"). Nonetheless Jerry opens a conversation that includes a wealth of topics, from books to the landlord's dog. He is not afraid of speaking his mind, being himself with his outbursts and intense curiosity, or facing the truth, which is that he is miserable and not afraid to die, despite Peter's initial indifference and reluctance to converse; when Peter is embarrassed to talk about pornographic playing cards and tells Jerry, "I'd rather not talk about these things," Jerry responds, "So?" Jerry overcomes Peter's negative reactions and eventually coerces Peter to help him die.

Jerry's authenticity and boldness is something that Americans could have used earlier in the last century. The times called for individuals to be unafraid of their own power and to stand up for what they believed in. Many people did; there were several protests and marches against the Vietnam War as well as for women's rights and desegregation. Certainly the nation was tired from the liberalism and radicalism of the previous decades. However, that is no excuse to keep one's back turned to the issues that matter, when blacks and other minorities are without basic rights and when people's children are being sent to war. Someone is bound to disagree and that disagreement, whether right or wrong, is vital to the foundation of the country and its democratic functions. Even when there is discouragement, such as the government or dissimilarities among citizens, one must be willing to confront difficulties. It is positive to disregard class and social differences, for in doing so one can connect peoples running the gambit of American society. This was important during these times, when classes, races, and genders were so separated.

This mindset and readiness is important today as well. When there is war raging overseas, gas prices rising at home, and political scandals in the government, there is still a need to speak out, be brave, and try something different. If the most unusual or common people do have opinions they are afraid to voice, characters such as Jerry can stimulate the motivation to open their mouths, whether in large-scale political situations or in family conversations or school.

Kevin Tillman, brother of Pat Tillman, the football player who turned in his jersey to fight in Iraq and was killed by "friendly fire," recently condemned the eminent American government for its Iraq policy. "Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes," he said. "Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground. Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated." There was a lot more that was said as well. While the charges were powerful and the words extreme, Tillman was still not afraid to utter them. He was not a politician or a millionaire, just a brother. Like Jerry, he showed how important it is to cross social lines and stand out because one never knows when they really need to be heard.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Estela 

      6 years ago

      It's amazing how Albee portraits the atmosphere of the time: animals trapped in cages, people trapped in their own personal worlds.Very interesting article!!

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR

      glassvisage 

      7 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you all for your comments! Jeremy, good point - thanks for reminding me to give credit to Edward Albee :)

    • profile image

      Jeremy 

      7 years ago

      Good article, but remember to include the playwright's name. A fair majority in theatre will know who wrote "The Zoo Story" but now everyone who comes across this article, and may find it interesting.

    • RKHenry profile image

      RKHenry 

      8 years ago from Neighborhood museum in Somewhere, USA

      Really excellent.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)