The Hairy Ape Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Below decks on an ocean liner one hour out from its New York port, the firemen who power the ship by stoking coal drink, curse, and sing, creating a defiant uproar. The strongest and most respected of the group is Robert Smith, known as Yank, who takes pride in his strength and in the ability of the crew to power the engines. Yank’s shipmate Paddy, a wizened old Irishman, yearns for the days of the graceful clipper ships that plowed the Atlantic silently, when men were in harmony with nature. A socialist agitator named Long curses the capitalist class that has forced the crew to slave for wages in the bowels of the ship. Rejecting these views, Yank sees himself as the mover of the world.

On the ship’s promenade deck, rich young heiress Mildred Douglas and her overly rouged aunt recline in deck chairs. Mildred is the spoiled daughter of the steel-company president who chairs the liner’s board of directors. She wants to visit the ship’s stokehold to discover how the other half lives. Mildred’s aunt considers her interest in social service to be superficial and calls her a poseur. Mildred responds that she is sincere and wants to help those in need. Dressed in white, she insists that the ship’s officers take her below. When they reveal to Mildred the stokers in all their brutality, she is repulsed and frightened. At the sight of Yank, who is caught unaware by her presence, she cries out and faints. Later, Paddy remarks to Yank that the young woman looked as though she had seen a hairy ape. His identity and sense of belonging shattered, Yank vows to get even.

When the ship returns to New York, Long attempts to channel Yank’s hurt and fury against Mildred into rage against the ruling class. He shows Yank goods displayed in Fifth Avenue store windows, goods that will never be available to Yank, and he rails against the callous behavior of rich Sunday churchgoers. Unmoved at first, Yank becomes excited when he sees a coat...

(The entire section is 797 words.)

The Hairy Ape Summary

Scene 1 Summary

The play opens in a ship's forecastle, the quarters for the crew located in the forward part of the boat. The firemen of the large...

(The entire section is 253 words.)

Scene 2 Summary

On the promenade deck, young Mildred Douglas reclines in a deck chair with her aunt. They engage in small talk and little arguments. Her aunt...

(The entire section is 181 words.)

Scene 3 Summary

In the stokehole, the men are bare-chested, sweaty, and dirty as they shovel coal into the massive furnace that propels the ship's engines....

(The entire section is 201 words.)

Scene 4 Summary

Yank, unlike the other fireman, has not washed himself after their shift. The men are off-duty and entertaining themselves, while Yank sits,...

(The entire section is 224 words.)

Scene 5 Summary

It is some time after the ship's return to port, and Yank and Long walk down Fifth Avenue in New York, talking. Long is once again offering...

(The entire section is 174 words.)

Scene 6 Summary

Yank is in jail, angry at being caged like an animal in the zoo. The other prisoners mock him. They ask him what crime he committed,...

(The entire section is 160 words.)

Scene 7 Summary

Yank shows up at the Wobblies (the nickname for the International Workers of the World) local union office. He asks to join but has to stop...

(The entire section is 158 words.)

Scene 8 Summary

Yank visits the monkey house at the zoo. He talks to the animals about his experiences in the city. One gorilla responds by pounding on his...

(The entire section is 130 words.)