Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama)
The Zoo Story is an intensely harrowing expression of estrangement in American society. The lack of communication between Jerry and his landlady’s vicious dog is merely an analogy for the hostility among living beings in a world in which alienation and lack of sympathy are deep-seated psychological conditions. The story of the dog leads to Jerry’s zoo story, but the roundabout, digressionary mode of relation is emblematic of Edward Albee’s style. This drama is one in which a lonely man on the verge of nervous breakdown desperately attempts to find at least one individual who will hear him out and come to an understanding of the existential plight that Jerry sees as a malaise in the world.
Although only in his late thirties, Jerry is in physical decline. His weariness is evidently a result of his sordid personal history: He is a product of a broken home, the orphaned son of a promiscuous, alcoholic mother and a weak father. Deprived of a normal family environment—his adoptive puritanical aunt dies prematurely— Jerry is apparently unable to find solid, loving relationships. His homosexuality separates him from others, and his seedy rooming house reeks of alienation. Its most vivid tenants are symptomatic of the problem that Jerry sees as a pathological contaminant of contemporary life. The mysterious person in the main-floor front room whom nobody has ever seen, the “colored queen” with rotten teeth, plucked eyebrows, and Japanese...
(The entire section is 503 words.)
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