What are the visual, verbal and indexical signs in Edward Albee's one-act play The Zoo Story and Marsha Williams' play Getting Out?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Many different visual, verbal, and indexical signs can be seen all throughout Edward Albee's one-act play The Zoo Story.

We can consider visual signs to be the physical descriptions of the characters themselves. More specifically, both Peter and Jerry represent social class distinctions, and these distinctions are portrayed in how they look. For example, Peter is described as being dressed in tweeds, carrying horn-rimmed glasses, and reading a book, all of which are very visual signs of the educated, upper-middle class. Jerry is described as being "carelessly" dressed; his muscle has begun to turn into fat, both of which are signs of the uneducated, harder working class. The bench upon which they sit can also be seen as a visual symbol of society; the bench was designed for repose and even socialization. The fact that members of two different social classes are engaging in a very uncomfortable conversation on a bench in Central Park underscores the themes of society's struggles and class distinctions.

We can also interpret Jerry's references to the zoo and to his landlady's dog as verbal signs. The zoo represents his view that he is trapped within society and that society itself is wild and untamed. The black dog he tries to either befriend or kill parallels his references to both hell and God, or as he phrases it, "God who, I'm told, turned his back on the whole thing some time ago." In other words, first he sees the dog as embodying hellish, cruel society; then he sees the dog as embodying cruel, sad, and indifferent God.

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