What is Jerry's purpose in Edward Albee's The Zoo Story?
Edward Albee's "The Zoo Story" is a darkly humorous examination of two people's existence. The entire drama is an interaction between a middle aged family man and a misplaced, lost, man who is trying to "get to the zoo" through an internal examination of his soul. Jerry is necessary to the play because it is Jerry who plays the Christ-like figure to Peter, who becomes an "apostle" of truth at the play's end.
Jerry is an everyman. He represents all of us who are unhappy with the circumstances of our lives. Jerry demonstrates the inability of communicating with people and it is not until the final moments of the play does Peter really "hear" what Jerry has to say. For Jerry is a prophet of sorts, dispensing his views on existentialism, life, sexuality, his parents, the interaction of people, on literal and symbolic "zoos", etc. One could say that the reader is privy to the happenings in this one cage of a zoo. Jerry is the wild, aggressive animal, and Peter is the more reserved one.We study Jerry and his message as we would study a different sort of creature in a zoo.
Jerry has been seen by critics as a "Christ figure" or at the very least a martyr who changes Peter's life forever with his short "encounter." Jerry brings the message to Peter that there is indeed suffering in this world..suffering which Peter may not know in his own life with a wife, 2 daughters, 2 cats and 2 parakeets. Jerry is determined to convince Peter that Socrates was right when he said "an unexamined life is not worth living." Jerry dies delivering this message but Peter will never be the same with the knowledge that he was forced to acknowledge that Sunday in the park.