Discuss the theme of "The Zoo Story" by Edward Albee?

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reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, one of the themes is alienation. Jerry is alienated from Peter, and, seemingly, the rest of the world, including even his landlady's dog.

Peter's character represents the middle class, with his good job, wife, two daughters, cats, and parakeets. Peter's responsible America is one with which Jerry is unfamiliar as he is truly an outsider. He has lost his fragmented past, keeping empty picture frames and living in a boardinghouse filled with grotesque characters, including the dog. He attempts to befriend the dog, yet decides if he cannot befriend him, he will kill him. Jerry fails in the attempt on the dog's life, and their relationship turns to one of indifference.

Ironically, the twist in the play occurs when Jerry strikes up the conversation with Peter that ultimately results in his death. He tries to break through this alienation and indifference and finally does so by dying, unlike the landlady's dog who lived.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main theme of The Zoo Story is isolation. It comes in many forms: It comes as division of class and status, it also comes as loneliness on the part of Jerry and his inability to communicate, or to act acceptably in society. 

Another resonant theme in the story is fantasy vs reality. Jerry's isolation and separation from normal life is such that his stories are absurd, and his behavior might be confused as that of a psychopath rather than that of an eccentric man.

Therefore, the themes of isolation and the division and loneliness that comes with it are the basic components of the theme of the story.