What is the theme of Edward Albee's The Zoo Story?

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Albee's The Zoo Story examines how isolated modern man is in the way he lives and the role capitalism plays in this isolation. If we compare Peter and Jerry, we can see that each man is isolated, though Jerry is far more aware of this fact than Peter.

Peter is the quintessential family man: he is solidly middle-class and his life is going "according to plan." Peter does not realize that the trappings of his middle class life are a literal trap: he is caged by the comfortable theories and material items with which he surrounds himself. In order to not face his aloneness, Peter surrounds himself with things and ideas that prevent him from facing his true condition: an abyss of isolation and disconnection.

We can interpret the bench as symbolic of all that Peter has (and, thus, all that he fears losing). If he "loses" the bench, he loses his entire stable sense of himself and the world. Losing it to someone like Jerry is particularly troubling to Peter because, in Peter's view, Peter has done everything right: he has the marriage, the job, the family, and the money that are supposed to make him content—that are supposed to herald the accomplishment of the American Dream. That Peter has "followed all the rules" and still feels isolated elucidates Albee's view on the way we deceive ourselves because we are scared of truly seeing and knowing ourselves.

Jerry is Peter's foil: he is lower-class, lives in a "bad area" of the city, and desperately seeks human connection with an overtness that Peter finds unmannered. For Jerry, the world is a zoo: everyone is separated from everyone else, as though we are different species living in our own separate cages. Not only are we separated from one another, but we are also separated from our own basic nature—the desire for connection.

Jerry is the symbol of the isolated modern man, but he also fights men's separation from each other. He wants to know the "essential nature" of the human condition, as his experiment with Cerberus reveals. Jerry's failure to get Cerberus to like him (despite bribing the dog with hamburgers) represents how connection is not something that can be purchased, nor can it be easily accomplished. Thriving in a capitalist society means only that you have money; it does not guarantee real contact and connection. Jerry's death allows Peter to learn this lesson, and Peter must live the rest of his life really seeing the people his middle-class life has, until now, protected him from.

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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.

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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.

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