Motifs in "The Hairy Ape"


The motif of belonging underscores Yank's quest for power and recognition. He associates belonging with importance and usefulness, contrasting himself with the first-class passengers whom he dismisses as mere "baggage." Yank's search for belonging intensifies after encountering Mildred, driving him to the zoo's monkey house in search of acceptance.


For Yank, thought represents a barrier he struggles to overcome. Unlike physical challenges, he finds thinking difficult, symbolized by his attempts to mimic Rodin's "The Thinker." Yank's inability to think effectively isolates him and prevents him from adapting to the world outside the ship, especially after encountering Mildred.


Yank's language reflects his social standing and limits his ability to communicate beyond his class. His speech, characterized by distorted syntax and vocabulary, parallels his imprisonment within societal constraints. Yank's language serves as both a barrier and a reflection of his rigid place in society.


The settings in the play highlight social divisions and constraints. The stifling stokehole and forecastle, where Yank and the firemen work, contrast sharply with the airy, sunlit promenade deck of Mildred and her aunt. These settings symbolize the stark divide between lower and upper classes aboard the ship, emphasizing Yank's struggle for acceptance and belonging.

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