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The Hairy Ape

Eugene O'Neill


Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

I'm a busted Ingersoll, dat's what. Steel was me, and I owned de woild. Now I ain't steel, and de woild owns me. Aw, hell! I can't see—it's all dark, get me? It's all wrong!

This quotation appears at the conclusion of Scene eight, immediately after Yank has been thrown out of the I.W.W. office. Yank, talking to himself, attempts to negotiate who he is and his personal importance even after being disgraced by The Secretary and the Wobblies. Yank realizes he is no longer as powerful as he once was. He no longer identifies himself as steel, the symbolic metal Yank equates with power, but rather thinks of himself as a busted machine. This quotation also reveals Yank's progression within the play. In Scene one, Yank boasts that he is steel, the muscles and punch behind the power of the ship. However, by the end of Scene Seven, Yank is stripped of this sense of strength and utility. Yank now sees himself as a machine that does not work, he has been exhausted by his efforts to find belonging and purpose and is left as a "busted Ingersoll." The "darkness" he describes is the result of confusion—now that Yank sees himself devoid of function, he cannot see the future or any hope for what's ahead.

A procession of gaudy marionettes, yet with something of the relentless horror of Frankensteins in their detached, mechanical unawareness

This quotation is taken from the stage direction in Scene Five. The references to human "liveliness" are indicative of class in the play. O'Neill describes both Mildred and the people on 5th Avenue as distanced or detached from "life." Mildred tells her aunt she wants to "touch life somewhere," help "life" like Yank and others who inhabit the poorer classes. Mildred's inability to actually communicate or "touch" life is clearly revealed in her encounter with Yank. The instant Mildred sees Yank, her expression of intense fear, is perhaps her most "real" moment in the play. In this moment Mildred is forced to come out from her veil of superficial expression and politeness—Mildred is confronted with the basic fear of survival. Furthermore, the poorer classes who have such fears on a daily basis are seemingly more alive than those who spend days shopping on 5th Avenue.

This stage direction also dictates a specific physicality among the actors. They should move as "gaudy marionettes"—being pulled and directed by a puppet master overhead. How literally each stage production will take this direction will certainly vary. Nonetheless, O'Neill implies that these people have evolved to the point where they have become artificial. Artificial in the sense that they are manmade—controlled and manufactured solely by human business, commerce and pleasures. Where class has pushed down and smothered the poor, it has also lifted the rich above nature and an association with the animal.

I seen de sun come up. Dat was pretty, too—all red and pink and green. I was lookin' at de skyscrapers—steel—and de ships comin' in, sailin' out, all over de oith—and dey was steel, too. De sun was warm, dey want' no clouds, and dere was a breeze blowin'. Sure it was great stuff. I go it aw right—what Paddy said about dat bein' de right dope—on'y I couldn't get in it, see? I couldn't belong in dat.

This quote, found at the end of Scene Eight, is the first time in the play Yank identifies himself with nature. Yank's contented description of the bits of nature, the sunrise and the breeze, he views while spending the night at the Battery is the first time he speaks of nature's beauty and importance. It is the first time Yank gives value to nature.

Feeling displaced and rejected, Yank must once again justify his existence that leads him to notice nature which he subsequently finds valuable. Yank even disassociates himself with industry, telling the ape that the skyscraper and ships he observed were "above his head." Rightly, Yank also tells the ape that he could never "belong in dat." Yank finally realizes that he is not a machine, but an organic life form that is distinct from technology. In the beginning of the play, Yank identifies himself with steel and industry not only because it was his livlihood, but also because he thought it had great functionality on Earth. Discarded from the system, Yank searches for what he still belongs to. This search leads down to the greatest common denomiator among men—their animalistic nature.

He slips on the floor and dies. The monkeys set up a chattering, whimpering wail. And, perhaps, the Hairy Ape at last belongs."

This quote, the final stage direction of the play in Scene Eight, evokes a sense of Yank coming home to the animal world. O'Neill's final reading of the play is clear: Yank is accepted by the animal kingdom, finally discovering the sense of "belonging" he has been searching for. Yank has been rejected from human society and has finally found refuge in the basest form of himself—the animal. However, this refuge is death. Yank finally finds refuge as he lies dead on the floor of the ape's cage.

Yank's death can be interpreted in numerous ways. O'Neill reveals that such a bond between a living human and animal is unattainable on Earth, but also suggests that the impetus for Yank's belonging is his death—he has succumbed to nature and been destroyed by it.

I ain't on oith and I ain't in Heaven, get me? I'm in de middel tryin' to seperate em, takin all de woist punches from bot' of 'em. Maybe dat's whay dey call Hell, huh?

This quotation, found in Scene Eight, indicates Yank's displacement on Earth. Earth and Heaven both represent states of happiness, neither of which Yank can find his way into. Yank is the victim of a society that won't "let him in" or find belonging anywhere. Yank describes himself as receiving the "woist punches"—actual, physical blows. Yank has been weakened both emotionally and physically through the course of the play. Yank sees himself as the lone victim of a great assault and cannot find anyone to sympathize with him.

O'Neill suggests a similarity between uncaring capitalists and uncaring socialists within society. Both, as Anna Massa puts it in "Intention and Effect in The Hairy Ape" suggest "brother hoods of workers and criminals." Thus, O'Neill does not suggest "refuge" in either capitalism or socialism for Yank, but reveals how each can be destructive to the individual. Yank has been assaulted by a society that has no tolerance for "not belonging" and is consequently left in "de middel" as close to hell as Yank can imagine.

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