The play of "The Hairy Ape", by Eugene O'Neill is a sad portrayal of social injustice. The character of Yank is brutish and simple and in one pivotal moment he is made to feel inferior to the point that it haunts him psychologically. His strength and appearance were his identity and he felt like he "belonged". Yet, after being referred to as a "filthy beast" by Mildred, he is ashamed of his language, demeanor, and appearance. Yank begins a search to find himself and his place in the world. This search leads him to see how society perceives him when he becomes violent on Fifth Avenue and is imprisoned for thirty days. While there, he is confronted with the opportunity to repay society for their betrayal, but again his ideas are rejected.
Yank is searching for acceptance and decides to visit the zoo to see a real ape. He sees a reflection of himself in the caged beast as both have been displaced and imprisoned. Both the ape and Yank do not belong in polity society. He thinks for a moment that he and the ape are kindred spirits of a sort and he opens the cage. He is crushed by the ape, which he had just referred to as his brother. The ape throws him into the cage and shuts the door. His last act of defiance is to die standing while gripping the bars of the cage. Even the ape feels that he does not belong.
O'Neill, Eugene."The Hairy Ape". American Literature Since the Civil War. Create edition. McGraw-Hill. 2011. Pg. 180-209....