TWO PERSPECTIVES ON THE ZOO
By Andrew Adams
Edward Albee’s play THE ZOO STORY involves only two visual characters, polar opposites named Jerry and Peter. Jerry is a man who looks older than he is, wearier; Peter looks younger than he is, more polished and businesslike. Not just in their appearance and manner but especially in the course of their conversation these two characters establish a seemingly unmistakable representation of society’s social classes and expectations. It is Jerry who carries the dialogue beyond casual greetings: With a specific agenda he asks Peter, “Do you mind if we talk?” and follows with a mounting case of inquiry, followed by insight into his own unusual quest for higher meaning (Albee 14).
A number of specific metaphors grant this play its power, and there seems to be, for the most part, a critical consensus on these metaphors and their imagery. Furthermore, it is highly conceivable that Albee intended said metaphors to work precisely as they seem to—that is, as we all unanimously understand them to: negatively. Despite these so-called intentions, however, it is this writer’s experience that THE ZOO STORY metaphors—especially the “zoo”—can work oppositely, as positive factors. In the first conjecture the negative symbols tend to shed positive, even heroic light on the character of Jerry in particular, whereas the second conjecture tends to illuminate the shortcomings within both characters.
Both metaphor and character must be examined from each perspective in order to discover which might better explain their psychology. Any analysis clearly yields varying results among readers; this essay hopes to provide an alternate viewpoint with which to conduct said analysis. We will first look specifically at THE ZOO STORY surface level, the zoo setting (“I’ve been to the zoo”) and foreshadowing (“You’ll read about it in the papers tomorrow”) as negative metaphors (15). These both seem to hint at the distinction not...