The Hairy Ape

Relation between the Working Class and Primitivism in The Hairy Ape College

Subtle association of primitivism with the working class in Eugene O’Neill’s expressionist play The Hairy Ape is quite intriguing. In the play, we sense the primitivistic approach to the firemen working together in the ship who are likened to a group of animal doing and saying the same thing all the time. They do not have individualities and they represent the same class which is the working class. There are two aspects of O’Neill’s usage of primitivism to depict this particular class. One is related to their existence as a crowd and the other is to their identification themselves with their physicality, which also shows the traces of Darwinism. Therefore, to examine how working class people define themselves and are defined by the modern world, which is quite primitivistic, we can look into the portrayal of them as a body of crowd in The Hairy Ape.

The first approach to the firemen as primitives comes from their existence as a crowd. In order to examine these working class people as a crowd in the play, we must look into them in general terms. We see that they are named simply as “voices” or “all” in the play. We do not know their names except for Yank, Paddy and Long, who show some specific characteristics by themselves....

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