The Hairy Ape

The Hairy Ape Imagery

Cramped Fireman's Forecastle

The forecastle is a structure on the foremost section of a ship which could function as quarters for a ship's crew. In the stage directions of Scene One, O'Neill creates a claustrophobic and pent-up atmosphere by emphasizing the way that the men hunch under the low ceiling and the way that their cries overlap in the small space instead of forming coherent conversation. This image of humanity in a boiler room shows the animalistic side of mechanized society.

Smoke from the Ship, Smoke from A Pipe

The verbal sparring that Mildred and her aunt participate in at the beginning of Scene Two focuses on the image of smoking to represent the difference between the enterprising girl and her conservative chaperone. “I dislike smoke of any kind,” says the aunt, and shortly afterwards “I loathe deformity” (50, 51). The smoke of the ship, which Mildred analogizes to the smoke of her great-grandmother's pipe, fascinates Mildred because of its difference from the bourgeois norms of her family. However, as she discovers upon descending into the stokehole, the actual laboring source of the smoke presents a view too different for her to bear.

Chiaroscuro of the Stokehole

The stage directions of Scene Three describe the scene of work, which is also to say the very basis of Yank's pride, as a kind of hellish environment. While Paddy and, in a different sense, Mildred react very negatively to the sensuous disorientation of the highly unnatural scene, Yank is able to find a certain identification with it on the basis of his own lack of any natural history. We can think of the stokehole as a metaphor for Yank's own conflicted personality; it only provides a sense of order insofar as it operates by raw force, but it precludes any kind of more complex human consideration.

Dawn over New York

We never directly see this scene—all the settings in the play represents different kinds of alienating environments—but Yank describes in his monologue in Scene Eight to the gorilla how impressed he was seeing the “red and pink and green” of the sunset over the skyscrapers and docks at New York (85). This natural beauty makes him finally admit the truth about the past sailor's life Paddy had spoken about in Scene One, but he still feels that he does not fit in with it, beautiful as it is.