Through the various themes in the work likeliest lack of communication, the feeling of isolation, the lack of understanding and the spiritual and social degeneration of the values along with the existential dilemma of life and the lurking materialism etc. Label tries to present a realistic picture of the contemporary American society. KEYWORDS: Zoo Story an Absurd Drama, “Isolation” as a Principle Theme in Edward Label Plays, Death-in-Life Existence in The Zoo Story INTRODUCTION Edward Label is an American playwright whose works rank among the finest in the contemporary theatre.He is the incarnation, almost the living archetype of the angry adolescent who revolts against the bourgeois milieu in which he grew up and the corrupt society with which he refuses to be integrated. Through the various themes in his works like-the lack of realistic picture of the contemporary American society. “Edward Label”, Rutgers asserts, “writes reformist plays of social protest which unflinchingly reveal the fistulous sores of a society plagued with social ills.
1 Thus, Label is mainly a social critic who exposes through his plays the artificial values of American society dealing with power, sex, money, human legislations and institutions such as marriage, death etc. As himself said by Label in one of his interviews, “Directly or indirectly any playћwealth is a kind of demonic social critic. I am concerned with altering people’s perceptions, altering the status quo. All serious art interests itself in this. The self, the society should be altered by a good play.
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All my plays try to readjust our vision, to reorder our values. 2 The dramatic milieu pervading at that time has been very well reflected through his plays. It is the atmosphere in which the playwright works. It comprises the immediate cultural situation, dramatic inventions and traditions, and the heritage of western culture- in effect, all those attitudes, ideals and traditions that determine or affect values, supply strategies and pattern human activities.
The milieu appears, not as a sociological or psychological treatise or as a series of rhetorical flourishes, but dramatists in plot and personal.Though Label’s criticism is especially concerned with the present scenario of the American way of life but it can be applied to the other modern societies belonging to this universe. In other words, Label’s theatre reflects the sweep ND play of a nation thinking in front of itself, of a culture seeking to locate its identity through the radicalized action implicit in the art of theatre.
In his plays, Label uses the various absurdist techniques to manipulate the themes which in turn stresses on the absurdity of the situation which the present day society is facing. 40 Shiplap Mali The Zoo Story as an Absurd Drama Although initially characterized either as a realist or an absurdist, Label usually combines elements from the American tradition of social criticism established by such play. Frights as Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O’Neill with those of the theater of the absurd as practiced by Samuel Becket and Eugene UNESCO.
The Zoo Story is, “an extraordinary achievement: a tour De force, it contains in miniature the central concerns of most of Label’s canon. 3 The construction of this one-act, two-character piece is economical and, unlike his many first plays, uncluttered. Jerry and Peter meet in Central park. Jerry skillfully induces Peter to listen to much of his life’s story. Out of loneliness and a courageous desire to connect with something out of himself, Jerry goads Peter into a fight and kills himself upon the knife he has even to Peter.
The exorbitant cost is, of course much to Label’s point. The Zoo Story graphically confirms W. H. Addend’s dictum, “We must love one another or die. 4 The play thus, deals with isolation, a common element of life in large cities which Jerry feels challenged to combat-vigorously and aggressively, as it happens to the death.
Thus, the theme Of the play bears directly on a current social problem and at the same time on deeply philosophical subjects, handled by Becket, UNESCO, and Genet-the breakdown of language, the attempt to live by illusion, the alienation of the individual from his fellows en, the terrible loneliness of every living human being.The play has a rather simple and easily comprehensible structure of three main parts that are climatically ordered. In the first part we are introduced to Jerry and Peter and to their differences with respect to person, background, economic status, marital status, literary taste, philosophy, desire for communication, the way they talk, and so on. The second part, deals with the story of Jerry and the dog and the third is the zoo story- what happened at the zoo?The action of the entire drama is played against the background of foliage, trees, sky in Central Park in New York city on a summer Sunday afternoon in the present. There are two park benches, and Peter is seated on one of them, reading a book, his habitual activity for such afternoons. The setting is definitely pinpointed as within visibility of the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Seventy- Fourth Street, on the east side of the park, within walking distance of Pewter’s residence between Lexington and Third Avenue on Seventy-Fourth Street.In the absurd play: A pseudo-crisis occurs when a similar complex situation and tension is brought to a head without resolving anything, without contributing o any development or progression, serving in fact to demonstrate that nothing as meaningful as progression or development can occur, emphasizing that complexity and tension are permanent and unreasonable elements of a world of confusion. 5 Luck’s speech in Waiting for Got is perhaps the most elaborate and extreme occurrence.
Harold Painter’s work too, is full of pseudo-crisis, the funniest instance, perhaps being Dives’s account of his visit to the monastery at Litton in search of boots (The Caretaker). For Label, as for Jerry the only fact in life is death. Jerry has lived tutee a long life without anyone with whom he could communicate his feelings and share his loneliness.
It is only when he meets Peter, he sees a ray of hope though he gets it at the cost of his own life.Before meeting Peter, Jerry tries hard to establish contact by describing the things which he mentions to Peter in the course of the play – the dog the landlady and various other people who he meets but the result is nothing. Label through Jerry tries to show the futility of the relationships in this materialistic world. These relationships are mostly centered around selfishness and greed.
There re no genuine emotions or means of communication. Everything is artificial and fake. Jerry is aware of all these things very well.A Study of the Zoo Story as an Absurd and Socially Realistic Drama 141 The Death-in-Life Existence In The zoo Story, Label shows the death-in-life existence Of the characters- Jerry and Peter. Both the characters lead in one sense or the other what is called the absurd kind of existence. Jerry had no company with whom he could share or communicate his experiences and feelings.
Throughout, his life he was suffering from the pangs of isolation. There was no one with whom he loud share his feelings and emotions.In the same way Peter was also suffering from this feeling of loneliness even though he had a family- wife, daughters and pets and also a good business. He was enjoying all the comforts of life but still he was unsatisfied with this kind of existence. The only difference between the TTY. ‘0 however is that, Jerry very well admits and understands this fact but Peter does not.
It is only after their meeting at the park’s bench that they realism the actuality of their lives. Jerry tries to reach Peter with his interesting tale of ‘what happened at the zoo?Symbolically, zoo emerges as a man-made hell, where people are separated by bars and communication is impossible. And to demonstrate this meaning to Peter, Jerry chooses death. When Peter denies to share the bench with Jerry, the latter taunts him into anger, and lashes out finally defending himself with the knife provided by Jerry. Peter, like his Biblical namesake has brought comfort and redemption to his friend, who seals the bargain with his acceptance of death.
In stabbing Jerry, Peter has bound himself in a grotesque and permanent relationship-murderer and victim became a single irrevocable fact.Jerry’ dies in the conviction that the paradox of human communication has been solved through an absolute commitment inspired by fear, but exalted through death. As it applies to him, the paradox has been solved; but the final point of the lesson is not quite so optimistic. Pewter’s betrayal and the knowledge that comes to him do not save him in any true sense, for he is more isolated, more alone than ever before. His denial of commitment is never revoked-in spite of the fact of his participation in the sacrifice; the play ends with Judas like fight.We need not follow him into his darkness to know what his suffering will be like. Whether he gets caught or not is irrelevant in this context, what is significant is the heightening of frustration to an insupportable burden, which he can never share with anyone. The conclusion of the parable is not salvation but despair.
The play, depicts the absurdity of situation of human existence, by bringing into light the lives of two different characters-Jerry and Peter. Both of whom differ from each other in their way of living, social status and their attitude towards life.Jersey’s world is troubled, an environment filled with suffering humanity and with a disarming mixture of love, hate and squalor. His neighbors-a colored queen who plucks his eye-brows, the Puerco Rican family, the invisible crying woman, the landlady-function as constant reminders of those whose lives are ontologically different from Pewter’s. His present environment is merely a terrible extension of his past world: his mother ran away, had numerous affairs, and wound up dead; soon after, a city bus crushed his drunken father.Jerry then moved in with his aunt only to witness her death on his high school graduation day. Emotionally, a great sufferer from the very beginning of his life, he feels abandoned on all fronts. His present condition offers little sense of resolution, boundaries and solace.
In fact, his relentless questions, the rapidity of speech, the quickness of breath, reveal a man who is an emotional collapse who is in the last hours of his life. His hypnotic and strange talk plainly suggests a man on the brink of madness.Thus, Label shows Jerry as a depraved being who rarely encountered with happiness. He is a complete failure in worldly as well as non-worldly sense. He had no one in his life with whom he could associate his sense of belonging to. Jerry is thus depicted as a person who is completely unsatisfied and fully frustrated With his life. For him, there is nothing in the universe which has any value or meaning. He believes that the very idea of living in this materialistic universe is in fact absurd.
It is in fact with this very feeling of isolation and dejection that he meets Peter in the park. 42 Disinterestedness and Material Concerns Peter on the other hand is depicted as a complete contrast to Jerry. He is unlike Jerry, a settled man in the most material terms. He enjoys everything which a person can wish for. He occupies a good position in society and is a ell earning guy holding an executive’s position in a publishing house. He is a perfect family man, fulfilling the responsibilities of a good father and husband.
Peter, could go to any extent to satisfy the need of his family. But despite of all this, he is not contented with his life.He had grudges for not having a son and that he has only two daughters. Further somewhere he was not satisfied with himself too. Now that he has a family to look after, he needed more and more material things. He has to work hard to maintain his social status. Peter in the play is a representative of an upper-middle class oral, which Label assaults often in his dramatic career. Here Label brings into light the disparity between the lower middle class and upper class prevailing at that time in the society.
Label reinforces the connectionless of Pewter’s life through dialogue and stage descriptions ‘A man in his early forties, neither fat nor gaunt, neither handsome, nor homely. ” 6 By describing Peter in negatives, Label suggests much about Pewter’s non-participatory stance towards any human encounter. This is why, until physically (and by extension morally) pushed regarding the bench, he tries avoiding Jerry, a tragedy of avoidance that occur on a verbal as well as non verbal plane.
Pewter’s body gestures-the constant turning away during the opening exchanges, the pretending not to hear, raising a hand to object, the winces, the forced smile serve as ways of deflecting social engagement. Jerry on the other hand, challenges such an attitude. He tries to ask numerous questions in order to demolish the sheath around him but he maintains his calm, selfish isolation. He was not at all ready to share anything with Jerry. Though Jerry ultimately captures his attention by telling him some fictional and some real acts about his life.
He tells him how at every stage of his life he was rejected by this world which is in callous and absurd. All of his relations got finished with the most absurd fact of life I. E. Death. He explains to him how after his failure in the human sphere, he tried to find someone outside it.
The story of dog which he narrates to Peter, really makes an impact on the latter’s mind. Now Peter also gets interested and shows no more of the cool disinterestedness which he was displaying earlier. He became interested in the story of Jerry and dog. Jerry lives in a rooming-house where the landlady’s go attacks him every time he comes in.He is fascinated by the dog’s hatred, he responds to it with obsessive force: it is a challenge the dog is intensely concerned about him and if he can meet the challenge he may be able to create out of it the contact he is looking for. He decides first he will try to kill the dog with kindness, and if that fails he will simply kill it.
He feeds it with hamburgers; its animosity doesn’t diminish which is like a poignant parody Of the love hate situation in romantic fiction. At last, he gives the dog a poisoned hamburger. Nothing really happens, nothing is resolved.