Symbolism in the Hairy Ape

The Hairy Ape is an expressionist play by Eugene O'Neill and was produced and published in 1922. It is a symbolic work that deals with the themes of social alienation and search for identity in the presence of technological progress (Cardullo 258). The play speaks to the industrialization that was taking place during that era. In an expressionistic play, the number of characters is kept minimal and attention is focused on a central figure with other supporting characters included but not individualized or fully developed. They serve merely as background voices to help highlight the central character's conflict. Most characters are simply representative types or members of groups and symbolic of class structures in society.

Yank, the central character and hero of The Hairy Ape, is a representative of modern workers who felt socially alienated and questioned their purpose and position in larger society. O'Neil...
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