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Discuss the themes that are evident in Eugene O'Neill's "The Hairy Ape."

The subject of identity comes up quite often in Eugene O'Neill's "The Hairy Ape". Although many other pressing social issues are brought to the forefront, such as race, gender, and class bias, the subject of identity seems to be the easiest to analyze and support when writing a paper on this particular play. This excerpt will help students understand why Mr. O'Neill's references to a hairy ape are so significant for this reading and relative to this genre of writing.

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There are three main points that stand out in "The Hairy Ape":
-Yank wants to belong to something greater (the unions), get revenge (against Ms. Douglas), and help his fellow man (his crew), but can't read well enough to become knowledgeable about the organizations that can help him.
-Yank has the desire to know more and become more, but can't because he is so very dependent on others to deliver information and grant him the acceptance that he can't seem to find within himself.
-Yank wants to find a solution to his problem—the identity crisis—but can't because of his thoughts and perceptions.

Eugene O'Neill's controversial plays have sparked great conversations over the years. From race to social welfare and classicism, his writing has inspired some of the most hardened and opinionated individuals to rethink their views on life and how they treat the less fortunate. What is amazing is that a person of his stature had such a hard time bringing his dreams into fruition and becoming the person who we know him as today. He graduated from prestigious institutions such as Princeton and Harvard, and still somehow remained stagnant for many years. Why he had such a difficult time coping with life, we never fully grasp from this play, but trouble is evident.

When analyzing "The Hairy Ape," one can infer that Yank, the main character, experiences the same identity crisis as O'Neill did on his journey through life. He just can't seem to figure out where he belongs in society. Yank, later introduced to us as Bob Smith, is a gentle brute that often ponders his existence and tries to remain optimistic about his ...

Solution Summary

Eugene O'Neill's references to black people and "those less than" as "niggers," "boobs," and "skoits" would lead anyone to believe that he was both racist and misogynistic, but there are other key underlying messages in his writing that make it both intriguing and thought provoking. In this excerpt, I discuss the theme of identity in "The Hairy Ape," and how it affects the main characters. O'Neill's hope was that we would all be able to find ourselves in one of his characters. After reading this analytic summary, readers will have a better understanding of where they fit in the scheme of things and how each individual in the play is representative of a classicist society.