In the play "The Zoo Story" by Edward Albee in 1958 first performed in Berlin at the Schiller Theater Werkstatt, 1959. The "zoo" imagery runs throughout the play and the actual crisis emerges from the sentence that Jerry enters saying "I've been to the zoo". Jerry reflects a "great weariness" and questions the verisimilitude of "social prosperity" and "happiness" that the optimism that seem to surround the American Dream. The isolation and the confinement of his free life becomes the curse of the modern society. He is free to remain condemned, and hardly can share a relationship with even an animal. The one-act drama revolves around the concept of the 'zoo' that belies the 'Disneyland' of American promise of superabundance and civility. My present concern in this paper is to analyze the questions that Jerry raises and how he escapes through his death.
On a fine Sunday afternoon Peter sits on a park bench reading a book, just when Jerry enters looking a bit tattered and ragged. He starts a conversation with Peter which takes a violent turn after Jerry goes into a detailed analysis of his life at his apartment, and his relationship with a dog the story that he names "THE STORY OF JERRY AND THE DOG!". The dialogues about his personal life and that of the present turn seamy which ultimately takes a dangerous note when he starts telling Peter what exactly he saw in the zoo. Peters request to leave becomes ridiculous when Jerry starts to tickle him without reason, almost bordering on absurdity. While continuing with his zoo story Jerry challenges Peter repeatedly to leave the bench and hits him on his hand. Angry at the illogicality of Jerry's response he starts a fight and ultimately falls into Jerry trap when he picks up his knife and Jerry lunges on him killing himself. Jerry dies with a fitting parody of a prayer.
The speech of Jerry borders on madness and implicitly becomes a subversive force to unsettle the middle-class morals that seem to be the binding force of the American bourgeoisie. Jerry questions traditional concept of roles as he confuses "wife" with "parakeets", "cats" and often compares Peter's household with a zoo that makes a mockery of marriage and human relationships. Most importantly it becomes a satire against the concept of the "family" as portrayed by the popular American image, like the "The Brady Bunch", a sitcom aired between 1969 and 1974. Clearly Jerry and peter represent two different worlds.1The typical archetype of "good old mom" and "good old pop" are just ideals that the society forces on us and thus Jerry says that the empty picture frames that should have framed another picture perfect moment is just a sham and his family history is just another terrible "middle-European joke". Again he scandalizes middle-class morality by professing that he was "once" a homosexual and graphically gives a detailed encounter of his landlady and the "pretty little ladies" who are just an embodiment of carnal "desires". This is a mockery of the prudery as he says "People looked up. It always happens when I try to simplify things; people look up" Jerry is not stupid, infact he is quite learned since he tragically says that he is "howling because [he] is alive". Characters like the hellish dog, the "colored queen",