Symbolism and Naturalism in Edward Albee's the Zoo Story

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Symbolism and Naturalism in Edward Albee's The Zoo Story Author(s): Rose A. Zimbardo Reviewed work(s): Source: Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Apr., 1962), pp. 10-17 Published by: Hofstra University Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/440743 . Accessed: 03/02/2013 22:44 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

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SYMBOLISM AND NATURALISM IN EDWARD ALBEE'S THE ZOO STORY
ROSE A. ZIMBARDO

The acclaim, both popular and his theme. Somewhat startlingis critical,which has greeted Albee's the realizationthatAlbee's are traThe Zoo Storyleads one to specu- ditional Christian symbolswhich, late upon the directionAmerican despite their modern dress,retain drama is likely to take in the theiroriginalsignificance-or, more future.Concern with idea, rather precisely, expresstheiroriginal sigthan characteror plot, is not new nificancein modernterms. The rein the Americantheatre, nor is the lationshipbetweentraditionalsymuse of symbolism the realization bol and naturalisticdialogue, situfor of idea. There is, however,about ation and setting however, never is, Americanplays whichemploysynm-forced,as it so often is in, say, a bolism-from O'Neill to Williams Williams play. Rather symbolism -a strong suggestionof the gim- is part of the very fabric of the mick. Because American play- play functioning within,as well as have been self-conscious in enlarging,its surfacemeaning. wrights On the simplestlevel The Zoo employing symbols,their symbolism is almost always embarrassing- Story is concerned with human ly obvious. It calls attentionto it- isolation.The world is a zoo "with selfand existsas a kind of scaffold- everyone separated by bars from ing which the audience feels the everyoneelse, the animals for the should eitherhave built most part from each other, and playwright over or removed. For example, always the people from the aniO'Neill's symbolistic drama, which mals" (49); that is, men are not has, of course, shaped all later only separated from each other, American drama, directsattention but from their own basic animal towardthesymbolas symbolrather natures (as Peter, one of "the than upon a whole dramaticstruc- people" is, until the end of the ture within which symbolismop- play, separated fromhis own anierates.The audience must identify mal nature). the symbolsand their equivalents The play opens upon Peter,who to work out the play's meaning. is seated on a bench in the park.As Symbol and meaning are, there- Albee tells us in his descriptionof fore,external to the play's design. the dramatis personae, Peter is Mourning Becomes Electra pro- "neither fat nor gaunt, neither vides an excellentexample. handsome nor homely." He is, in What marks The Zoo Storyas a fact,in no way distinctive. Peter is new developmentof our drama is the modernversion, middle-class in thewayin whichAlbee blends sym- stereotype, Everyman.He reads of bolism with naturalism to realize the "right" books, lives on the 10

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is side of the park,has the own physicality, furiousand "right" that should of and frightened a stranger averagenumber children, the "right"MadisonAvenuejob. tryto exposeit. ad in His is the New Yorker life to Peter,...
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