Zoo Story - Existentialism

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Zoo Story - Existentialism

By | October 1999
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In a crowded city such as Manhattan, it was no wonder that a man like Jerry felt lonely. He was without a friend, a mother and father, and the typical “wife, two children, and a dog,” that many others had. Jerry was thrown in a world that he felt did not want him, and his human flaw of wanting to escape loneliness led to his tragic death. In Edward Albee’s play, The Zoo Story, all Jerry wanted was to be heard and understood, and in the end, after sharing his life story with a complete stranger, he got his final wish - death. The Zoo Story not only tells of the alienation of man in modern society, but also reflects the philosophy of twentieth century existentialism. Jerry made a conscious choice of wanting to end his life, while Peter, a man that chose to act as the “guinea pig” and stayed and listened to Jerry’s story, made a conscious choice of picking up same knife that killed Jerry. Although it was Peter who held the knife that killed Jerry, it was Jerry who took the responsibility to - despite great effort and pain – “wipe the knife handle clean of fingerprints” to allow no trace of the murderer. However, although Peter escaped without responsibility, he had to deal with the guilt that it was him who held the weapon that ended the life of Jerry. Peter had to face the rest of his life being aware of how others lived, and how one can feel so indifferent to the world yet live in the very same part of the city. Both Peter and Jerry had to accept that the world they lived in was a hostile universe. Peter led his life playing by the rules while Jerry decided to accept the cruelties of life the way they were. Peter found that to live in this hostile world, it was better to conform with society and, as Jerry accused him, “make sense out of things and bring order.” Both the men’s acceptance, however, led to the isolation of the individual, where Jerry felt alone not by choice, while...
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