Character Analysis of the Play The Hairy Ape

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INTRODUCTION

      Yank is undoubtedly the most important and vibrant character in The Hairy Ape. He is the central uniting force in the play and constitutes its very fascination. All other characters like Paddy, Long, Mildred and her Aunt are artistically very desirable for the objective estimation of the character of Yank.

PADDY

      Paddy’s nostalgia is clearly dramatized in details in The Hairy Ape. He lives in the present but is deeply rooted in the past. He is a stoker on a transatlantic liner who is all fed up with this life of suffocation and humiliations. He finds himself totally alienated from the main stream of life as well as Nature. The ship, which Yank calls his home, is hell for Paddy. It is a life away from home, devoid of the basic needs of life.

      Paddy is always reminded of his Irish home which he had to leave due to extreme poverty. He never suffered from any sense of alienation in it. The image of his Irish home has always haunted his mind. He continues to be identified with it even after his absence from home. Paddy has presented a memorable picture of the days of youth in this play. It was the time of beautiful ships with tall masts, driven by strong and courageous sailors. They worked in pollution-free environments and enjoyed good health and natural postures. They belonged to the ship because they were properly looked after by their sympathetic employers. They had job satisfaction and enjoyed full freedom and self-respect. They were all romantic in nature and sang songs while sailing on ships. They loved Nature and felt perfectly at home in it. They nourished beautiful dreams and enjoyed warm sun-shine and inhaled pure air. They loved work and never suffered from any sense of boredom or alienation. There was a perfect co-ordination between man, ship and nature.

LONG

      Long is the symbol of radicalism in American politics. He believes in the Marxian philosophy of class struggle and deals with workers’ alienation in the Industrial Age. He is opposed to the exploitation of workers by the rich capitalists. He is totally identified with the working class and makes it conscious about its rights and privileges.

      Long believes in equality and is opposed to any kind of racial discrimination. For Long, all are born equal in the eyes of God. He blames the rich capitalists for treating the workers as petty wage slaves in the stokehole of a ship. He tells the stokers that Mildred has no right to insult the honest and dedicated workers. He persuades them to resort to legal remedies to punish the rude persons like Mildred and Engineers. He spares no efforts to arouse class-hatred in the hearts of the poor workers against the capitalists. Unlike Yank, he believes in getting the demands of the workers fulfilled by peaceful means. He warns Yank to avoid any direct confrontation with the church-goers because that would land him in trouble.

MILDRED DOUGLAS

      Mildred Douglas is the daughter of the President of Nazareth Steel, Chairman of the board of directors of the transatlantic liner. She is a girl of twenty, slender, delicate, with a pale, pretty face marred by a self-conscious expression of disdainful superiority. She appears fretful, nervous and dissatisfied, bored by her own anemia.

      Mildred is a symbol of the life of artificiality, false glamour and pretensions. She is a poseur who tries to present herself as a humanist in social life. She wants to “discover how the other half lives”. She tells her Aunt to give her “some credit of groping sincerity” in her social mission. Moreover, she would “like to be sincere, to touch life somewhere”. But she frankly admits that she has “neither the vitality nor integrity” to accomplish it. Though introvert, Mildred publicly claims herself to be a well-wisher of the poor. She is totally exposed when she faces Yank and calls him a hairy ape and is terrified beyond limits and instantly carried by the engineers from the stokehole. Her Aunt is right in repeatedly calling her a ‘poser’ who is unfit for any social work. She doubts her social service credentials which are only an eye-wash. Like her Aunt, Mildred is also a passive character who pretends to be very dynamic and socially enlightened. Mildred’s Aunt bluntly reminds her that she would “drag the name of Douglas in the gutter” and this turns out to be true in her very encounter with Yank in the stokehole.

MILDRED’S AUNT

      Mildred’s Aunt is the true specimen of the capitalist class. She is pompous and proud. She is a type even to the point of a double chin and lorgnettes. She is dressed pretentiously; as if afraid her face alone would never indicate her position in life. She is a surface character devoid of any depth and integrity. She is highly self centred and complex-ridden. She is anti-romantic who is least fascinated by the beauty of Nature.

      The Aunt is the symbol of lift of artificiality, afftctation and false glamour. She is conscious of her racial superiority and looks down upon those who are socially inferior to her. Unlike Mildred, she is never keen to know how ‘the other half’ lives in the society. She approves of the exploitation of the poor by the rich in a capitalistic set-up. She is a whimsical character who thinks smoking pipe is a sign of vulgarity. She is fully satisfied with her life and loves the life of luxury and exhibitionism.

      The Aunt has no doubts about the fake and hollow nature of Mildred’s character. She knows that Mildred is good for nothing and would ‘drag the name of Douglas in the gutter’ for her foolish social acts. She is also critical of her pose of eccentricity. She tauntingly calls her a ‘poser’ and has always doubted her tall social credentials. She has doubts about her sincerity and advises her to be as artificial as she is while interacting with workers in the stokehole.

CONCLUSION

      Yank is undoubtedly the most dominating character in The Hairy Ape. He constitutes its chief fascination and all other characters help us in understanding the complicated nature of this character. All the minor characters are either directly or indirectly connected with the character of Yank. Paddy’s nostalgia is clearly dramatized in details in The Hairy Ape. He lives in the present but is deeply rooted in the past. He is fascinated by the past because there was a perfect co-ordination between man, ship and Nature. Long believes in equality and is opposed to any kind of racial discrimination. For Long, all are born equal in the eyes of God. Unlike Yank, he believes in getting the demands of the workers fulfilled by peaceful means. Mildred is a symbol of the life of artificiality, false glamour and pretensions. She is a poseur who tries to present herself as a humanist in social life. Mildred’s Aunt is the symbol of life of artificiality, affectation and false glamour. She is conscious of her racial superiority and looks down upon those who are socially inferior to her.

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