The Opening Scene of The Hairy Ape

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      The setting of the opening scene is not naturalistic but highly suggestive and expressionistic. The foremen’s forecastle (stokehole) is like a cage in a zoo where the stokers are forcibly dumped like wild animals. It is a cramped space where life is totally dehumanized. All the inhabitants are dressed in dungaree pants, heavy ugly shoes and almost stripped to the waist. The stokehole is a cramped space in the bowls of a ship, imprisoned by white steel. The ceiling crushes down upon the men’s heads which has badly bent their backs and impaired their natural posture.

      All the leading characters-yank, Paddy, Long-are introduces in the opening scene of the play. The theme of belongingness vis-a-vis characters is dramatized in it. Yank, the hero of the play, enjoys absolute power and authority over his fellow stokers. Unlike other stokers, Yank is presented as a highly developed individual who is proud of his indispensable position on the ship. He feels the ship is his only home and does not suffer from any sense of nostalgia. He belongs to the ship and never longs to return to his original home which he had left for good. Long is the potential voice of Marxian ideology of class struggle and workers’ alienation from their work.

      He is critical of the rich capitalists who ruthlessly exploit the poor workers for realizing their commercial interests. Paddy, on the hand, lives in the present but is always reminded of his happy youth and family Irish home. He is alienated in the present but mentally belongs to the past. For Paddy, life of the modem sailor is hellish and soul-killing. There is no meaningful interaction between man, ship (sea) and nature.

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