The Symbolic Setting in The Hairy Ape

Also Read

      The main setting of The Hairy Ape is the firemen’s (stokers’s) forecastle of a transatlantic liner. It looks like a cage stuffed with men - bewildered, furious, baffled defiance of a beast in a cage. The effect sought after is a cramped space in the bowls of a ship, imprisoned by white steel. The ceiling almost crushes upon heads of the stokers and they can hardly stand erect. This has badly damaged their natural posture and their backs and shoulders are badly bent and disfigured. All are dehumanized and look like hairy apes. All the inhabitants are dressed in dungaree pants, heavy ugly shoes and almost stripped to the waist.

      In the rear of the stokehole, there are dimly-outlined bulks of the furnaces and boilers. High overhead one hanging electric bulb sheds just enough light through the murky air laden with coal dust to pile up masses of shadows everywhere. A line of men, stripped to the waist, is before the furnace doors. They bend over, looking neither to right nor left, handling their shovels as if they were part of their bodies, with a strange awkward, swinging rhythm. They use the shovels to throw open the furnace doors. The men are outlined in silhouette in the crouching, inhuman attitudes of chained gorillas. The men shovel with a rhythmic motion. There is a tumult of noise-the brazen clang of the furnace doors as they are flung open or slammed shut, the grating, teeth-fritting grind of steel, of crunching coal. This clash of sounds stuns one’s ears with its rending dissonance. But there is order in it, rhythm, a tempo.

Previous Post Next Post