The Hairy Ape: Play Scene 2 - Summary & Analysis

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      After two days the second scene opens on a section of the promenade deck of the liner of the first scene. Mildred Douglas and her Aunt are discovered reclining in deck chair. She is dressed in all white and looks as though “the vitality of her stock has been sapped before she had been conceived, her leisure-class lifestyle all poses and no substance, an artifice more bought than made. Mildred is a girl of twenty, slender, delicate, with a pale, pretty face marred by a self-conscious expression of disdainful superiority. She looks fretful, nervous and discontented, bored by her own anemia. Her aunt is a pompous and proud-and fat-old lady. She is dressed pretentiously, as is afraid her face alone would never indicate her position in life. Mildred is dressed all in white.


      Mildred and her aunt are involved in a revealing dialogue which shows that Mildred is interested in improving the conditions of the underdogs of American society. She has already to her credit a first-hand experience of their working condition while doing social service on New York’s East side. Presently she is allowed by her father to study the social conditions of this liner’s crew. She is eager to know how “the other half lives”. She wants to prove her social credibility in this sociological study. She is pretty serious about this project but lacks the desired strength to accomplish this stupendous task: “But I’m afraid I have neither the vitality nor integrity. All that was burnt out in our stock before I was born”. She is the by-product of the process of humanization initiated by the industrial growth of the nation. She frankly admits: “I’m a waste product in the Bessemer process like the millions. Or rather, I inherit the acquired trait of the by-product, wealth, but none of the energy, none of the strength of the steel that made it. I am sired by gold and damned by it.” Mildred’s Aunt dislikes “smoke of any kind” and finds nothing beautiful in it. Mildred dislikes her Aunt and remarks: “Do you know what you remind me of? Of a cold pork pudding against a background of linoleum tablecloth in kitchen of a - but the possibilities are wearisome”.


      Mildred’s aunt advises her to stick to the life of artificiality and give up the mask of humanism. She tells her: “Be as artificial as you are”. She doubts her “sincerity” and calls her a “poser”. She further tells her that she would “drag the name of Douglas in the gutter”. While waiting for the Second Engineer who will escort her to the stokehole, she visualizes the thrill she will have to be face-to-face with the stokers there. The Second Engineer unwittingly put the question whether she would find the stokehole hot. She informs the Engineer that she is not afraid of visiting it. Like her grand-father, she too wants to play with boiling steel. The Second Engineer advises her to put of her old coat lest her white clothes should be spoiled by oil and dirt. She proudly overlooks his advice and tells him that she has many dresses and that she will throw this one into the sea on her return. She is determined to wear this very dress: “I will wear this very dress and none other”. However, they head towards the stokehole.



      The Second Scene is exclusively devoted to the dramatization of the life of artificiality and vanity of the capitalist class. It highlights the life of luxury and wastages of the privileged class. O’Neill’s disdain for the idle rich is clearly expressed in this scene. Mildred Douglas and her aunt languish in luxury while engaging in inane banter.


      Mildred Douglas is symbolic of the life of artificiality and false glamour. She is a lifeless character who poses to be a dare-devil in life. Her quest to know how the “the other half lives” i.e. workers is only an eye-wash. She is a typical product of aristocracy which glorifies the life of artificiality and mannerism. She is filled with aristocratic pride and fake bourgeois humanitarianism.


      Mildred’s Aunt is a true symbol of aristocratic pride and superiority. She is pompous and proud and is dressed pretentiously. She loves the life of exhibitionism to satisfy her aristocratic ego. The Aunt is also the symbol of aristocratic isolationism. She looks down upon the poor workers and avoids interacting with them. She is class-conscious and is devoid of the spirit of humanism. She is also least concerned about the marginalized section of the society. She admits that the aristocratic class can never be sincere because of its commercial interests.

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