The Hairy Ape: Play Scene 4 - Summary & Analysis

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      SCENE IV is set in the firemen’s forecastle. Yank has not washed either face or body. The next scene finds Yank seated like “The Thinker” in a section of jail cells which “disappear in the dark background as if they ran on, numberless, into infinity”. Yank touches the prison bars and says, “Steel.” acknowledging the irony of being trapped by the modem machine that had once defined him. He stands out in contrast to them a brooding figure careless about himself. The others, most of them smoking pipes, are staring at Yank half-apprehensively, as if fearing and outburst.


      Yank is insulted beyond limit by Mildred who called him a “hairy ape”. He feels that his image is lowered in the eyes of his fellow-stokers. As he wants to think, he has no desire to inter-act with them. He is not thinking about the past, but is contemplating to seek revenge on Mildred. The Voices repeat the word “think” after him in a cynical mockery. They laugh as if they were barking in a chorus. Yank repeats that he wants to “tink” and warns them not to disturb him. Seeing ank in a mood of anger, the stokers prefer to be silent. Soon Yank resumes the Posture of “The Thinker”.


      The stokers are stunned by his whimsical behavior. They leave him alone to avoid his fury. Paddy says that Yank is in love with Mildred, and others repeat the word “love” in a mocking tone. Accused by others of having been infatuated by the fleeting sight of Mildred, Yank lashes back: “Love, hell, Hate, dat’s what. I’ve follen in hate, get me”. But all the cocky bravado is gone. Long says that by passing an indecent remark against Yank, Mildred has humiliated all the stokers. He is also critical of engineers who have willfully made the plight of the stokers public. They are not monkeys kept in menagerie, observes Long. The radical Long lets him know. Finally realizes he is trapped in the iron cage of capitalism. He All the persons who work on the liner owned by her millionaire father is the slave of his family. Long cites the service agreement which does no empower the employer to insult his employees. He argues that it a fit case of filing a suit against Mildred for hurting their prestige. Yank asks Long not to make the mockery of law: “Hell Law” and other stokers repeat the word “law” in a tone of cynical mockery and laugh. Cornered, Long admits they can force the governments to ensure them legal protection. But Yank and other stokers tell Long that they have no faith in governments which are anti-workers. Yank instantly remarks: “Hell. Governments”. He rubbishes Long’s contention that they are “free and equal in the sight of God”. He asserts that he has no faith in God or religion. For Yank, workers have no say or identity in any capitalistic set-up in the world.


      Yank ridicules Paddy’s explanation that he is in love with Mildred. He is determined to take revenge on Mildred for calling him a “hairy ape”: “I’d square be square wit her, wouldn’t I? Tink I wanter let her put some’n over me? Tink I am goin’ to let her git away wit dat stuff?..I’ll fix her!” For the stokers, Yank’s reaction is a mere ‘joke” and it will add to his frustration. Any subsequent indecent act on the part of Yank will force Mildred to fling him in the furnace.



      The theme of belongingness is further extended in the third scene of the play. Yank’s humiliation at the hands of Mildred in the stokehole shocks his sense of belongingness. He is self-lost and dejected and is seen in the “exact attitude of Rodin’s The Thinker”. Yank contemplates new ways of taking revenge on Mildred. He is all isolated from other hilarious stokers and wants to think to settle scores with her. He is determined to “fix” her at any cost and let her know who is “a hairy ape”.


      Yank’s is now being openly challenged by the fellow-stokers after his public grace at the hands of Mildred. He is no longer a source of terror in their eyes. He loses his unchallenged stature as a chorus leader.

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