Zoo Story

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A: Edward Albee Pf: 1959, Berlin; 1960, New York Pb: 1960 G: Drama in 1 act S: Central Park, New York, c.1958 C: 2mPeter, a publisher in his early forties, is sitting on a park bench reading a book as he does every Sunday afternoon. Jerry, a scruffy individual in his late thirties, enters and strikes up a conversation with Peter, announcing that he has come from the zoo and that Peter will ‘see it on TV tonight’. He probes Peter's life and establishes that Peter has a settled bourgeois existence, married with two daughters, owner of parakeets and cats. By contrast, Jerry has no family and lives in a tiny room in a brownstone rooming house. His ‘fat, ugly, mean, stupid’ landlady lusts after him, and her dog always tries to bite him. So Jerry insists on telling Peter at length ‘The Story of Jerry and the Dog’. After failing to win over the dog with kindness, he tries to poison the dog. The hideous creature recovers, but no longer attacks Jerry. Feeling somehow threatened by Jerry's crazy story, Peter now does not want to hear the ‘zoo story’. Jerry starts to shove Peter off his bench, telling him to sit elsewhere. When Peter indignantly refuses, Jerry begins to fight with him. Jerry throws Peter a knife, and while Peter holds it defensively, Jerry rushes on to its blade and kills himself. As he dies, he finishes the zoo story: that at the zoo he decided to walk until he found someone like Peter. He urges Peter to go home to his parakeets and dies, uttering: ‘Oh…my…God.’Albee's first play launched his reputation as a significant new playwright. Although often described as absurdist, the action is entirely plausible as a piece of realistic theatre. There are wider issues though: Peter is the quintessential settled middle-aged American, who is jolted out of his uneventful and complacent life by the maverick Jerry. Beyond this, it is possible to see Jerry ( = Jesus?) as spirituality being betrayed and martyred by Peter's lack of caring.

A: Edward Albee Pf: 1959, Berlin; 1960, New York Pb: 1960 G: Drama in 1 act S: Central Park, New York, c.1958 C: 2m

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

Reference entries

Edward Albee (b. 1928) American dramatist

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