What is a plot? Discuss the plot of the drama The Hairy Ape.
Justify the plot of the drama The Hairy Ape.
Do you think that the plot of the drama The Hairy Ape is well-structured? Give reasons for your answer.
Is the plot of The Hairy Ape appropriate? Give reasons.
Answer: Aristotle defined plot as the “arrangement of incidents” and the “imitation of an action” which should have a beginning, a middle, and ending, related as cause and effect and unified in such a manner that removing or reordering any part would damage the whole. He considered plot the most important element of drama or epic. Plot is more than simply the series of happenings, in a literary work. It is the result of the writer’s deliberate selection of interrelated actions and choice of arrangement in presenting and resolving a conflict.
The plot of a drama should be aimed at focusing the theme. The theme of the drama The Hairy Ape is isolation or alienation, or the loss of the sense of belonging of Yank, the protagonist of the drama.
The drama consists of eight scenes, and the incidents of each of the scenes lead on to the incidents of the next scene, so that they are related to each other in a chain of causal relationship.
The first Scene is set in a large ship. A number of stokers all drunk, get together, and are drinking, talking, singing and jesting, producing a discordant noise. They all look like apes with long arms and hairy chests. Yank is the strongest of them all, and dominates them and tells them to stop because he is trying to think. All repeat his word in a sort of amused mockery, and start singing in a chorus, “Drink, don’t think.” A drunken stoker talk of home but Yank says that the ship is their home.
In the second Scene, we come to know about Mildred Douglas and her aunt. Mildred is a young lady of twenty, and her aunt is an old lady, fat, pompous and proud. There is no good relationship between them. Mildred is the daughter of a millionaire and has studied the living conditions of the have-nots, and want to help them. Though she has not the necessary strength and vitality to help them, she tries her best. She wants to study the conditions of the stokers and wants to visit the stokehole for that purpose. The second engineer who is to escort her down comes to her and warns her that it would be terribly hot in the stokehole, but Mildred does not mind. She bids goodbye to her aunt telling her not to pray too hard that she might fall into the fiery furnace.
In the stokehole, a line of men stripped to the waist is seen working hard. There is a tumult of noise, the brazen clang of the furnace doors as they are flung open or slammed shut. But there is order in it. When the workers rest for a moment, the engineer’s whistle sounds frequently to remind them that they must continue to feed the fire. The whistle irritates the workers. Yank brandishes his shovel over his head and pounds his chest with one hand like a gorilla and bursts out angrily, cursing the person who gives the whistle.
Mildred comes down with the engineer into the stokehole. She is horrified at Yank’s glare, which has abysmal brutality. She faints partly from fear and partly from the heat. She is carried out of the stokehole, when she utters, “Oh, the filthy beast”. Yank feels insulted and roars out “God damn, yuh.”
The fourth scene is the same as the beginning. Yank is found a changed man because of the insult. He is sitting moodily in the pose of a thinker, a brooding figure. All others have washed and cleaned themselves but Yank has not. Long, meanwhile, has gathered information about Mildred, and her purpose of the visit, which is to see the bloody animals who work for her father. He suggests going to the court of law. But Yank does not believe in such notions. He believes in taking personal revenge for the insult. Paddy instigates him into taking revenge, by saying something which he guessed, Mildred meant to say she had been a great hairy ape escaped from the zoo. Yank burst out into uncontrollable rage, swearing he would blow her brains out and teach her a lesson, for calling him a hairy ape. He rushes toward the door in rage, intending to go to her cabin and kill her there. But the others hold him back. Yank roars—”She had done me do it …. I’ll show her who is an ape”.
Thereafter, in the fifth Scene, we find Yank in the locality of the rich people, trying to find Mildred. Not finding her he attacks some people in the street. Somebody calls the police. Yank ‘is arrested and sent to jail on Blackwell’s Island.
In the sixth Scene, Yank is in a prison on Blackwell’s Island. He is sitting in his prison cell in the attitude of Rodin’s “The Thinker”. There are bruises on his face and blood-stained bandage round his head. The words “hairy ape” continues to torture him. He thinks that the place is a zoo, and they are animals in cages. He talks out loud; other prisoners hear him and laugh loudly at his thought. They ask him about what landed him in jail. He tells them he tried to get even with a girl who insulted him. He will have his revenge as soon as he is released. A prisoner suggests that he should join the organization called I.W.W.
In scene WI, Yank is released from the prison, and goes to join the I.W.W. The secretary thinks he is a spy and tells him to go back to whoever is giving him blood money for killing people. But seeing that Yank has gone into a stupor, he calls him a “brainless ape”, and ejects him out of the office. He feels like storming the door, but feels impotent and sits brooding there. A policeman comes and tells him to go away. Yank is found in the zoo in the next scene. A gorilla is squatting on a bench in the same way as Rodin’s “The Thinker”. Yank talks to it, about knocking the rich people out of the earth. He breaks the lock of the cage and addresses the gorilla as “brother”. The gorilla steps out, wraps his huge arms around him and crushes him hard. Yank falls down in a heap. The gorilla throws him into the cage, and walks off menacingly. Before dying, Yank says, “Christ, where do I get off at? Where do I fit in?” The author comments, “The Hairy Ape at last belongs.”
The plot of the drama thus reaches the author’s theme about Yank’s sense of alienation or not belonging to human society. It moves from Yank’s sense of belonging to the ship, through a sense of detachment from it to a doubt about his identity “Where do I fit in?”
From an analysis of the story, it becomes clear to the reader that the incidents and episodes in the present drama are logically, closely related to each other so as to create an impression of a single action. The plot is well-arranged by the dramatist so that from the beginning of the drama to its end, the theme flows through the incidents and character to it ultimate goal, just as a river, originating from a high mountain flo4vs through different places and ultimately reaches the sea, its ultimate goal.