What do you know about stream of consciousness? Do you find any elements of stream of consciousness in The Hairy Ape?
Discuss the techniques of interior monologue or stream of consciousness as evinced in The Hairy Ape.
“The horror of the present day predicament of the individual has been powerfully depicted in The Hairy Ape.” Discuss.
Answer: “Interior monologue” and “stream of consciousness” are synonymous terms. It refers to “the presentation to the reader of the flow of a character’s inner emotional experience, or stream of consciousness at a particular moment. It attempts to represent the inner working of a character, the inner working of a character’s mind at all levels of awareness. It endeavors to recreate the continuous, chaotic flow of half—formed and discontinuous thoughts, memories, sense impressions, images, feelings and reflections that constitute a character’s consciousness.
The Hairy Ape is a play of interior monologue or stream of consciousness. The protagonist of the play is Yank. The action of the play is focused on the consciousness of Yank. With the help of this technique of interior monologue the dramatist has tried to lay bare the sufferings of the protagonist, his soul in anguish. There is a long interior monologue of Yank after he is ejected from the office of the I.W.W. It is a clever piece of psychological study on the part of the author. Yank’s feelings and thoughts at the moment, covering a large part of his experiences up to that point are laid bare.
He came to the I.W.W with the belief that he would be accepted as a member of that organization, but now he was rejected, and rudely ejected out of the office. Yank breaks into a long monologue:
“So these boys don’t think I belong, either. Oh, to hell with them. They’re in the wrong pew—the same old bull—Soap boxes and Salvation Army— no guts. Cut out an hour upon the job a day and make me happy! Give me a dollar more a day and make me happy! Three squares a day, and cauliflowers in the front yard—equal rights—a woman and kids—a lousy vote—and I’m all fixed for Jesus, huh? This thing’s in your inside, but it isn’t your belly. Feeding your face—sinkers and coffee—that doesn’t touch it. It’s a way down—at the bottom. … I’m a busted Ingersoll, That’s what I am. Steel was me, and I owned the world. Now I am not steel, and the world owns me. Oh, hell! I can’t see—it’s all dark, do you understand? It’s all wrong! … Say, you guys up there, Man in the Moon, you look so wise, give me answer, huh? Slip me the inside dope, the information right from the stable—where do I get off at, huh?”
Here Yank talks about the I.W.W. people, and realizes that they also do not think that he belongs. They are upper-class people, soapbox people, Salvation Army people, but they have no guts. Then his thoughts shift to his own job and his working hour. If they could give him a cut of an hour upon his working hour, he would be happy. If he were given a dollar more a day, he would have three square meals a day, and a vegetable garden in the front yard, and equal rights—a women and kind, a lousy vote, and then he will be prepared for paying homage to Jesus. But what is the benefit? His thoughts move from the satisfaction of the stomach to the devotion to Jesus.’ But then again he comes back to the physical matter. He says religious devotion does not satisfy the belly. It does not touch the belly. You can’t grab the stomach, you can’t stop it. It moves and everything moves. If it stops, everything stops. He now feels that he had come to that stage—he doesn’t tick, he doesn’t move. He is a busted Ingersoll now. Once he was the steel, and owned the world, but now the world owns him. He now feels utterly helpless. All is dark before him. Then his thoughts again shift, and now focus on the heavenly body, the moon. He addresses the imaginary man there, and tells him to give him dope, something to enable him to move forward.
In this way he goes on talking to himself, and the talk is an incoherent one as the interior monologue is supposed to be.
The scene with the gorilla is another example of interior monologue. There the gorilla is the only interlocutor. His talk with the gorilla indicates the complete disintegration of his personality. Yank stands in front of the cage, and talks at length to the gorilla who stands up as if to greet him. Yank addresses the gorilla with a long speech.
“Sure I get you. You challenge the whole world, huh? You’ve got what I was saying even if you clumsily utter the words. And why wouldn’t you get me? Aren’t we both members of the same club—the Hairy Apes?” After that he refers to Mildred, and tells the gorilla that she, the white-faced prostitute, saw him (the gorilla) when she looked at him in the stokehole. Then he changes his subject, and asks the gorilla if he knew what he was doing there. He informs the gorilla that he has been warming a bench down to the Battery—ever since last night. He saw the sun come up, a pretty sight, all red and pink and green. He was looking at the skyscrapers. Then he talks about steel, ships, and his co-worker Paddy and what Paddy said. After that, he asks the gorilla how he feels sitting in that cage all the time, and having to stand for them corning and staring at him. — The white-faced, skinny prostitutes, and the fools that marry them. Then he changes his subject and talks about the differences between the gorilla and himself. The gorilla can sit in the cage and dream of the past, green woods, the jungle and the rest of it. Then, he says, the gorilla belongs, but they do not. The gorilla can laugh at them, because he is the champion of the world. But Yank himself has no past to think about, nor anything about the future. He can think only about what he is now. But he can talk and think, and the gorilla cannot. He is neither in the world, nor in the heaven, but in-between trying to separate them, and taking all the worst punches from both of them. But the gorilla does not have to do it. He is at the bottom of the world. So he (gorilla) belongs, and he is the only one in the world that does belong. He is, therefore the lucky stuff.
We can understand that Yank’s mind is in a state of confusion. He seems to be carried away by his obsession, and finds himself as a hairy ape. He addresses the gorilla as his brother. He is absolutely haunted by the passion of revenge, and has lost the power of logical thinking or reasoning. His mind has been thrown off balance. He is now a completely alienated man. Even the ape does not accept him as somebody belonging to their species of animals. He, therefore, crushes Yank to death. Yank falls down in a heap. The gorilla takes him up, throws him into the cage and closes the doors and walks off menacingly. As Yank dies, he mutters that even the gorilla did not think that he belonged. Bewildered and in deep agony he asks, “Christ, where do I get off at? Where do I fit in?” As he dies in cage, the author comments, “The Hairy Ape at last belongs.”
The long monologue of Yank, a monologue which covers up the entire scene, gives a terrifying picture of a soul in agony. The reactions of the gorilla, carefully noted by the dramatist, impart realism and variety to the fantastic scene. Yank’s sense of alienation and his quest for identity result in spiritual disintegration and death.
The full horror of the present day predicament of the individual crushed by the machine age has been powerfully depicted by the author with the help of this technique of interior monologue or stream of consciousness.