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A Society that Invites Violence: Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2016, 29(2), pp.27-56
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Kim Young Ji 1

1강원대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper aims to investigate the structural causality of violence in Edward Albee’s The Zoo Story(1959), that characterizes the 1950s of American society. Albee’s play portrays the fragmented phenomena of human relationships in reverse proportion to the economic development. As a preceding study, the theory of Rene Girard is taken into consideration, which suggests the origin of human violence and the scapegoat principle, in order to discuss in detail the operational principle of psychological violence. In The Zoo Story, Albee suggests the dignity of modern human beings hurt by social absurdities. Jerry and Peter are deprived of emotional stability due to the materialistic values of the community forced by American society. However, Jerry recognizes this social absurdity and tries to break free, whereas Peter turns away from his reality and gets intoxicated from the illusion caused by his social status so that he is involved in the psychological violence directed toward himself as well as the whole community. Jerry feels it urgently that he should propose an upright direction for Peter who leads an alienated situation just like his own. Jerry makes an effort to elicit a true reaction from Peter even through a violence by mimetic instinct, but when all of his plans fail, he chooses his own death as a last resort. Jerry is convinced that his death will liberate Peter from an isolated life, and at the same time, he hopes to be remembered as an origin of voluntary sacrificial violence for preventing violence, to the whole American society including Peter. Albee dramatizes the absurd systematic violence prevalent in the first half of 20th century American society through his literary work which pictures the innocently sacrificed lives of human beings. He agrees with the effect brought about by the scapegoat theory of Girard but also claim that the emotion of absurdity toward social violence must be overcome through solidarity between the communities as well as through the individual will, which avoids resorting to violence.

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