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Essay: Marxism and Self-Consciousness in The Hairy Ape

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  • Published: 1 February 2018*
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  • Words: 1,183 (approx)
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  • Tags: Marxism essays

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Paste your essay in here… German philosopher, Karl Marx is an author of multiple published topics, such as the Communist Manifesto, and also opposed to capitalism in which he formed Marxism. Marxism is a system of economic, social, and political philosophy based on ideas that view social change in terms of economic factors. Marxism can be found as a theme in the play, The Hairy Ape (1921)) by Eugene O'Neill, where there finds tensions between bourgeoisie people and proletarian class people.

False-Consciousness in text

Throughout the play, the author introduces a main character named Yank. Yank is a leader amongst other stokers for a ocean liner, in which he consider themselves highly important people because they hold a lot of responsibility and work in order for the ship to function. This main character goes through several themes such as self-consciousness, which is introduced in Scene I. In this first scene, Yank conversates with the other firemen on the ship about how they should feel superior and not feel any less from the capitalist passengers. This is because they considered the ship their home due to spending all their time and effort working there. However, another fireman named, Long also adds on that the home was also known to be their hell because of the Capitalist passengers making them feel like slaves. As stated by Long, “They dragged us down ’til we’re on’y wage slaves in the bowels of a bloody ship, sweatin’, burnin’ up, eatin’ coal dust! Hit’s them’s ter blame—the damned capitalist clarss!” Long does not agree to the perception that Yank sees. This demonstrates self-consciousness because Yank believes that having to work on the ship means that they were chosen because they were more powerful and stronger even though most of the other firemen believe its just work. With that being said, one views it as to being honored to be working there because it proves they are capable of the physical dangers, whereas others view it as an animal-like zoo cage. As quote in Scene 1, “I’m thinking—caged in by steel from a sight of the sky like bloody apes in the Zoo! (With a harsh laugh.) Ho-ho, divil mend you! Is it to belong to that you’re wishing? Is it a flesh and blood wheel of the engines you’d be?(S” This was said by Paddy, another fireman which argues with Yank that working at the bottom of the ship is like living in hell. Yank then agrees but adds on that it takes real mean to work in hell. Overall, Yank does not realize he is being victimized by the system according to marxism. Instead, of supporting the idea of being enslaved on the bottom of the ship, as a leader he should speak to the owner and discuss on some benefits as a worker.

Self-Consciousness In The Real World

I believe we can find parallelism on self-consciousness between the characters in the play The Hairy Ape, and the real world such as women being expected as housewives and not having to work for themselves. The idea of being swept off by a rich wealthy man and not having to pay bills is false-consciousness especially for those who are proletarian class. The idea of masculinity being the primary role of everything would not be suitable for most women. Women of wealth who live off their husband can survive and happily live ever after but those below class cannot say the same. Yet, the society expcets women to find a man to help support their goals, it is best to also suggest to become an indepent woman. I think this can relate to The Hairy Ape because Yank believes himself highly like those who are Capitalist, just like women who are low class that just want to easily be swept off by rich men.

Alienation of the self in text

Yank finds himself to be isolated in several groups of society. The first one would start with his firemen crew in Scene I due to the repetitive times they mimic him when he announces what he perceives. For example, the VOICES stated “Don’t be cracking your head wid ut, Yank” and they repeat after him as a way of mockery which shows alienation from Yank. Although he is head of the group, they lack respect for him because of his nutty thought on being like the capitalists if not better. Another source I found this on the play is when Mildred, the daughter of the owner of Nazareth Steel calls him a filthy beast in Scene III. As stated, “Take me away! Oh, the filthy beast!…Rage and bewildered fury rush back on YANK. He feels himself insulted in some unknown fashion in the very heart of his pride. He roars:) God damn yuh!) She said this because after visiting the stokehole, Yank was mad that one of the engineers were whistling at the firemen to do their job, he believed he was the one in charge not the engineer; so he was frustrated and got violent. Mildred’s reaction was frightened and then fainted. He felt disrespected and misjudged after being told that by the daughter of the ship. The feeling of rejection from the upper class. He further talks about it in Scene IV when Paddy suggested to him that he was possibly in love and suggested the way Mildred seeing him as a hairy ape. Yank was tempered after hearing that and suggested to get his revenge with her. The next source of alienation found in this play is in scene V when he asks W.W.I. if he could be a part of the group to help destroy the upper class. The group had alienated him because that was not what their intentions were like. Lastly, in the last scene, Yank finds himself at a zoo talking to a real life ape and attempting to befriend the animal believing that they are the same. However the ape being an animal does not agree to this and murders him. Overall, many scenes I have discovered Yank to be alienated due to his lack of knowledge.

Alienation of the self in Real Life

People of color tend to alienate themselves by other people whether their white or of other different race. We usually think that people of our skin will more likely comprehend one another and understand the sufferings and successes. For example, majority of California’s population are Latino undocumented immigrants. Those have a job but are getting paid under the table are being alienated by the employers because they do not have a say or else they will get deported. Women alienate themselves from men who are anti-feminists. Trump for example, discourages the idea of abortion, and the ability to give women full equal rights, such as equal pay.

Marxism plays a big role even to this day, which is why this critique that we have learned throughout  play, The Hairy Ape by Eugene O'Neill is very vital and key for today’s society.

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