Yank as a Modern Day Oedipus in O' Neill's Play, The Hairy Ape

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Yank as a Modern Day Oedipus in O' Neill's Play, The Hairy Ape

The representation of tragedy today has adapted itself to more humanistic, base and symbolic concerns. Often, they are commentaries on society just as much as they are on the nature of man. Although O' Neill insists that his play "The Hairy Ape" is not a tragedy, but rather a dark comedy, the play follows the definition of a tragedy. The basic points that make up a tragedy still remain the same, even if they have to be slightly modified to be relevant to today's audience. Despite this, The Hairy Ape bears a striking resemblance to the quintessential Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex.

The only direct challenge to the Aristotelian definition of tragedy is the portrayal of the
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YANK : ...I wished it'd banged her! I wished it'd knocked her block off.
LONG : And be 'anged for murder or 'lectrocuted? She ain't bleedin' well worth it.
YANK : I don't give a damn what! I'd be square wit her, wouldn't I? Tink I wanter let her put somep'n over on me? Tink I'm gonna let her git away wit that stuff?

This is one of the most telling sections of the play. Long is the voice of reason. He recognizes the concept of law and weighs decisions inside the context of such. Long sees his life as more important than Mildred and her actions are. Yank however, does not merely want revenge on Mildred. For Yank, the only important thing is his sense of self respect. He isn't going to let her put "somep'n" over me. Ironically, Long's declaration that Yank would be "'anged or 'lectrocuted" is only half true. Yank does indeed die at the end of his search to reclaim his dignity and identity, but in accordance with his final realization that he is merely a brute, animalistic being, he is killed by and as such.

Oedipus may literally be of noble stature, but Yank is "noble" in a psychological sense. Yank sees himself in a lofty and admirable position - this is his sense of self. This self-pride is Yank's equivalent of Oedipus noble status. There are few "nobles" in modern day, and in response, modern tragedies have reverted back to the core theme of a tragedy - the transition of man into a higher level of
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