The Role of Women in The Zoo Story
Although the women characters in "The Zoo Story" are never front and center staged, they have leading roles in shaping the conditions and sensibilities of Jerry and Peter. The women referred to by each of the male characters affects, or has affected, their perceptions and routines in life. Jerry has had many encounters with various women, while Peter speaks only of three. The quantity of women roles in each man's life is not the dominate cause of their behaviors; it is the quality of the women. In "The Zoo Story" the women "backstage" are unseen influences that cloud reality for Jerry and Peter.
The few women in Peter's life keep him relatively tamed. He is the male underdog of the household, surrounded by a wife and two daughters. Indicated by the dialog, Peter does not appear to be an assertive man. The women of the house are the dominate decision-makers. . .cats instead of dogs, two parakeets (one for each daughter), two television sets (one for the children). They represent the middle-class, happy family, always together and in agreement. Peter does not know the meaning of isolation except on every Sunday when he reads alone on a bench in Central Park that he picked without the influence of his wife and daughters. At his bench the women no longer have hold of his leash. Peter wanders into unknown territory in a conversation with Jerry. He is unfamiliar with the rough living conditions Jerry experiences. Peter's mild manner gradually becomes less tame with the encouragement of Jerry's wild and provocative manner He develops survival characteristics of an animal, defensive outbursts for his life and territory (the bench).
Jerry's confrontations with women are very short-termed, from the abandonment of his mother as a child to the one-time hourly visit from one of several whores. He remains a lone stray, isolated in life with resentment toward commitment and women. "You're married!" exclaims Jerry in disbelief, as if it is an uncommon ceremony. Marriage would be unheard of for Jerry considering the ...