The Zoo Story by Edward Albee
In Edward Albee's play, The Zoo Story, Jerry tells Peter bizarre stories about people he has encountered that influence his shallow and lonely existence, to demonstrate Albee's view that society is unnecessarily consumed by indifference, unkindness, weakness, and emptiness. In an attempt to cause Peter to realize that his own life is filled with emptiness and shallowness, Jerry tells Peter about the lives of some of the people in his boarding house. He talks about the colored queen, the Puerto Rican family, the landlady, and the woman who cries all the time, in hopes of causing Peter to compare the meaninglessness of his life to their lives. In doing this, Jerry hopes Peter will realize that his life can have substance if he so chooses. Jerry is motivated to use his knowledge of the world around him to help Peter because he feels that it is important for him to use his observations to change the life of someone else for the better. He anticipates the vibrant attitude change that will consume Peter when he mentions early into their conversation that he will read about "it" in the papers tomorrow (Albee 15). Jerry is confident that he has what it takes to show Peter the light, and thus begins to tell him "The Zoo Story."
Some of Albee's negative views of society can be seen when Jerry describes the colored queen that lives in his apartment building. The colored queen is overly concerned with his outward appearance. Through Jerry's description of the queen, it becomes obvious that he is quite self-centered and narcissistic. According to Jerry, he usually has his door wide open, as if he is pleading for others to watch him. This is like many people in society who need constant attention in order to feel like they are important and full of self worth. They rely on how others perceive them instead of how they perceive themselves. Albee is commenting that people need to foster their inner selves in addition to what they allow others to see on the outside.
Another interesting piece of information that Jerry presents to Peter about the colored queen is that he always leaves the door open when he is plucking his eyebrows. Not only does this reinforce the fact that he is self-absorbed and materialistic, but it tells something about the inside of his persona as well. The act of plucking one's eyebrows is quite painful, and the fact that he leaves his door open when committing this act of self-mutilation reflects the idea that he wants society to be aware of his inner pain and strife. People are constantly looking for sympathy and for others to tell them that "everything will be all right." The colored queen is no different. He wants people to be aware that he feels pain. Keeping his door open shows that he, like the rest society, is crying out for help, and wants to be noticed and cared for.
While the colored queen represents the part of society that wallows in their own self pity, Albee points out...