A Zoo Story: Analysis of Jerry’s Character
Jerry, in Edward Albee’s play The Zoo Story, proves himself to be a very complex character. In the play, he does not explicitly reveal information about his past but, he does provide evidence for the kind of person he is which leads us to achieve a vague image of his past experiences (what made him the person he is). Jerry accents the relationships that he has with the people around him, such as his landlord, the landlord’s dog, and what he knows about his neighbors.
The way that he expresses his emotions towards these specific people leads the reader to make certain guesses about Jerry’s past and why he is the person that he has come to be. The character that Jerry talks about and explains the most is his landlord’s dog. He begins by explaining his instant relationship with the dog, one of pure defense: the dog would automatically attack Jerry when he entered the building but never when he would leave. Jerry, not explaining why he wanted the dog to be on good terms with him, tries to kill him with kindness by buying him hamburger meat.
Jerry’s persistence in trying to win the dog over shows how Jerry is looking for a relationship or friendship with the dog. This may lead the reader to think that Jerry is looking for any relationship as he does not seem to have very many. Jerry, noticing that the hamburger meat he bought did not change anything, tries to poison the dog with rat poison (which he claimed to have thought he had put a murderous portion of) but does not succeed. When Jerry hears how the dog is sick, he regrets his attempt and claims he truthfully wants the dog to survive so that he can see what their new relationship would be like.
This shows Jerry’s reaction to a failed relationship: he either wants the dog to die or he wants to continue trying t form a bond. After explaining the story about the dog to Peter, Jerry goes on a rant about how “…if you can’t deal with people, you have to make a start somewhere. WITH ANIMALS! ” This shows Jerry’s desperation for a friendship/relationship which leads the reader to realize that Jerry is a lonely person and might have been one for a lengthy amount of time. Jerry explains his relationship with his neighbors.
He tells Peter about the “colored queen”, the Puerto Rican family, and the crying lady on the third floor. He explains how he has no contact with the colored queen but he explains what he knows about him (he does so in a detailed way, accenting many actions of the colored queen), how the Puerto Rican family entertains a lot, how he has never seen the person living in the last room on their floor, and how the woman on the third floor is constantly crying. His description of all his neighbors shows how he observes them although he has no established relationship with them.
He explains how he wanted to tell his landlord “…Madam, I have myself to pray for, the colored queen, the Puerto Rican family, the person in the front room whom I’ve never seen, the woman who cries deliberately behind her closed doors…” This shows how although Jerry does not personally know his neighbors, he cares for them and often thinks of them and what could possibly be in his future in relation to them. Jerry seems to feel a large amount of hatred towards his landlord. He describes her as a “fat, ugly, mean, stupid, unwashed, misanthropic, cheap, drunken bag of garbage. The fact that he resents her drinking and her lustfulness may lead the reader to believe that she resembles another person that is or was in Jerry’s life that caused him trauma. Also, the fact that Jerry accents the way in which he avoids her shows that he might have had to deal with someone like her before and knows how to avoid her. Jerry gives Peter an overview of his sexual experiences, explaining how he has never had sex with a woman more than once (and therefore has not had time to develop a relationship with any of these women) and he briefly describes him relations with a Greek boy who he was in love with when he was fifteen.
This may lead to the notion of how he is trying to run away from homosexuality by explaining it briefly and by only have sexual relations with women (although they are brief and never last). Jerry, thus, can be depicted in many ways as a developed character, one of said ways being that he is lonely. He strives to find a relationship with someone, even a dog, although he might be rejecting some truth about himself. His past may have affected him in a way which caused him to have no relationships and avoid certain types of people. His loneliness may have caused him to indirectly commit suicide by running into his own knife.