Significant Themes and Symbols through the Zoo Story from Peter and Jerry

Themes and Symbols through the Zoo Story from Peter and Jerry

The zoo story is an American drama marked in a way in which Edward Albee blends symbolism with naturalism to meet his theme. Symbolism is a representation of an idea, person or thing by something else which is by some analogy or association. It implies to indirect suggestions of notions. The zoo story is part of the fabric of the play functioning within as well as expanding the surface meaning (Zinman). Moreover, the play utilizes the theme to bring out the plot. The theme used within the play is isolation, loneliness and social contract. The essay illustrates the major themes and symbolism used in the zoo story in the characters Peter and Jerry.

The major themes

The first theme of the zoo story is absurdity and reality. During the beginning of the play, Jerry opens up a conversation with Peter and then picks a topic with which Peter is familiar with such as family and career. Moreover, Jerry begins to bring out some strange comments and questions on the direction of the conversation between the two people who are trying to get to know one another. This is clear when Jerry, assuming that Peter does not like his daughter’s cat, asked whether Peter’s birds are deceased.  Peter, then responds by saying that ‘’ that’s too bad. If they did, you could set them loose in the house, and the cats could eat them and die, maybe.” The absurd and unreasonable situation in play begins to shakes Peter’s sense of reality and place.

The second theme used in the play is loneliness. In the play, Jerry is a lonely man as represented in the story. Ever since Jerry was a little boy, his mother had left him and later on his father died. For example, ‘’But good old Mom and good old Pop are dead … you know? … I’m broken up about it, too … I mean really.’’ Moreover, his aunt died on the day of his graduation from high school leaving him a sad, lonely man with nobody to talk to or share with. This kind of loneliness makes Jerry fill humiliated and wants to take his life though he is afraid to do so. However, he forces a person to do it, and this is Peter. Moreover, the theme of social contrast is displayed in the play. In the play, Jerry doesn’t discuss anything about the zoo to Peter but rather a random babbling about his life and the hardship that he goes through in life. In the play, Jerry tries to kill his land lady’s dog and fail in the process. Jerry has no friends or family to converse with which makes him be a social outcast in the society (Gussow).

Symbolism in the play

The author uses the symbol of a bench which is not the typical bench. The play opens up upon Peter who is seated on a bench in the park. He represents the present version in common stereotypes that blends easily into the brightly packed emptiness of the modern landscape. Therefore, the ‘bars’ which manages to separate Peter from his nature and other individuals are the material goods and the prefabricated notions surrounding him in his life. The bench symbolizes his comfort, stability and perhaps all the things that he has and enjoys in life. In the play, he’’ sits on this bench almost every Sunday afternoon, in good weather. It’s secluded here; there’s never anyone sitting here, so I have it all to myself (217).

The title of ‘’ The Zoo story’’ indicates that human beings are animals. Jerry tells Peter as the play ends that “You’re an animal too.” Moreover, the Zoo is the central symbol of the play and is an image of human isolation and the lack of contact and communication. The world is described as a zoo with individuals separated by bars and their animal nature. Therefore, it is evident that Jerry’s struggle with the dog represents his battle with the people. The author uses the dog symbolically as well (Zinman). Moreover, Jerry’s struggle to communicate with a dog at first politely and then by violence might represent a natural communication with people. For example in the play, if you can’t deal with people, you have to make a start somewhere. WITH ANIMALS! (163)


The Zoo Story is a play that uses various stylistic devices to represent the idea. There are significant themes and symbolism that is used in the story to bring about the opinions of the writer. For example, the theme of isolation is used to describe the nature and the kind of life that people are living in their natural habitat. Moreover, the author uses symbolism such as the Zoo, dog, bench, and others to give out a meaning. For example, the zoo is used to represent an image of human isolation and the absence of communication between the people.

Work cited

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