Questions on The Zoo Story
by Edward Albee
- Albee has been described as a leading figure of the
new drama of the absurd that mingles the realistic with
fantasy to present a savagely satirical attack on
spiritual sterility, blandness, conformity, and
hypocrisy, and to summon up with deep feeling the tragedy
of alienation. What aspects of this
description apply to Zoo Story?
- How does the blend of realism and symbolism in this play
compare with The Glass Menagerie and The
School? Look carefully for symbolic details
throughout the play.
- What do Jerrys comments about his family
background, and his dead parents in particular, reveal
about his character?
- What is the significance of the title of this play?
Does the play suggest that human beings are like
caged and isolated animals in any way? Can Peter be
said to live in a metaphorical zoo?
- Why is Jerry associated with a dog and Peter with a cat?
What similarities or overlapping is there in the
animal images associated with both of them?
- What mythological and Biblical parallels are suggested by
Jerrys language as he describes his life (and by
Peters name)? Several critics have viewed
Jerry as a Christ figure, a Christ parody, and a Jeremiah
who denounces false gods. What do you think of
- What differences between Jerry and Peter are emphasized
by their living conditions, their language, and their
methods of telling stories?
- What is the significance of the props associated with
each character: Harrys knife and Peters
- What are the parodies of sexuality associated with Jerry
and how do they compare with the sexual and domestic
realities of Peters life?
- Can Jerry and Peter be seen as two sides of the same
coin, representing different manifestations of sterility
in modern society?
- How does the play suggest that animalistic violence lies
beneath a thin veneer of civilization in modern society?
What is your reaction to the end of the
play? Does Peter release Jerry from his hell at the
Study Questions on The
by Donald Barthelme
- Who is the speaker in this story? What kinds of
attitudes are conveyed by the speakers style and
- The speaker seems to be addressing a particular audience
(as in a dramatic monologue like The Love of of J.
Alfred Prufrock). What effect does this have
on our reactions to the story?
- What events have made this a strange year at
the school? How does the speakers
matter-of-fact tone affect our view of these events?
How are we affected by reviewing these events in
the context of an elementary school?
- Barthelme is a master of metafiction, a
worldwide movement in the twentieth century that involves
writing about fiction in the form of fiction. In it
authors draw attention to the deception inherent in all
fiction, including more traditional types that presume to
tell us what is real or true. Metafiction provokes
us to ask questions about when we are truly ourselves,
truly authentic. One answer is: when we are posing,
telling stories, making fictions. Metafiction has
its realistic dimension, conveying something of the
actualities of life experience as well as something about
the nature of fiction. What elements of this story
draw attention to the artificiality of fiction, or the
devices of storytelling?
- How realistic are the questions about life and death and
sex supposedly repeated from the children?
- Why are the questions about sex used to end the story
after a narration primarily about death? Why do the
children say a demonstration of lovemaking would be an
assertion of value?
- What is the effect of the ending of the story? Is
it optimistic or do you have pessimistic expectations
about the new gerbil? What is suggested by the
childrens wild cheering in spite of their
experience with and questioning of death?
- What kinds of questions about the purpose and nature of
education, or about teacher-student relations, are raised
in this play?
- Barthelmes stories often use fantastic humor marked
by a straightforward presentation of absurdly grotesque,
illogical, and meaningless matters as if to indicate that
their world, and therefore our own, is wholly irrational.
How does this description apply to The School?
to Study Question Index