The Hairy Ape

by

Eugene O’Neill

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The Hairy Ape: Scene Five Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Long takes Yank to Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan three weeks later. The streets are clean and empty, as everybody is at church. Unlike Long, who has cleaned his face and is dressed in “shore clothes,” Yank is still in his filthy work clothes and hasn’t shaved or fully washed away the dirt around his eyes. “Well,” Long says, “’ere we are. Fif’ Avenoo. This ’ere’s their bleedin’ private lane, as yer might say. We’re trespassers ’ere. Proletarians keep orf the grass!” Looking down, Yank notes that he doesn’t see any grass, though he does point out that the sidewalk’s so clean “yuh could eat a fried egg offen it.”  He then impatiently asks where all the people like Mildred are, and Long tells him they’re in church.
In this scene, Long references the communist idea that society is made up of two classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Walking around Fifth Avenue in New York—home to some of wealthiest people around—he and Yank feel like trespassers in their own country, as if they don’t belong simply because they are poor. And yet, the bourgeoisie require people like them to do the hard physical labor that earns them so much money. On another note, Yank’s profound lack of intelligence comes to the forefront of the play in this moment, as he fails to grasp that Long is speaking metaphorically when he says, “Proletarians keep orf the grass!”
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Yank says that he used to go to church as a kid, since his parents made him, though they never went themselves. He tells Long that his parents used to fight with one another quite frequently, getting drunk and tearing up the entire house with their violence. When his mother died, he says, he ran away and started working as a stoker. “I ain’t never seen dis before,” he says, referring to Fifth Avenue. “De Brooklyn waterfront, dat was where I was dragged up. Dis ain’t so bad at dat, huh?” he says. In response, Long says, “Not bad? Well, we pays for it wiv our bloody sweat, if yer wants to know!” 
Again, Long tries to emphasize the fact that he and Yank are the ones who put in the work—as oppressed proletarians—that allows the bourgeoisie to lead such clean, stylish lives. Nonetheless, Yank is uninterested in his friend’s political ideas, instead talking about his own history and, in doing so, making it clear that his aggressive and violent tendencies have arisen from an entire lifetime of tumult.
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Yank grows impatient because he doesn’t see anyone who looks like Mildred, but Long tells him to wait. I don’t wait for no one,” Yank replies. “I keep on de move.” To convince him to stay, Long reminds him that he wants to get back at Mildred, and Yank recounts how he tried to catch up with her once the ocean liner reached shore. Sneaking onto the dock, he waited for her so that he could spit in her face, but a group of police officers saw him and forced him to leave. “Yer been lookin’ at this ’ere ’ole affair wrong,” Long says. “Yer been actin’ an’ talkin’ ’s if it was all a bleedin’ personal matter between yer and that bloody cow. I wants to convince yer she was on’y a representative of ’er clarss. I wants to awaken yer bloody clarss consciousness.”
When Long says that he wants to “awaken” Yank’s “clarss consciousness,” he reveals that he isn’t bringing his friend to Fifth Avenue so that he (Yank) can spit in Mildred’s face, but because he wants to show him the broader framework of their oppression. Indeed, Yank has been looking at the entire “affair” in the “wrong” way by focusing on Mildred, who is only a “representative” of the bourgeoisie and the ways in which they don’t truly care about people like Long and Yank, whom they actually depend upon in order to continue making money.
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As Long and Yank wait for church to let out, they look into the windows of nearby storefronts and marvel at the opulent goods displayed therein. Long, for his part, is appalled by the diamonds they see in a jeweler’s window, saying that one of the rocks could feed an entire family for a year. Yank, on the other hand, is uninterested in this kind of talk, saying, “Aw, cut de sob stuff!” He then says, “Say, dem tings is pretty, huh?” Adding to this sentiment, he upholds that such things “don’t count,” so Long takes him to the window of a furrier and says, “And I s’pose this ’ere don’t count neither—skins of poor, ’armless animals slaughtered so as ’er and ’ers can keep their bleedin noses warm!”
It isn’t readily apparent what Yank means when he says that diamonds and riches “don’t count,” but it’s reasonable to assume that this is his way of dismissing the problem of class disparity in order to focus on his personal vendetta with Mildred. Indeed, Yank is only concerned with asserting himself and establishing his self-worth, and so he chooses to ignore the political and socioeconomic implications of his unfavorable situation. This is why Long takes it upon himself to show his friend the frivolous spoils of the capitalist class. 
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Looking into the furrier’s, Yank is startled to find a monkey fur coat selling for $2,000. “It’s straight enuf,” Long assures him when he asks if the coat really costs that much. “They wouldn’t bloody well pay that for a ’airy ape’s skin—no, nor for the ’ole livin’ ape with all ’is ’ead, and body, and soul thrown in!” he tells Yank, who is suddenly enraged. “Trowin’ it up in my face!” Yank yells. “Christ! I’ll fix her!”
Finally, Long manages to impress upon Yank the injustice of the capitalist class. He does this by forcing his friend to look at a fur coat, which is more highly valued by the bourgeoisie than people like Long and Yank themselves. However, although Long succeeds in getting him riled up, it’s worth noting that Yank is still fixated on taking revenge upon Mildred, saying, “I’ll fix her!” instead of acknowledging that she is, as Long has said, merely a “representative” of her class.
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When church finally lets out, the streets fill with wealthy people. Sensing that Yank is about to become aggressive, Long says, “Easy goes, Comrade. Keep yer bloomin’ temper. Remember force defeats itself. It ain’t our weapon. We must impress our demands through peaceful means—the votes of the on-marching proletarians of the bloody world!” Yank can’t believe his ears, saying that voting is a “joke.” Calling Long “yellow,” he asserts that he himself is nothing but pure “force.” As he says this, he tries to put himself in the way as rich people pass him, but no one even acknowledges his presence. “Say, who d’yuh tink yuh’re bumpin’?” he says when someone brushes by him. Insisting that the police will soon descend upon them, Long says this isn’t what he had in mind. “And whatever ’appens, yer can’t blame me,” he adds as he leaves.
The audience sees the fundamental difference between Long and Yank in this scene, as the two men reveal the ways in which they confront injustice. Long, for his part, believes in the power of legitimate political action and organization, insisting that “force defeats itself” when it comes in the form of violence. Yank, on the other hand, doesn’t know how to handle a situation like this without resorting to aggression. Indeed, he fails to see that his violent anger will do nothing but get him in trouble. As such, his stupidity and his unflinching vanity get in the way of his ability to combat injustice.
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After Long leaves, Yank tries to pick fights with the wealthy people, yelling that they “don’t belong.” “See dat building goin’ up dere?” he says. “See de steel work? Steel, dat’s me! Youse guys live on it and tink yuh’re somep’n. But I’m in it, see!” Paying no attention, a group crowds around the furrier’s shop, as one woman gasps, “Monkey fur!” in admiration. Enraged, Yank tries to rip a lamppost from the sidewalk, and as he does so, a rich man runs into him while chasing a bus. “At last!” Yank says, punching the man in the face with all his strength. Nonetheless, “the gentleman stands unmoved as if nothing ha[s] happened,” and says, “I beg your pardon. You have made me lose my bus.” With this, the man calls out for the police, and “a whole platoon” suddenly descends upon Yank and beats him to the ground.
Long’s idea that “force defeats itself” comes to full fruition in this moment, as Yank’s strength does nothing to change his situation. Rather absurdly, he tries to rip a lamppost out of concrete—an incredibly futile endeavor. What’s more, when he finally punches a rich person straight in the face, the man remains unharmed. In fact, Yank’s violence isn’t even what attracts the attention of the police officers. Indeed, the man he hits doesn’t alert the police because of Yank’s violence, but because Yank has disrupted his everyday life by causing him to miss his bus. In this way, O’Neill suggests that the most effective way to unsettle the bourgeoisie is by interfering with their otherwise comfortable and uninterrupted lives of opulence and ease.
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