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m EXPRESSIONISM IN ‘THE HAIRY APE’

m EXPRESSIONISM IN ‘THE HAIRY APE’

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05/12/2014

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859
Shodh, Samiksha aur Mulyankan (International Research Journal)—ISSN-0974-2832
 
Vol. II, Issue-6 (Feb.09-April.09)
Expressionism was a new technique used in thedramas of Stindberg. Expressionism became atheatrical movement round about the First World War.It was a movement in the world of arts in Germany. Itwas in its height between 1910 and 1925. It began inpainting and quickly spread to include literature, musicand architecture. It is a literature of the extreme, aliterature of rebellion. The precursors, in painting, wereVincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and the NorwegianEdward Munch. The precursors, in literature, wereFrench poets Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud,the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, the Germanphilosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and above all theSwedish dramatist August Stindberg. Expressionismwas never a well-defined movement. However, theprominent feature is a revolt against the artistic andliterary tradition of ‘realism’, both in subject matterand style. The expressionist undertakes to express apersonal vision of human life and human society.Drama was a prominent and widely influentialform of expressionist writing. Expressionist dramatisttended to represent anonymous human types insteadof individual characters. They replace plot by episodicrenderings of intense and rapidly oscillating emotionalstates. The dialogues are often fragmentary.Expressionism, in theatre, was an attempt to break theossified mould of naturalism and bring in a little breathof fresh air. The critic R.S. Furness makes the followingobservation regarding the spirit of expressionism:“The soul under stress, racked and burning in fearfulincandescence – this preoccupation may be calledexpressionist”.The literary elements like plot, characters, anddialogues undergo a change in the expressionisticplay. In structure it avoids the neat pattern of causeand effect. It has a number of short scenes. Each sceneis almost detachable from the rest. It there is any logic,it is the logic of a dream. The technique is extremelysubjective regarding characters. The mind of onecharacter is explored in depth while others are reducedto types. These types may be projections of thecentral character or aid in the revelation of thatcharacter.Further, the language of the expressionistic playis highly personal, lyrical and condensed. Theexpressionist dramatist uses telegram-like style inwhich syntax is compressed. There is, always,identifying characteristic intense feeling. Theexpressionist does not make a statement. It is thedisturbing quality of language that arrests theattention of the audience. The use of non-literarydevices like sound, lighting, and setting is anotherimportant aspect of expressionistic aspect of expressionistic play. They are used to communicatethe new vision of life. Some characters put on masks,paint themselves in outrageous colours.Expressionism had begun to flag by 1925 and wasfinally suppressed in Germany by the Nazis in theearly 1930s. But it has continued to exert influence onEnglish and American, as well as European, art andliterature. We can recognize its effects, direct orindirect, on the writing and staging of such writers asThornton Wilder, Arthur Miller, and Eugene O’Neilland so on. Expressionism is a dramatic techniquewhich enables a dramatist to depict ‘inner reality’,the soul or psyche of his personages. O’Neill beganhis career as a writer of realistic plays. But in
TheEmperor Jones
and
The Hairy Ape
he has adoptednon-realistic methods. The realistic technique has notbeen entirely abandoned but they have been used toserve non realistic purposes. Thus in the openingscene of 
The Hairy Ape
the setting has beenrealistically given. But the dramatist warns us, “Thetreatment of this scene, or of any other scene in theplay, should by no means be naturalistic. The effectsought after is a cramped space in the bowels of aship, imprisoned by white steel”. Thus the realisticsetting is intended to create an impression in themanner of an expressionist.The stokers have also been realisticallydescribed. Yank is the representative of a class. Heserves to create the impression of man as hairy ape.He symbolizes the primitive, the animal like in man.The scene no. ii is also symbolic. The characters,Mildred and her aunt are symbolic of the artificialityand enervation caused by the contemporarymechanized and materialized urban life. Thedescription of the inhabitants of the Fifth Avenue inScene V is equally expressionistic. Eugene O’Neillhas provided a detailed description. There is thedistortion of reality so characteristic of anexpressionistic play. By this time, Yank’s self-
EXPRESSIONISM IN ‘THE HAIRY APE’
* Satish Dange
* Lecturer, Jai Kranti Arts College Latur, (Maharashtra)

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