Study Guide

The Zoo Story Family

By Edward Albee


You don't get any family members on stage in The Zoo Story, but family—or the absence of family—flutters about the edges of the play like one of Peter's pet parakeets. (Squawk! Caw!) Peter has a typical family—wife, daughters, pets. Jerry has nothing except for some extra picture frames. Jerry seems to envy Peter his family—and Peter, maybe, envies Jerry because he doesn't have a family, or at least because he isn't boring the way people with normal families are considered boring. "Family" in the play means "normal": Peter is, Jerry isn't, and both sort of wish they could switch (though Peter's probably happy enough at the end of the play that he isn't Jerry, what with all the blood and everything). Does anyone smell a Freaky Friday sequel, or is it just us?

Questions About Family

  1. Does Jerry see Peter as a substitute family? Explain your answer.
  2. Is Peter happy with his family? What hints are there that he is or isn't?
  3. How would the play differ if it included Peter's daughters or wife?

Chew on This

The play is contemptuous of typical, boring families.

The play is envious of typical, boring families.