Study Guide

The Zoo Story Language and Communication

By Edward Albee

Language and Communication

The play is called The Zoo Story, but Jerry never actually tells you what happens at the zoo. That's how communication works in this play—poorly. Jerry babbles on and Peter doesn't understand him, and then there's more babbling and less understanding, and then there's sadness and screaming, all culminating with blood on the bench. Part of what's absurd about the Theater of the Absurd is that language doesn't work right; instead of giving you insight and knowledge, it just gives you confusion and discomfort. Language in the play seems designed to isolate you—which is maybe why Jerry feels the best form of connection he can hope for is to have somebody stab him. Uh… yeah, that makes total sense.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. Peter doesn't understand Jerry, but does Jerry understand Peter? Explain your answer.
  2. Albee first saw his play performed in German; he didn't understand it. Would the play make less or more sense if you saw it in a language you don't speak? Explain your answer.
  3. Does Jerry communicate with his landlady's dog? Explain your answer.

Chew on This

Jerry wants to be understood.

Jerry does not want to be understood.