Yank in The Hairy Ape

2500 Yank, at the beginning of the play is an ugly, squat, confrontational figure, the leader of all the firemen on board an un d steamship. He glorifies his strength and identifies himself with the machinery he serves. The play conveys a journey of transformations as this brutish, but sensitive low class everyman searches for a way to adapt to the economic, social and cultural realities of the 1920s New York. He does not reveal much about his roots, but it is evident that his childhood was painful. In the pauses between his parents’ incessant fighting during which furniture got broken, he was made to attend church every Sunday morning, only to be forced to run away after his mother’s death, when he could not handle any more of his father’s beatings. His troublesome beginnings have taught him that he will be forced to fend for himself in this cruel world. However, since man is a social being and thrives on the interaction with other members of the society, he needs to belong. Yank equates this highly relevant notion of belonging with power and importance. When he believes he belongs to something, he gains strength and feels almost invincible, but when he is rejected by a group, he feels terribly weak. He also associates this sense of belonging with the usefulness and functionality of an individual. For example, the firemen belong to the ship due to the fact that they are essentially responsible for the proper functioning of the ship. Despite the fact that he believes himself to be essential for this, the fact of the matter is that industrialization has reduced the human worker into a machine. The men are programmed to do one task, are turned on and off by whistles, and are not required to think independently.&nbsp.His lack of education and the initial lack of funds to provide himself with one have helped regress him to an ape like state, where workers are forced into jobs that require nothing but grunting and hard physical labor. Again, despite all of this, he does believe he has found a place to call home. This dream is shattered when Mildred Douglas, a jaded young society woman, visits the stokehole in search of a new experience and sees Yank. She is appalled, frightened, and cries out the words "filthy beast." Yank is destroyed psychologically by this experience because he is forced to reevaluate his existence by toppling the class structure and re-inscribing the importance and necessity of the working class. Mildred and Yank are representatives of the highest and lowest societal classes, but she is not the antagonist. Though Mildred has more education and cultural experience than Yank, she still cannot escape her cultural identity. Mildred describes herself as the waste of her father’s steel company, as she has felt the benefits, but not the hard work that brought them. She shares with Yank the need to find a sense of usefulness or belonging—the fate of both characters were decided before they were born. Thus, Yank and Mildred desperately search to find an identity that is their own. Class limits and determines both Mildred and Yank’s financial resources, educational opportunities, outlook on life, and culture.&nbsp.The Hairy Ape&nbsp.reveals how deeply and rigidly class is inscribed into American Culture and the cultural and financial boundaries it erects.