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Home » , , » Analyze the character of Mildred Douglas

Mildred Douglas is the pale and feeble daughter of the owner of Nazareth Steel. She is the representative of the higher class people and the cause of Yank’s mental torment. She has been lavishly spoiled and enjoyed every possible privilege money can buy. In college, Mildred studied sociology and is on a crusade to help the poor. Mildred has previously worked with disadvantaged people in New York’s Lower East Side. Mildred’s Aunt is accompanying her to Europe where she will embark on more service projects. While on the Ocean Liner Mildred asks permission to visit the lower portions ship to view how the “other half” (Yank and the firemen) live. As if on a trip to the zoo, she wears a bright white dress down into the stokehole, ignoring the Engineer’s warning that it will get dirty from the coal dust. 

Although Mildred should be considered the antagonist of The Hairy Ape, she is equally victimized by class as Yank. 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 was decided before they were born. Thus, Yank and Mildred desperately search to find an identity that is their own. 

The failure of both these characters lies in their conscious and unconscious refusal to shed their values and knowledge while searching for a new identity. For example, Mildred will not change out of her white dress and Yank’s coal dust is saturated into his skin. In scene II we are introduced to Mildred Douglas and her aunt. Like the other stokers, they too have not been individualized. They are simply the representatives of artificial, exhausted, and enervated -capitalists. They are the svr2bo!s of artificiality, ease, and luxury. Mildred has been introduced sot for herself, but to give a shock to Yank which will shake his identity. This shock shatters his sense of complacency. The confrontation between Mildred and Yank represents the - climax or crisis of the play. Once Yank’s idea of belonging is shattered, Mildred has vanished from the play as her function is over. But the confrontation with her has caused a serious traumatic injury to Yank. He feels hurt in the very heart of his pride. 

Mildred and Yank are representatives of the highest and lowest societal classes—as Long would term it, the bourgeois and the proletariat. However, while Mildred and Yank’s lifestyles are extremely different, they share similar complaints about class. Mildred describes herself as the “waste product” of her father’s steel company. She has reaped the financial benefits of the company but has felt none of the vigor or passion that created it. Mildred yearns to find passion—to touch “life” beyond her cushioned, bourgeois world. Yank, on the other hand, has felt too much of the “life” Mildred describes. Yank desires to topple the class structure by reinscribing the importance and necessity of the working class. Yank defines importance as “who belongs"


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