• Theater
  • English & Literature
  • Grades 9-12

Broken Worlds
What parallels can be drawn between The Hairy Ape and A Streetcar Named Desire?

In this 9-12 lesson, students will conduct a comparative analysis of Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape and Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Students will discuss, debate, and write about the provocative parallels and themes between the dramatic scripts. Students will culminate their understanding by integrating visual and aural expressionistic devices into a script.

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Lesson Content

Learning Objectives 

Students will: 

  • Analyze how societal issues can be the centerpiece for themes and forms in drama. 
  • Probe specific ways philosophical and psychological theories shape themes and forms of drama.
  • Explicate the power of visual and auditory expressionistic elements to help shape set design, narrative, characterization, and theme in the building of dramatic scripts.
  • Craft essays of critical analysis and creative writing scripts.
  • Recognize elements that build artistic tension in dramatic scripts.
  • Use the writing process to expand comparative analysis skills.
  • Research and gather information.
  • Compare the work of two of America’s most gifted and valued playwrights.


Standards Alignment


Recommended Materials

Eugene O’Neill Biography, Tennessee Williams Biography, and Arthur Miller Biography, Article or Blog Topics


Teacher Background

Teachers should familiarize themselves with O’Neill and Williams’s work using the following resources: Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape and Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, Eugene O’Neill Archive, Great Performances: A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, PBS American Masters: Tennessee Williams, The Tennessee Williams Annual Review


Student Prerequisites 

Students should be familiar with the lives of O’Neill and Williams and the types of plays they wrote.


Accessibility Accommodations

Modify handouts, text, and utilize assistive technologies as needed.

  • Original Writer

    Jayne Karsten

  • Adaptation

    Jen Westmoreland Bouchard

  • Editor

    JoDee Scissors

  • Updated

    January 24, 2020

Related Resources

Lesson Exploring A Streetcar Named Desire

In this 9-12 lesson, students will analyze the setting, plot, and character development of Tennessee Williams’s play, A Streetcar Named Desire.

  • Theater
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Media Tennessee Williams + The Glass Menagerie

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Collection Theater

Take a peek behind the red curtain and discover the artistry and history behind the world of theater. Explore the playwriting process first-hand, learn about the cultural impact of performance, and read and perform some of the most influential works of the 20th century.

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Kennedy Center Education Digital Learning

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Director, Digital Learning

Kenny Neal 
Manager, Digital Education Resources

Tiffany Bryant 
Assistant Manager, Audience Enrichment

Joanna McKee 
Program Coordinator, Digital Learning

JoDee Scissors 
Content Specialist, Digital Learning

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