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Throughout Amy Hempel’s story, “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” there is a conversation that is revisited that compares the life of Al Jolson to that of a lab test chimp.

“Did you know that when they taught the first chimp to talk, it lied? That when they asked her who did it on the desk, she signed back the name of the janitor.And that when they pressed her, she said she was sorry, that it was really the project director.–”(30)

This shows that the chimp and the woman are similar in the way that they are both living a caged lifestyle, where are told what they can and cannot do. All the woman can do is stare from her window and wonder about everything beyond her room. She has been in that room so long and has lived her life according to what others tell her to do. This leaves us as the reader to wonder what she wants out of life. We confirm this in the following quote:

“For two beats I didn’t get it. Then it hit me like an open coffin. She wants every minute, I thought.She wants my life.”(36)

“Tell me,” she says, “about the chimp with the talking hands.What do they do when the thing ends and the chimp says,’i don’t wanna go back to the zoo’? (32)
-While Mrs.Jolson is asking the question, indirect reference to the previous conversation about the talking chimp, she is also giving the reader the assumption that she is talking about her own life. Since she is not allowed to leave her room and dreams of leaving it.She constantly thinks about what would happen if she killed herself.

“She grabs the bedside phone and loops the cord around her neck. “Hey,” she says, “the end of the line.”(31)

This confirms that she at least thinks about killing herself and she knows ways of doing it, Being in the room is making her mad and she can’t psychologically be in that room and not be able to leave on her own accord.

“ In the course of the experiment, the chimp had a baby. I imagine how the trainers must have thrilled when the mother, without prompting, began to sign to her newborn. Baby, drink milk. Baby, play ball. And when the baby died, the mother stood over her body, her wrinkled hands moving with animal Grace, for me again and again the words: Baby, come hug, Baby, come hug, fluent now in the language of grief. “(40)

This quote references the relationship of Miss Jolson and the protagonist, the main character tells Mrs.Jolson about their experiences and feels a great deal of grief for her death.

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