Anna Christie, which won a second Pulitzer Prize for Eugene O’Neill in 1922, was produced in an earlier version as Chris, about a veteran seaman reduced to the role of coal bargeman, who frequented O’Neill’s favorite saloon. The final title of the play indicates O’Neill’s shift of emphasis during numerous rewrites from the crusty old sea dog to his daughter Anna. Originally conceived of as a young woman carefully raised in England, Anna emerges as the title character in Anna Christie, a former prostitute tormented by her past. A realistic drama, with symbolic overtones, the play focuses upon the dynamics of the love-hate relationships of the three central figures, Chris, Anna, and Mat, the Irish sailor tossed into their lives.
From one perspective, the plot of Anna Christie concerns the regeneration of a hardened prostitute as a result of her giving and receiving love, but this somewhat simplistic story is provided complexity through the development of the characters. As O’Neill has created them, they are human beings of passion and energy, people struggling against the forces of an impersonal universe.
The product of a brutal upbringing, Anna, a woman who is strong physically and mentally, mistrusts all men, and her dreams of love, home, and a sense of belonging are pitifully simple and small. Alienated and outcast, her position links her with the central figures of two of O’Neill’s other...
(The entire section is 1020 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Anna Christie Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!