Critical Context

Beyond the Horizon won for O’Neill critical acclaim as well as a Pulitzer Prize in 1921, establishing him as one of the foremost playwrights in the United States. While critics pointed out the technical flaws in the crafting, they were enamored nonetheless with the truly “American” subject matter. It is safe to say that in the critical context of the time, the American theater was so diligently searching for a native voice that no matter how ill-crafted this first offering by O’Neill was, the critics generally embraced it for his effort. The play was significant for its fresh and thought-provoking themes, true in their portrayal and their message at a time when the Broadway stage was largely cluttered with trivial and worn-out theatrical endeavors. The post-World War I era was ready for a modern voice.

Beyond the Horizon was soon overshadowed by O’Neill’s subsequent offerings, not only his next experimental period, which yielded The Emperor Jones (pr. 1920, pb. 1921) and The Hairy Ape (pr., pb. 1922), but also his more mature domestic realist works such as A Moon for the Misbegotten (pr. 1947, pb. 1952) and Long Day’s Journey into Night (pr., pb. 1956). The legacy of Beyond the Horizon, though a significant play at the time, exists in the shadow of O’Neill’s impressive canon.