Eugene O'Neill American Literature Analysis
Like William Shakespeare, O’Neill was a man of the theater: He was born into it, grew up in it, worked in it, and wrote for it. He knew his craft, and he hated the artificiality and pretense of the commercial theater. He said, “The theatre to me is life—the substance and interpretation of life. . . . [And] life is struggle, often, if not usually, unsuccessful struggle.” O’Neill was an artist of integrity and courage; he was constantly exploring, expanding, experimenting. He tended toward realism in his work, rejecting material that could not be verified by the senses.
At times, however, he played with nonrealistic, expressionistic devices, externalizing the interior state of a character with sound or light or language: the throbbing tom-toms in The Emperor Jones (1920), to signify Jones’s increasing hysteria; the masks in The Great God Brown (1926), to portray the multifaceted nature of the characters; the foghorn in Long Day’s Journey into Night, to parallel Mary’s increasing confusion. At other times, his characters seem to have sprung from a Darwinian naturalism, helpless in the grip of forces beyond their control.
O’Neill also experimented with content and structure. When Eugene, Jr., became a classical scholar, the playwright sought to share these interests and grew fascinated by the powerful material of Greek tragedy: incest, infanticide, matricide, and the accompanying burden of...
(The entire section is 6125 words.)
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