In "Before Breakfast," why did Mrs. Shriek and run "shrieking madly into the outer hallway"?What did she see and why do you interpret it that way?

Expert Answers
kevinkirk eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Eugene O'Neill's brief, dramatic, and ultimately intense study Before Breakfast, is the depiction of a poor 'Bohemian' couple, the Rowlands. Most of the focus is on Mrs. Rowland because she is on the stage throughout. (We learn that Mrs. Rowland became pregnant during the premarital affair), but we also learn about Alfred, who is kept offstage, (except for his hand) through her speeches and the troubles that they have experienced. Throughout the play, Mrs. Rowland criticizes and derides Alfred and she is particularly mean and vindictive when she refers to the affair with the pregnant Helen. The derision and biting mockery of Alfred leads to the crisis off stage when Alfred nicks himself when shaving. Then he begins to stare at himself and Mrs. Rowland, indicative that Alfred is thinking of suicide. The catastrophe occurs when Alfred slits his throat and Mrs. Rowland's discovery sends her shreiking and terrified into the outer hallway.

Read the study guide:
Eugene O'Neill

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question