Eugene O'Neill Questions and Answers
by Eugene O’Neill

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How did Eugene O'Neill begin to write as a career? 

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The story of how Eugene O'Neill first decided to write is as turbulent as his life and some of his plays. The child of an itinerant actor and an unhappy, morphine-addicted mother, he secretly married and began his first career quest by going to South America to search for gold; all he found there was malaria. His wife had given birth to his first son, but he refused to have anything to do with them. Shortly after, she won a divorce from O'Neill, and he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

After an unsuccessful cure in a charity hospital, his father placed him in a private hospital. It was there, while under the influence of the writings of playwright August Strindberg, that O'Neill finalized his intention to become a playwright himself. His hospital cure was successful, and he rapidly put together his first collection of one-act plays in Thirst (1914), which he later rejected, forbidding them to ever be republished. He remarried and continued writing, and it came to be that his first major play of importance was The Emperor Jones (1920). Ultimately, he won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936.   

SMITHERS—(turning away from him contemptuously) Aw! Garn! 'E's a better man than the lot o' you put together. I 'ates the sight o' 'im but I'll say that for 'im. (A sound of snapping twigs comes from the forest. (The Emperor Jones, Scene VIII)

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