A Moon for the Misbegotten

by Eugene O’Neill

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What are examples of self-deception and shattered dreams in O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten?

Quick answer:

The characters of Josie Hogan and James Tyrone reveal self-deception in regard to their own self-knowledge and other people’s opinions of them. Josie’s dream of a sexual relationship with Jamie is shattered. His illusion of her character is shattered. While Jamie's previously shattered ideal of being a good son is not repaired, his relationship with Josie helps him stop deceiving himself about his failures.

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Through the course of the play, both Josie Hogan and James Tyrone reveal ways that they had deceived themselves. Their interactions and conversation contribute to the shattering of illusions that they had about each other. Jamie’s goal of being a good, loving son to his mother was lost, but he finds a surrogate mother in Josie. In turn, Josie's dream of fulfilling sexual desire through Jamie is shattered, but she learns that he loves and appreciates her in other ways.

The character of Josie embodies self-deception and the shattering of illusions. She has a distorted, negative vision of her own personal worth. Having convinced herself that she is unattractive and undesirable, she has created a fictional persona of a sexually active woman with many partners. Unlike her alter ego, she remains a virgin. Her invention has created an illusion that numerous men have perpetuated. Even her father helps perpetuate this story, and the deception becomes the basis for his attempt to use her in his plot against James Tyrone.

Part of her self-deception is mistakenly thinking that Jim desires a sexual relationship with her. Until she confesses to Jamie, he does believe she is sexually active. Her confession also helps to shatter his illusion of her behavior and personality. In turn, Josie’s dream of having Jamie as a sexual partner is shattered; the two finally accept their mutual, nonsexual love.

Jamie has issues with alcohol and sexual activity that contributes to his inability to sustain the ideals he once cherished. In particular, his problematic relationship with his late mother included his desire to be an ideal son. His knowledge of failure in that regard was confirmed by his behavior after her death. He also deceived himself by thinking that his flaws made him a bad person. His confession to Josie confirms his realization that his ideal had been unattainable.

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