Term Paper: Eugene O'neill -1953)

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[. . .] But the style in which this element has been used differs dramatically so much so that the two plays appear as if they were written by two different authors.

ALDJN is a beautiful play, which almost every reader can relate. It revolves around the theme of family and personal problems, denial, escape and man's natural reaction to cruel circumstances. It is not about man's identity as we saw in the case of Jones, but it deals with something more real, more relatable and more intense. "Men are lost, frustrated, isolated, in a world of illusion and self-deception, a world they have distorted and is now only distorted: that condition, which is always a consequence, has become an assumption, is where the new conventions start. O'Neill, who had made this assumption as powerfully and as conventionally as anyone else, now goes back behind it, and shows the experience as active. The action takes place in one day -- the day's experience of the title. But the convention is not of a static situation, or of the last stage of deadlock. It is a calling to account, a facing of facts, inside this family; but not to prove anything, by some retrospective formula" (Williams, 1968: 36)

The play shows one day in the life of Tyrone family. The entire family is gradually falling apart because no one seems to accept his faults and everyone tends to blame the other or the circumstances for his problems. This results in the family seeking relief through alcohol and morphine. Their circumstances don't change because they remain in a state of denial about the gravity and seriousness of problems surrounding them. Mary accuses Tyrone of drinking too much and feels that alcohol has destroyed their lives but also feels that "But I suppose life has made him like that, and he can't help it. None of us can help the things that life has done to us" (63).

Edmund, Mary and Tyrone's son is suffering from tuberculosis and can die from the infection yet he refuses to accept that something is seriously wrong with him as he refers to it as "summer cold" and reassures his mother: "I want you to promise me that even if it should turn out to be something worse, you'll know I'll soon be all right again, anyway, and you won't worry yourself sick, and you'll keep on taking care of yourself -" (49).

In this play, everyone is seeking an excuse to justify his/her wrong actions and bad habits. They are in the denial mode, which only creates further problems. For example Tyrone cannot give up drinking, so he tells himself "It's before a meal and I've always found that good whiskey, taken in moderation as an appetizer, is the best of tonics" (68). Similarly Mary doesn't accept the fact that she is an addict. In a scene where Edmund tells her not to reveal her secret, she responds by completely denying that she has any dark secret to hide.

EDMUND: For God's sake, Mama! You can't trust her! Do you want everyone on earth to know?

MARY: Know what? That I suffer from rheumatism in my hands and have to take medicine to kill the pain? (118)

In this play, everyone accuses everyone else of being the cause of his problems. "You should have remained a bachelor and lived in second-rate hotels and entertained your friends in barrooms... Then nothing would ever have happened" (69). But author blames nature and cruel world for the problems faced by his characters. Naturalism is thus very dominant theme, which is also obvious in TEJ. The author wants us to suspend our judgment and just feel for the characters. He wants us to understand that when is a product of his circumstances and thus cannot be blamed for the way he reacts or the way he has turned out. Jones is not accused of being a bad person. He is considered a product of a series of dark events and same is the case with the Tyrone family. The author reserves his judgment and doesn't create good or bad characters. He simply develops normal characters that behave in the most ordinary manner when thrown into extraordinary situations.


Falk, Doris V. Eugene O'Neill and the Tragic Tension: An Interpretative Study of the Plays. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1958.

Tornqvist, Egil. A Drama of Souls: Studies in O'Neill's Super-naturalistic Technique. New Haven: Yale UP, 1969.

William Elwood, "Early Manifestations of German Expressionism in New York Productions of American Drama," Expressionism in New York Productions of American Drama," diss., University of Oregon, 1966.

John Henry Raleigh: The Plays of Eugene O'Neill. Southern Illinois University Press. Carbondale, IL. 1965.

Haiping Liu - editor, Lowell Swortzell - editor. Eugene O'Neill in China: An International Centenary Celebration. Greenwood Press. New York. 1992.

Raymond Williams, Drama from Ibsen to Brecht Raymond Williams.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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