Term Paper: Eugene O'neill's Play, "The Emperor

Pages: 15 (4657 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] That chastisement extends to George's grief over Emily's death at the grave, which the dead souls say should be spent by George in enjoying while he still has the time on earth to.

Wilder uses the stage to immortalize these simple and passing motions of daily life on earth and translate them into extraordinary and meaningful events through the eyes and perspective of the dead. It is the very irony of the play: that it takes death to acknowledge the immortal value of life, no matter how boring or meaningless some acts may be.

One more value "Our Town" salutes to is the importance of volitional companionship among the residents, e.g., with the milkman, the paperboy, the gossipers, the romance between George and Emily. It is the love expressed in these interactions that provides the creative power and courage to human beings in facing the inevitable passing of time and mortal life. Besides the most glaring romantic bond between George and Emily, there are routine relationships that test the strength of time: the milkman and the paperboy chatting with members of the Gibbs family as they deliver their goods, the children going to and from school, Dr. And Mrs. Gibbs, Mr. And Mrs. Webb go through their respective daily businesses. But as Mrs. Gibbs says in one of her private conversations, "the natural can be lonesome."

The title itself connotes the fundamental need for community as human life's first line of defense against loneliness and isolation. Wilder attempts to grapple the forces that afflict and limit the pleasures of life through the use of dramatic devices, such as a chorus (patterned after the Greek chorus) that renders commentaries to shape the audience's perceptions and the Stage Manager as narrator who also gets involved in the stage actions, speaks directly to the audience and controls the passing of time by means of flashbacks to relive and highlight previous events of pertinence to the present. Wilder uses these devices so effectively as to compensate for the stage's artificial presentation of what is real and make that which is real appear "more real."

In "The Iceman Cometh" (1940), O'Neill explores the "pipe dream" of dejected characters: Larry, Hugo, Paritt, Hickey and Larry's mother. The first three men long for political salvation, while Hickey seeks a spiritual one that can wash guilt away. Larry deridingly calls this group as the "tomorrow movement." Each of the three recalls his glory days and sits around, drinking and waiting for redemption the following day. Meantime, they do not see an option other than drink and wait. But Hickey enters the scene to bash away and demystify their complacency with his spiritual doctrine that says that a man must kill tomorrow to achieve peace with himself. But, in time, Hickey's gospel soon proves to be just another pipe dream that simply allows the evasion of guilt.

Parritt takes recourse to his pipe dream in his struggle against the hatred he feels for his mother that drove him to betray her and the Anarchist Movement and implores Larry, his father figure, for judgment and a sentence. Larry, at first, refuses, but when he eventually sentences Parritt to death, Parritt realizes in his continued existence in this world that he now yearns more to die than to live.

This play presents the ambivalence of hatred for those who are loved: Parritt for his mother and Hickey for his wife, Evelyn, whom he murdered. Hickey has conflicting unconscious desires to avenge himself on her and to be punished for murdering her. By denying the instinct to take revenge, Hickey thinks he saved her from misery, which in turn led his own pipe dream to fail. Hickey's love-hatred imbalance is also quite strong in Parritt in the same struggle to hide that precise reality from conscious recognition. But that imbalance has led him to false patriotism and a relationship with a prostitute.

O'Neill's tragic vision is sharply projected on the fight between a man and his guilt, between his instinct to survive and yield to the instinct of dying. Larry quotes some lines from Heine's "Death and His Brother Sleep." Sleep in Heine's book refers to morphine. The characters continue to describe the saloon as a "morgue" and as a "graveyard" and these men dwelling on their individual pipe dreams as being dead to the world until Hickey comes and bursts their illusion about tomorrow and urges them to face the reality of their true desires. O'Neill presents a very much lifelike situation of many modern-day pipe dreamers and their un-acknowledged desires freezing them into inaction. The drinking characters also hold feasts to make merry in palliating or deadening the pain of their guilt until Hickey comes to uncover the truth of their lies.

Seeing O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey into Night" gives the audience part of that tragic vision that he consistently projects in most of his plays, the fall of something truly great. The Tyrone family is subjected to a series of disasters. One a closely-knit family, its ties have deteriorated through the years because of Mary's addiction to morphine, Tyrone's stinginess and Edmund's drinking. Exasperation and despair have begun replacing the hope of seeing the children achieve. This play is mainly autobiographical, with O'Neill as Edmund, his father as Edmund's Irish Catholic father and Mary like O'Neill's mother who was addicted to morphine around the time of his birth. His older brother, like Jamie, his character, was dissolute and vicious, went around with prostitutes, drank a lot and lived a fast life. This moving drama was published after O'Neill's death and shows that a character should not be viewed as worse than another. Rather, it suggests that character flaws can re-appear as positive when viewed in another way. O'Neill's language in this play is most powerful in the comparison between "stinginess" and "thrift" or prudence, but more noteworthy is his description of how lines of true communication have broken down among the Tyrones despite their constant fights.

Long Day's Journey into Night" is not only a forward journey but also a constant journey back into the past into which each character continues to dip back in order to proceed. There is always an unfinished business in the past that the present must pause for. It is a fixation and a disability to forget and forgive. Its tragedy lies in the lack of hope for a future for the family that keeps on rebounding on something in the past. The play is an instant and lasting success because families can easily identify with the conflicts and characters it presents. It appeals to both the American drama academe and individual reader, hence its enduring acclaim.

Tennessee Williams' naturalism and sexuality characterize all his works, specifically the pungent and stirring "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1940). A homosexual in real life, this play deals with fantasy over manliness or broken manliness that centers on Brick. Brick is a favorite son and heir of a wealthy plantation owner family. He is a very charming and composed buck who has inherited the right to smugness, the archetypal masculinity. But Brick's admired and envied coolness is really a facade and cover-up for a repressed affection for a dead friend, Skipper. He endeavors at great length to deny this to all and to himself by a cordon of liquor. Each day, he must take his drink to assure peace and getting discovered.

Deep within, Brick sees Skipper as the only good thing in his life. His grief over Skipper's death and loss is made worse by his refusal to acknowledge his obsession for him. He dodges the very best attempts at revealing it by Daddy with whom "talks never materialize" and insists on "solid quiet." The truth is that Brick fears being derided and called a "fairy" by gossipers and staunch admirers. It terrifies him even to consider it might be true that he feels this way with Skipper.

The main repressed materials in this play are Brick's homosexual desire (for Skipper) and Daddy's imminent death. Brick's mother will do anything to make him a responsible family man - to stop drinking, seek out a family and the perpetuation of the family line. Daddy must be replaced by Brick who is his only immortality. The Cat in the play is Maggie, the counter-equivalent to Brick's machismo. Maggie is a typically hysterical, forceful and discontented heroine who is hard, anxious and bitter towards Brick's unresponsiveness to her beauty. The audience pulsates with Maggie's frustration, envy and desperation that make her even more beautiful and desirable.

What makes it more unsettling with Maggie is that her childlessness endangers her position within the household. Not only is her femininity in question, her rightful inheritance is also at a risk.

At one point before confronting Brick on the truth about Skipper, Daddy takes a strange tour with Mama to Europe and North Africa, which represented a kind of primal space and primal savagery, lawlessness and sexual… [END OF PREVIEW]

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