In recent years, however, the playwright's canon has become the field of major scholarly investigations and O'Neill is now hailed by most critics as America's foremost dramatist. Evidence of such a critical revival is offered by the publication of three excellent studies on O'Neill : James A.
Robinson's O'Neill and Oriental Thought. Voices from Abroad Robinson James A. A Divided Vision. In his remarkable book on O'Neill, James A. Robinson describes the dramatist's affinities with Asian philosophies such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Not only does he articulate their impact on O'Neill's "middle" plays, he also submits that his late works reflect his condemnation of Orientalism.
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Profound similarities link the three Asian systems of thought that Robinson deals with : all subordinate reason to intuition, conceive of ultimate reality as impersortal. While the three religions extoll the passive realization of an immanent universal force, their emphasis is nonetheless divergent in some respects. Hinduism attempts to reduce human suffering whereas Taoism suggests a universe of tensions between the two polar concepts of "Yin" and "Yang".
Buddhism, on the other hand, in rejecting the notion of an encompassing self, posits the existence of a "Nirvana" of absolute annihilation. The large number of studies on Orientalism contained in O'Neill's personal library woud seem to lend credence to Robinson's theory of influence. It also appears quite likely that O'Neill discovered the East through Western systems of thought.
His mystical tendencies prompted him to read documented studies on Platonism, Neoplatonism, the mystery religions and Gnosticism, which exhibit subtle similarities with Oriental philosophies. Likewise, Catholicism, O'Neill's childhood faith, defines mysticism in terms reminiscent of Eastern religions, i. Moreover, O'Neill felt attracted to European and American philosophers, who reflect Oriental ideas in their works.
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In The World as Will and Idea, which O'Neill had read by , Schopenhauer, like Buddha, perceives human suffering as the product of consciousness and desires : "Will" frustrates mankind. Robinson further argues that in Strindberg's A Dream Play, O'Neill might have found the technical devices necessary to translate onto the stage the Oriental conflict between Nirvana and the world of matter. Finally, Jung's Psychology of the Unconscious with its theory of the "libido" and Emerson's concept of the "Over- Soul" have undoubtedly been influential in O'Neill's articulation of his own version of Eastern philosophy.
In Anna Christie, the sea symbolically represents the "Brahman" described by Vedanta. It unifies the world of time and space, provoking Anna's sense of belonging in the fog. In The Fountain, Juan Ponce de Leon's final vision of the fountain of youth recalls Taoism, which idealizes the youthful virtues of sincerity and spontaneity. The main Taoist contribution to the play, however, resides in the rhythmic reconciliation of opposites.
During his mystical vision, Juan experiences life and death as part of an identical cycle, age and youth disappearing. Marco Millions contrasts the serene spiritualism of the East to the destructive materialism of the West, thus emphasizing, along the lines of Taoism, the illusory nature of life. Strange Interlude, O'Neill's subsequent play, reflects the playwright's Freudian assumptions, although Schopenhauer's scepticism about wordly existence can be detected in some scenes. Finally, Dynamo, the sequel to Strange Interlude, repudiates Oriental thought.
It associates Eastern values with the electrical god that kills its worshipper, psychotic Reuben Light.
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In these works, some characters display the passive withdrawal from life preached by Oriental philosophies. In Long Day's Journey into Night, however, O'Neill condemns Mary Tyrone's sterile isolation and in The Iceman Cometh, he dramatizes our inability to face and accept the void of death, an experience which Orientalism considers meaningful. O'Neill's increasingly sceptical attitude towards the value of Eastern philosophies for Western man is remarkably illustrated in the one-act play Hughie, in which the dramatist adopts a Western viewpoint in asserting the value of illusions.
The great merit of Robinson's impressive study consists in illuminating an aspect of O'Neill's thought, which has been largely neglected hitherto. In the light of his detailed analyses, O'Neill's "middle" plays, previously discarded as philosophically shallow, acquire new depth and dramatic value.
Moreover, the author relies on extremely well-documented sources to buttress his arguments, such as O'Neill's personal library housed at C. Eugene O'Neill and Oriental Thought. A Divided Vision thus marks an important step in the reconsideration of O'Neill's craft and represents a major contribution to a clearer understanding of his formal experiments.
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Eugene O'Neill. New York, Grove Press, Inc. Grove Press Modern Dramatists. This short study constitutes an admirably condensed treatment of O'Neill's development as a playwright. In his opening chapter, the critic approaches Long Day's Journey into Night, O'Neill's masterpiece, from a literary and scenic viewpoint and reviews the playwright's patterns of action, character and language. Berlin contends that the artist's mature craftsmanship confers universality to the main theme of the work, i. In subsequent chapters, the author follows the. In spite of its limited scope, this biographical chapter does justice to the crucial events that determined the course of O'Neill's literary ambitions.
Among the first one-act plays, Bound East for Cardiff strikes the modern theatregoer as an intensely emotional work whereas The Moon of the Caribbees owes its impact to its innovative theatrical devices. Beyond the Horizon, which earned its author a first Pulitzer Prize, dramatizes the illusions and disappointments of Andrew and Robert Mayo.
With Beyond the Horizon, O'Neill acquired fame on Broadway and qualified as a harbinger of renewed theatrical vitality on the American stage of the twenties.
Act III opens in the barroom on the morning of Hope's birthday. Larry defiantly insists that Hickey has nothing on him.
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Parritt admits that lied earlier about his patriotism; he ratted on the group for some money to blow on a whore. Larry notes he has not explained Evelyn's death—it would little surprise if she committed suicide. The members of the party gradually appear, weakly putting up fronts of self-assurance and almost coming to blows when the others deride their intentions. Hickey appears and prods the condemned men out of the saloon. Hope returns and pleadingly insists that an automobile almost ran him over. Bitterly Larry condemns Hickey: he has brought them the peace of death.
For the first time Hickey loses his temper and insists that the shock is only temporary—peace will follow. Hickey quietly informs him that she did not kill herself: she was murdered. Act IV begins half past one the next morning in the saloon. The group has returned and sit like wax figures benumbing themselves to the world. As he speaks, Hickey appears at the doorway and denounces Larry angrily. The crowd shrinks away. Hickey begs his friends not to persist in their depression if they are trying to spite him. They have killed their tomorrows and should rejoice.
He was living in hell himself until he found a way to free Evelyn from her pipe dream of his possible reformation. Two policemen, Moran and Lieb enter from the rear; Hickey has called to turn himself in.
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Suddenly Hickey explodes, insisting that he must tell his story, and he confesses that he murdered his wife in her sleep to put her out of her own misery. A relieved Parritt makes his own confession and says that he betrayed Mother because he hated her. Hickey earnestly begs for the electric chair as the cops take him out—he has not got a pipe dream left and wants to die.
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With Hickey gone, Parritt begins begging Larry anew for help. He too thought of vengeance in his treason. Larry commands him to his suicide. Parritt thanks him with simple gratitude. Jubilantly Hope starts the festivities anew. Hesistantly, the group comes to revive their pipe dreams. A crunching thud is heard, and Larry hides his face in his hands. Themes Symbols Key Facts.