Eugene O’neillEugene Gladstone O’Neill’s life is reflected throughout his plays in order to let out his true feelings. Eugene O’Neill was born in October on the 16, 1888. He was born in New York City, New York, in a hotel on forty-third and Broadway. For the first seven years of his life, he traveled with his parents. James O’Neill, his father, was among the top actors of his time and his mother, Ellen Quinlan, did not work, she only followed James from stage to stage. They traveled with the famous melodrama, The Count of Monte Cristo, which his father acted in. Right from the start, O’Neill was growing up with plays all around him (143).
Eugene’s early education came from different Catholic schools. From 1895-1900, he attended St. Aloysius Academy for boys in Riverdale, New York, and from 1900-1902 he went to De La Salle Institute in New York. After the De La Salle Institute, he attended a preparatory school, Betts Academy in Stanford, Connecticut. From 1906-1907, he attended Princeton. After a year, he was kicked out for breaking a window in a stationmaster’s house.
Throughout these years of education his home life, or life on the road, wasn’t very good. According to George H. Jensen in the Dictionary of Literary
Biography , Eugene’s home life was crucial to the plays that he wrote. Filled with guilt, betrayal, and accusations, it is, sometimes hard to see and sometimes
very easy for us to see. Ellen Quinlan O’Neill felt betrayal when three months after her marriage, James was accused by Nettie Walsh of being her husband and the father of her child. Jamie, Ellen’s firstborn, passed the measles to Edmund, her second born, who died shortly afterward. Ellen became a drug addict after a doctor gave her morphine while getting better after Eugene’s birth. Later, she blamed her addiction on James, her husband. She said that he was too miserly to pay for a good doctor (141-142). This is almost the exact plot of the play Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
Most of his entire home life was developed into his plays. His feeling about his mother being a drug addict were presented in the play Long Day’s Journey Into Night (156). ?His early years were profoundly affected by the pressures of his mother’s recurring mental illness and drug addiction and by his tempestuous relationship with his father, a discordant family situation that he later drew upon when writing Long Day’s Journey into Night? (Poupard 156). In the play, the mother was a morphine addict, just as his mother was in real life. In life, her addiction was because of the birth of her second son, Edmund, but she blames it on her husband. In the play, the mother actually blames her morphine addiction on her youngest son, Edmund.
While Eugene was living at home, there were many other things going wrong that showed up in Long Day’s Journey into Night. One of the events was the relationship of his mother and father. Throughout his life, they fought
continuously about her drug addiction. Another was that Edmund was sick throughout the entire play. O’Neill’s real brother Edmund was sick since a young child and died of malaria. This entire play can almost be considered an autobiography (146-147).
Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night is intensely personal and directly autobiographical. Written in an agonizing attempt to understand himself, and no doubt primarily for his own sake, it is not only about himself, but about his father and his mother as well. Because O’Neill was so essentially a dramatist, self-examination and the attempt to lighten the burden of the past inevitably took the form of a drama. (Krutch 158)
Eugene Gladstone O’Neill’s play Long Day’s Journey into Night definitely portrays his feelings about his family. He shows that he dislikes the relationship of his parents, but that he can not blame it wholly on them. He also puts part of the blame on the drugs that make his mother act the way she does and on the alcohol that makes his father act the way that he does (158).
Once O’Neill left home and was dismissed from Princeton because of his grades, he had to work a few odd jobs so he didn’t have to live on the streets. In 1909 he met and married Kathleen Jenkins. His father disapproved of the marriage, so he sent Eugene to Honduras to prospect for gold. While he was
there he caught malaria, which caused him to go back home. Kathleen then gave birth to Eugene’s first son, Eugene Gladstone Jr.
A month after his son was born he became a seaman on the Charles Racine, a Norwegian ship. After working for a while, in 1911 he returned to New York. Kathleen and Eugene divorced because Kathleen didn’t like Eugene always being away. He then moved to Jimmy-the-Priests, a waterfront apartment place. Soon enough he took another voyage. He went out on the New York and returned on the Philadelphia, both of them were luxury liners. ?These voyages provided material for The Hairy Ape and other plays? (Jensen 142).
At the end of 1912, he chose the brief career as a journalist. The reason it was short was because he became diagnosed with tuberculosis. He entered the Gaylord Farm Sanitorium to be treated. This is where O’Neill gained his life back. He went into the sanitorium as a bad poet, but he came out with the decision to be a serious writer. He began to pursue this choice while living with the Rippin family in New London. This is where he started to write a few of his best plays (160).
Having grown up with The Count of Monte Cristo, O’Neill had little choice but to began by writing melodramas. In the early twentieth century, theatrical experiments in Europe were not easily transplanted to America. The unavoidable model, then was the melodrama, in which plot was more important that the characterization. O’Neill eventually broke from the
tradition of melodrama by making characterization more important than plot. (142)
In the first plays, O’Neill has the plot and the action much more significant than his characters. Later on in his writing career he began to make the characters a lot more important than the plot, especially when he writes about his life as he did in Long Days Journey into Night (154).
Throughout the rest of his life as a writer, he was acknowledged for many writings. He has won the Pulitzer Prize four times, for Beyond the Horizon, Anna Christine, Strange Interlude, and last for Long Day’s Journey into Night. He has also won many other awards. His biggest achievement was the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936. However, his best play was never really noticed by the public until after his death, Long Day’s Journey into Night. Eugene Gladstone O’Neill died in Boston, Massachusetts on November 27, 1957.