Eugene ONeill Essay

Eugene O’Neill
Eugene 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.

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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 Castellari
2 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 Castellari 3 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 Castellari 4 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 Castellari 5 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.


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