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Biography of American Playwright Eugene O’Neill

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Eugene Gladstone ONeills life is reflected throughout his plays in orderto let out his true feelings. Eugene ONeill was born in October on the 16,1888. He was born in New York City, New York, in a hotel on forty-third andBroadway. For the first seven years of his life, he traveled with his parents.

James ONeill, his father, was among the top actors of his time and hismother, Ellen Quinlan, did not work, she only followed James from stage tostage. They traveled with the famous melodrama, The Count of Monte Cristo, whichhis father acted in.

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Right from the start, ONeill was growing up with playsall around him (143). Eugenes early education came from different Catholicschools. 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. Afterthe De La Salle Institute, he attended a preparatory school, Betts Academy inStanford, Connecticut. From 1906-1907, he attended Princeton. After a year, hewas kicked out for breaking a window in a stationmasters house.

Throughoutthese years of education his home life, or life on the road, wasnt very good.

According to George H. Jensen in the Dictionary of Literary Biography ,Eugenes home life was crucial to the plays that he wrote. Filled with guilt,betrayal, and accusations, it is, sometimes hard to see and sometimes Castellari2 very easy for us to see. Ellen Quinlan ONeill felt betrayal when threemonths after her marriage, James was accused by Nettie Walsh of being herhusband and the father of her child. Jamie, Ellens firstborn, passed themeasles to Edmund, her second born, who died shortly afterward. Ellen became adrug addict after a doctor gave her morphine while getting better afterEugenes birth. Later, she blamed her addiction on James, her husband. Shesaid that he was too miserly to pay for a good doctor (141-142). This is almostthe exact plot of the play Long Days Journey Into Night. Most of his entirehome life was developed into his plays. His feeling about his mother being adrug addict were presented in the play Long Days Journey Into Night (156).

“His early years were profoundly affected by the pressures of his mothersrecurring mental illness and drug addiction and by his tempestuous relationshipwith his father, a discordant family situation that he later drew upon whenwriting Long Days Journey into Night” (Poupard 156). In the play, themother was a morphine addict, just as his mother was in real life. In life, heraddiction was because of the birth of her second son, Edmund, but she blames iton her husband. In the play, the mother actually blames her morphine addictionon her youngest son, Edmund. While Eugene was living at home, there were manyother things going wrong that showed up in Long Days Journey into Night. Oneof the events was the relationship of his mother and father. Throughout hislife, they fought Castellari 3 continuously about her drug addiction. Anotherwas that Edmund was sick throughout the entire play. ONeills real brotherEdmund was sick since a young child and died of malaria. This entire play canalmost be considered an autobiography (146-147). Eugene ONeills LongDays Journey into Night is intensely personal and directly autobiographical.

Written in an agonizing attempt to understand himself, and no doubt primarilyfor his own sake, it is not only about himself, but about his father and hismother as well. Because ONeill was so essentially a dramatist,self-examination and the attempt to lighten the burden of the past inevitablytook the form of a drama. (Krutch 158) Eugene Gladstone ONeills play LongDays Journey into Night definitely portrays his feelings about his family. Heshows that he dislikes the relationship of his parents, but that he can notblame it wholly on them. He also puts part of the blame on the drugs that makehis mother act the way she does and on the alcohol that makes his father act theway that he does (158). Once ONeill left home and was dismissed fromPrinceton because of his grades, he had to work a few odd jobs so he didnthave to live on the streets. In 1909 he met and married Kathleen Jenkins. Hisfather disapproved of the marriage, so he sent Eugene to Honduras to prospectfor gold. While he was Castellari 4 there he caught malaria, which caused him togo back home. Kathleen then gave birth to Eugenes first son, Eugene GladstoneJr. A month after his son was born he became a seaman on the Charles Racine, aNorwegian ship. After working for a while, in 1911 he returned to New York.

Kathleen and Eugene divorced because Kathleen didnt like Eugene always beingaway. He then moved to Jimmy-the-Priests, a waterfront apartment place. Soonenough he took another voyage. He went out on the New York and returned on thePhiladelphia, both of them were luxury liners. “These voyages providedmaterial 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 becausehe became diagnosed with tuberculosis. He entered the Gaylord Farm Sanitorium tobe treated. This is where ONeill gained his life back. He went into thesanitorium as a bad poet, but he came out with the decision to be a seriouswriter. He began to pursue this choice while living with the Rippin family inNew London. This is where he started to write a few of his best plays (160).

Having grown up with The Count of Monte Cristo, ONeill had little choice butto began by writing melodramas. In the early twentieth century, theatricalexperiments in Europe were not easily transplanted to America. The unavoidablemodel, then was the melodrama, in which plot was more important that thecharacterization. ONeill eventually broke from the Castellari 5 tradition ofmelodrama by making characterization more important than plot. (142) In thefirst plays, ONeill has the plot and the action much more significant thanhis characters. Later on in his writing career he began to make the characters alot more important than the plot, especially when he writes about his life as hedid in Long Days Journey into Night (154). Throughout the rest of his life as awriter, he was acknowledged for many writings. He has won the Pulitzer Prizefour times, for Beyond the Horizon, Anna Christine, Strange Interlude, and lastfor Long Days Journey into Night. He has also won many other awards. Hisbiggest achievement was the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936. However, hisbest play was never really noticed by the public until after his death, LongDays Journey into Night. Eugene Gladstone ONeill died in Boston,Massachusetts on November 27, 1957.

Cite this Biography of American Playwright Eugene O’Neill

Biography of American Playwright Eugene O’Neill. (2019, Apr 07). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/eugene-oneill/

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