Eugene O’Neill: One of Greatest Dramatists of America: Contribution and Achievement.

Introduction: Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953) is one of greatest dramatists of America, the creator of serious American drama. The bulk of his output is fairly large, sufficiently large to place him securely in the forefront of 20th century dramatist. There are many more which would stand high in any long last of plays of our time: Anna Christie, The Emperor Jones, The Hairy Ape, All God’s Chillum Got Wings, and A Touch of thepoet. He is the first name to be mentioned in any discussion of American theater today, and he is the only one of outplay wrights who has a wide international fame.

A Tireless Experimenter:  O’Neill dramatizes the plight of people driven by elemental passions, by memory and dream, and by an awareness of the forces that threaten to overwhelm them. In fact, he was a tireless experimenter who experimented with a varity of dramatic forms and modes. Even when he succeeded in one form or style, he would move on to another one, and experimentation continued from the beginning of his career up to the very end. He started his career with writing plays in the rustic tradition. In his early plays he rendered life and speech authentically.” He is indeed, historically important as the first American to make naturalist art prevail on own stage.” –(John Gassner)

Fusion of Naturalism Symbolism and Expressionism: He fused naturalistic detail with symbolist mood, suggestiveness, and symbol. He even employed monologue in one highly elfective scene of so realistic a comedy as Ah, Wilderness. He resorted to epic dimension, taking some risk of introducing elephantiasis into play-writing. Strange Interlude acquired some of the qualities of a large impressionist or expressionist novel. Mourning Becomes Electra brought back the specious of the Aeschylean trilogy – (John Gassner).

The Old of Melodrama: O’Neill began his career by writing materialistic plays mixed with symbolism and melodrama. Melodrama in his plays is of two kinds. The element of melodrama remains approximately constant thought it appears in various forms. On the whole, thought the symbolism greatly heightens the imaginative appeal of some of the plays, it is often a cause than a blessing and disastrous when it gets out of control. In mast of the stronger and finer plays The Emperor Jones, Ann Christie,Strong Interlude, Morning Becomes Electra it is subordinated and used chiefly to create over tones. 

A Great Tragic Artist: O’Neill’s vision of life was essentially tragic. The human predicament is the theme of his plays, which are all, with one exception tragedies. He is a great tragic artist, but with difference. He writes tragedies of modern life which do not follow the traditional, Aristotelian form. His tragic protagonists are all drawn from the humblest ranks of society. His tragedies are so many studies in the destructive possibilities of “The romantic idea”. Tragedy results when in the pursuit of some cherished illusion man forgets the reality of life. Farther, Many of these dramas were strongly influenced by the psychoanalytical theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung which introspect  inner psyches.

 Human suffering Its cause- His theme: But basically and essentially O’Neill’s tragedies are the embodiments of a comic anguish. As he himself said, he has studied man not in relation to man, but man in relation to God. Man has last his faith in the God of old religions and has yet found no new faith. John Gassner rightly says, “His major theme was man’s disorientation, man’s bedevilment from within and from without.”

Conclusion: But despite such drawbacks, O’Neill remains great dramatist, one of the greatest magnum in the 20th century theatre. His great and central merit is that he is a serious and generally sincere artist in drama. He has never compromised with box-office demands, but has own his success without tampering with his artistic conscience O’Neill has always, I think, been faithful to his vision, such as it is, and this is the root of all good writings. His imagination has a fiery heat which sometimes fuses the discordant elements of which his work is composed, and makes us forget all his defects. Finally, he has always shown a splendid artistic courage. He has dared to try new things, and to do old things in new ways. He has greatly widened the range of our theatre- (Woodbridge)

Ref: Wikipedia, Microsoft Student Encarta, Literary Timelines, History of English Literature- Albert