Eugene O'Neill and Oriental Thought: A Divided Vision

By James A. Robinson | Go to book overview

6
Journeys Home

Withdrawals and Returns: The Iceman Cometh and Long Day's Journey into Night

O 'Neill had concluded by 1932 that Oriental religion was (in the words of Father Baird in Days Without End) "not for the Western soul." 1 Neither Days Without End nor Ah, Wilderness!, which both explored O'Neill's personal past, considered the significance of Eastern philosophy in his life. For the next seven years, the playwright examined a national history that also paid little attention to Oriental mysticism. His projected multiplay cycle, "A Tale of Possessors Self-Dispossessed," intended to dramatize materialism's role in leading America from its revolutionary beginnings to its current disillusion and depression. O'Neill's emphasis, as the two surviving Cycle plays make apparent, was psychological and social rather than religious. A Touch of the Poet portrays the inner conflict of Cornelius Melody, an Irish-American tavern keeper torn between his peasant nature and his Byronic pretensions; a related conflict obtains between the Irish lower classes he represents, and the Yankee aristocracy symbolized by the mother of Simon Harford (whom Melody's daughter Sara wants to marry). More Stately Mansions examines the problems of the newly married Sara and Simon, focusing on his ambivalent feelings toward wife and mother, and on the tension between his Utopian idealism and his American materiv alism. Both works deliberately repress O'Neill's mystical tenden-

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1
. Plays, 1: 503.

-168-

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Eugene O'Neill and Oriental Thought: A Divided Vision
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Epigraph xi
  • 1 - A Divided VIsion 1
  • 2 - Journeys East 10
  • 3 - Northwest Passages 32
  • 4 - A Western Passage to the East 85
  • 5 - Oriental Thoughts for A Religious Theatre 120
  • 6 - Journeys Home 168
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 197
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