Freud on Broadway: A History of Psychoanalysis and the American Drama

By W. David Sievers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
Backgrounds . . . Psychological and Dramatic

CLYDE FITCH AND INHERITED FACULTIES

During the years when Sigmund Freud was formulating his concepts, what was the state of the American drama? Let us look, for example, at Clyde Fitch popular hit, The Moth and the Flame, written in 1898, three years after Freud's first major publication. In this play, an unwed mother brings her child to the church to prevent her seducer from marrying another woman. She exclaims to her more fortunate rival: "And think what it is to . . . watch your child, your own flesh and blood, day and night, all its life, terror-stricken . . . lest you find some trace of his father in him."

Arthur Hobson Quinn has said that Fitch was the finest realist of the turn of the century; his "studies of human characters who are endowed with a shining virtue or possessed by one absorbing vice" made the earlier writers of American melodrama, Bronson Howard, James A. Herne and William Gillette, seem contrived and sentimental. "The real inspiration of Clyde Fitch," wrote Quinn, "came from his unremitting study of men and women in their social and personal relations." Fitch must be taken as the high water mark of American realism before Freud, beyond which the drama could not move without a fundamental change of psychology.

Fitch The Girl With the Green Eyes( 1902) illustrates 19th cen--

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