Freud, Jung, and O'Neill
With the background of the psychoanalytic twenties in mind, we are in a position to evaluate the playwright who epitomizes the Freudian period -- Eugene O'Neill. His unique theatrical animation, his provocative experiments with masks, asides and dinner intermissions, and above all, his preoccupation with sex and neurosis, fascinated playgoers of the twenties and gave the American drama its most distinguished dramatist.
O'Neill himself attempted to depreciate the influence of Freud upon his work, Complaining of critics who were wont to condemn his plays as "case histories from a Freudian textbook," O'Neill wrote to Barrett Clark:
. . . they read too damn much Freud into stuff that could very well have been written exactly as it is before psychoanalysis was ever heard of. Imagine the Freudian bias that would be read into Stendhal, Balzac, Strindberg, Dostoievsky, etc. if they were writing today! . . . And I am no deep student of psychoanalysis. As far as I can remember, of all the books written by Freud, Jung, etc., I have read only four, and Jung is the only one of the lot who interests me. Some of his suggestions I find extraordinarily illuminating in the light of my own experience with hidden human motives.
Although O'Neill was unable to answer the questionnaire sent him, his earlier reply to an inquiry on Freudianism contributes some of the same information: