By John Patrick Diggins
Within the face of likely relentless American optimism, Eugene O’Neill's performs show an the United States many want to forget about, a spot of seething resentments, aching wishes, and kinfolk tragedy, the place failure and sadness are the norm and the yank dream a chimera. although derided by way of critics in the course of his lifetime, his works resonated with audiences, gained him the Nobel Prize and 4 Pulitzer, and proceed to grip theatergoers at the present time. Now famous historian John Patrick Diggins bargains a masterly biography that either strains O’Neill’s tumultuous existence and explains the forceful rules that shape the center of his unflinching works.Diggins paints a richly precise portrait of the playwright’s lifestyles, from his Irish roots and his early years at sea to his relationships together with his stricken mom and brother. right here we see O’Neill as a tender Greenwich Village radical, a starving autodidact who tried to appreciate the disjunction among the sunny public face of yank lifestyles and the fashion that he knew used to be simmering underneath. based on Diggins, O’Neill mined this disjunction like no different American author. His characters burn with eager for an idealized destiny composed of equivalent components fabric good fortune and person freedom, yet again and again they fall again to earth, pulled by way of the tendrils of kinfolk and the insatiability of wish. Drawing on thinkers from Emerson to Nietzsche, O’Neill seen this without end pissed off wish because the not easy middle of yank democracy, at the same time using and undermining American beliefs of development, good fortune, and person freedom.Melding a penetrating evaluate of O’Neill’s works and concept with a delicate new edition of his existence, Eugene O’Neill’s the USA deals a extraordinary new view of America’s maximum playwright—and a brand new photograph of yankee democracy itself.
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Additional resources for Eugene O'Neill's America: Desire Under Democracy
O’Neill had accomplished what Emerson thought improbable: he brought the “hopeless commiseration” and “paralyzing terror” of Greek tragedy to an America a little too content with itself:17 I have been accused of unmitigated gloom. Is this a pessimistic view of life? I do not think so. There is skin deep optimism and another higher optimism, not skin deep, which is usually confounded with pessimism. To me, the tragic alone has that signiﬁcant beauty which is truth. It is the meaning of life—and the hope.
The noblest is eternally the most tragic. The people who succeed and do not push on to a greater failure are the spiritual middle classes. Their stopping at success is proof of their compromising insigniﬁcance. How petty their dreams have been! The man who pursues the mere attainable should be sentenced to get it—and The Misery of the Misbegotten 23 keep it. . Only through the unattainable does man achieve a hope worth living and dying for—and so attain himself. 18 Thus spoke Eugene Gladstone O’Neill.
The mother, Mary Ellen Quinlan (known as Ella), a graduate of a convent academy in Indiana, was pious, demure, lovely, and perhaps too fragile for the rough life with an actor on the move from city to city. In later life she reminisced about having wanted to become a nun, only to have met the handsome, irresistible actor James O’Neill. Possibly pregnant at the time of their marriage in 1877, not long afterwards she gave birth to James Jr. Ten years older than Eugene, he was a precocious youth who would go on to waste his talents on drinking and whoring, a pathetic, haunting ﬁgure whom O’Neill would depict in two of his last plays, a mother’s pet who could never grow up to break free of his emotional bondage—and yet, as O’Neill’s ﬁrst wife Agnes Boulton remembered him, Jamie was a bon vivant who saw life as a joke he wanted to share with everyone.