Desire Under the Elms


what kind of writer was eugene o neil..?

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O'Neill was undoubtedly a workhorse. He was a committed write, who wrote and re-wrote manuscripts over and over again until he felt they were exactly what he wanted. His early works often focused on what he believed was God's injustice to man; he wrote of prostitutes, destitution, lonely sailors, and those mentally unfortunate. These subjects however weren't exactly embraced by the audiences of the time and their depictions were not considered acceptable on the American stage.

From 1920 through 1943, O'Neill completed twenty full length plays. These plays were very personal, having been drawn from his own experiences in personal tragedy. His parents, very much in love, also tormented each other throughout their marriage, scarring their children and leaving them with a confused definition of love and marriage. O'Neill's brother also figures prominently as the person who both loved and corrupted Eugene, and who later dies of severe alcoholism at a fairly early age. What we see in O' Neill's plays is the raw emotion of one who's torn between all three with a sense of deep love and even deeper rage. His youth would color his writing continuously throughout his career.

Long Day's Journey Into Night, is the one play in which O' Neill graphically brings his true self to light. As an autobiography, it is straightforward and extremely sad. Its illumination of the relationships in his family is heartrending, and yet it spans just one day in the life of a family. We can help but sympathize over such great agony.

We find out what kind of writer O' Neill is in this manuscript; the happenings that shaped him, and the tragedies that gave him the ability and experience to write the way he did. He was a young man who should probably have had a slim chance of survival. His mother a drug addict, his father a lost and dejected man, and his brother a bitter sot. O' Neill worked through his beginnings with pen and paper; he was able to move on successfully because of his immense gift as a writer, and yet he was never able to move on. Even his writing, a self taught form of therapy wasn't enough to allow him to move forward emotionally. He wrote from the heart, and he wrote from experience.