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O'Neill, Eugene. (1888 - 1953).

L i f e

- his father was an extremely successful actor, his mother a morphine addict, and his older brother James an alcoholic

- despised the popular theatre represented by his father, decided to transform the American stage and to create a new dramatic style

W o r k

- the nation’s first major playwright, the first to experiment, and the only dramatist ever to win the Nobel Prize (1936)

- produced a drama of voice and atmosphere rather than plot

- an excellent ear for the natural vernacular dialogue

- ignored the divisions of scenes, acts, and the expected length;

- re-introduced ghosts, choruses, and the Shakespearean monologue

- split one character between two actors, used direct address to the audience, light and sound effects, etc.

Beyond the Horizon (1920):

- his first  full-length play, won him his first Pulitzer Prize

Anna Christie (1921):

- a step backward in technique, but won him his second Pulitzer Prize

Desire Under the Elms (1924):

- concerned with family conflicts and desires

Strange Interlude (1928):

- a 9-act play, won him his third Pulitzer Prize

- introduces the ‘interior dialogue’: actors speak seemingly to one another x but: actually think aloud for themselves in a stream of consciousness

- concerned with the inner life of a beautiful woman

Mourning Becomes Electra (1931):

- his most ambitious 9-hour long play, based on Sophocles's drama

- the passions of an old New England family at the end of the Civil War

Ah, Wilderness! (1933):

- autobiographical, his only comedy, centered on himself

A Moon for the Misbegotten (1947, posthumously):

- autobiographical, centred on his alcoholic brother James junior

Long Day’s Journey into Night (1956, posthumously):

- centred on all the four Tyrones (the fictional name for the O'Neills) x but: especially on his drug-addicted mother

- an intense 4 and a half hour long play of unabating raw emotions, haunted characters, and the ghosts dwelling within their psyches

- a series of encounters between the characters: each character placed together with another until every combination is worked through

- the title: ‘day’ = a literal day in the lives of the Tyrones, ‘journey’ = their journey through life toward death

A Touch of the Poet (1958, posthumously):

- autobiographical, centred on his father James senior


(Photo: Nobel Prize org).

  • Author

    Eugene (Gladstone) O'Neill. (1888 - 1953). American.
  • Work

    Playwright. Nobel Prize Winner (1936). Author of Long Day's Journey into Night (1956). 
  • Genre

    Modern drama.


Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American  Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.

McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.

Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od  puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.

Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.


"But I suppose life has made him like that, and he can't help it. None of us can help the things life has done to us. They're done before you realize it, and once they're done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you'd like to be, and you've lost your true self forever".

From Long Day's Journey into Night (1956).


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