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The Influences Of Playwright Eugene O’neill

1087 words - 5 pages

Many playwrights drew from outside influences to compose their works. They would look the era they were living in, their personal lives, childhood experiences, and even ancient texts to acquire inspiration for their works and famous playwright, Eugene O’Neill, is no exception. Writing through two world wars, a great depression, and boom of the motion-picture industry, O’Neill certainly had much inspiration to choose from. Although not becoming nationally recognized until after his father’s death in 1920, O’Neill still managed to produce fifty completed works. Using influences from the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, Eugene O’Neill demonstrated how he used the era he was living in to help ...view middle of the document...

The 1910s provided much inspiration to O’Neill while writing the twenty-seven plays he wrote between 1913 and 1919.
The contrast between the 1920s, 1930s, and the 1940s is a great one. The United States went from the prosperous time of the Roaring Twenties to a Great Depression then to another world war in a matter of twenty-one years. This tremendous shift gave Eugene O’Neill the inspiration he needed to write another mound of plays in those years. Exploring boundaries, O’Neill wrote the famously controversial play, All God's Chillun Got Wings, about an interracial couple, in 1923. O’Neill drew from the racist times to pen this script. To come up with the title, “O’Neill looked to a black spiritual”( "A Controversial Play" ). Although much of his later is inspired by his own personal life, O’Neill “explored contemporary society”( "A Controversial Play" ) to write this particular piece. Being the versatile author he is O’Neill looked to the Greek to write the trilogy, Mourning Becomes Electra. Written in 1931, O’Neill sought the influence of Aeschylus's Oresteia, directly using a character, Electra, from the book as part of his title. O’Neill found the parallel of each of his characters to the character in Oresteia. As previously mentioned, O’Neill based much of his later work off of his childhood and nature he was raised in. To understand this complex man, the best place to read about him is in his 1941 play, Long Day’s Journey into Night. The play is extremely similar to O’Neill’s own upbringing and therefore telling a lot about him as an author; his life directly influenced the writing of this play. The 1920s through 1940s was a very important time in history. This provided O’Neill ample material to be influenced by during his writing career during those thirty years.
In my opinion I do consider Eugene O’Neill one of the great American playwrights. “He was the only American dramatist to be awarded the Nobel Prize, an honor not bestowed upon either Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams, two other great American playwrights”(SparkNotes Editors). Acting in true great author style, O’Neill requested that Long Day’s Journey into Night not be published until after his death, due to the highly...

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