Chapter

Introduction: Knowers Unknown to Ourselves

Edited by John Patrick Diggins

in Eugene O'Neill's America

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780226148809
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226148823 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226148823.003.0001
Introduction: Knowers Unknown to Ourselves

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Eugene O'Neill is the great dramatist of American democracy. O'Neill almost appears to be claiming that in the encounter with life one learns from experiences that enrich one's perspectives. If O'Neill aimed to give “a better understanding of ourselves,” it appeared that he wanted to show Americans how tempting it was to flee from one's self rather than face the challenge of self-realization. This book represents an attempt to appreciate O'Neill beyond the aesthetic criteria of dramaturgy or the neurotic symptoms of psychology. Alexis de Tocqueville's America became O'Neill's America; one thinker's worries became the other's realities. The tentative hopes that Tocqueville had for America are not to be found in O'Neill's outlook on America. In O'Neill's modern America, democracy leaves the mind uninformed of any conception of the desirable and with no easy means of self-identification.

Keywords: Eugene O'Neill; American democracy; Alexis de Tocqueville; America; ourselves

Chapter.  3832 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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