Possessed and Self-dispossessed

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:
Possessed and Self-dispossessed

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  • Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)


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Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet and More Stately Mansions dealt with the conviction that America and American democracy had failed its ideals. A Touch of the Poet stood at the center of the cycle project, whose “spiritual undertheme” was the Irish immigrant's acquisitive impulses and uncertain status. In More Stately Mansions, democratic America comes face to face with itself. The political loyalties of Sara and Simon Harford suggest a look at American historiography. The character Simon indicates why O'Neill thought self-determinism was the key to understanding human action and historical development. Sara and Deborah are polarities, one focused and almost predatory, the other aloof, effete, genteel, far removed from the sordid world of business. The equating of “grinding daily slavery” to working for a business firm is only one of several references to slavery in O'Neill's plays dealing with the Jacksonian era and the Civil War.

Keywords: Eugene O'Neill; A Touch of the Poet; More Stately Mansions; Sara Harford; Simon Harford; slavery; business

Chapter.  11508 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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