“The Merest Sham”: Women and Marriage

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:
“The Merest Sham”: Women and Marriage

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  • Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)


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The philosophers and playwrights of Eugene O'Neill's era contributed significantly to the misperceptions of women, whom Friedrich Nietzsche regarded as “God's second mistake.” O'Neill would write numerous plays dealing with women, marriage, and sexual relations. The loss of his first loves crushed O'Neill. He could rarely write about women as objects of sensual pleasure, intellectual companions, or as hopes of spiritual deliverance. Instead, he would write plays satirizing marriage, parenting, free love, and the search for sexual fulfillment. O'Neill's Beyond the Horizon has been praised as the first successful classical tragedy in the American theater. Anna Christiewas the first play he wrote that would give prominence to the female character. Moreover, Welded examines the institution of marriage. Sometimes, the anarchist-leaning O'Neill treated the emotion of love with the same suspicion that he treated religion: faith in either meant loss of freedom and self-control.

Keywords: Eugene O'Neill; women; marriage; sexual relations; Beyond the Horizon; Anna Christie; Welded

Chapter.  12117 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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