Eugene O'Neill was a playwright of unusual psychological .
To the majority of critics, he is revered as the greatest .
dramatist that America ever produced. He is accepted as "the founder .
of American drama," and his continuing preeminence as such is .
remarkable. A few critics, however, have dismissed his plays as a .
"mass of undisciplined emotions and jejune opinions" (Carpenter, .
171). In this paper, the opposing viewpoints of the praise and blame .
of Eugene O'Neill will be explored.
To understand O'Neill's style of playwriting, one must first have .
a thorough knowledge of his background. "His biography is .
exceptionally important to the understanding of his work, and because .
it is exceptionally interesting. Many of his plays are autobiographical, .
of course. But beyond biography, his life as a whole seemed to .
develop the dramatic stages of a kind of continuing "quest." O'Neill .
struggled with the problems of his individual life, of his family, and of .
his times (with what he calls "the sickness of today"). And these .
personal struggles have also seemed to recapitulate the universal .
problems of man's "long journey" through all times and places. The .
tragedy of his life is related not only to the dramatic tragedies which .
he wrote, but to the archetypes of human tragedy" (Carpenter, 7). He .
was born into a theatrical family, for his father was The Count of .
Monte Cristo. He, his older brother, James, and his mother traveled .
together on their father's tour. "The first and deepest unhappiness of .
his life was that of homelessness-both psychological and physical." .
This was cause by his Irish immigrant ancestry and theatrical heritage. .
Both of these groups were considered alien and outcast during his .
time. An even deeper feeling of spiritual rootlessness resulted from .
his early experiences with Catholicism (Carpenter, 27). "Religion is .
so cold," was a remark made to his friend Joe McCarthy at age nine, .