Article Title

Desire and Forgiveness: O'Neill's Diptych


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

In addition to the striking parallels between Desire Under the Elms and A Moon for the Misbegotten regarding setting, plot, and characterization, the plays are intimately and profoundly related in terms of psychology and structure. O'Neill reported that the conception of Desire Under the Elms appeared to him all of a piece, vivid and complete in a dream, suggesting the deep, immediate importance to him of the play's autobiographical content.1 That he felt a need - consciously or unconsciously - to rework this material twenty years later in the testament of his last completed play indicates that he was indeed wrestling with issues of considerable personal concern. By this comparison I hope to demonstrate that together the plays comprise a fascinating diptych, two panels of a single portrait or one unified action.2 In A Moon for the Misbegotten, it can be argued, certain unconscious fantasies dramatized in Desire Under the Elms are exorcized and self-forgiven. Moreover, as Travis Bogard notes, the conscious Dinoysian framework of O'Neill's earlier plays (nowhere more powerfully visible than in Desire) is replaced in Moon by a Catholic vision of absolution and confession.3 It is possible, then, that A Moon for the Misbegotten is not only O'Neill's elegy for his brother Jamie, an extention of the autobiographical impulse generally present throughout the later plays, but an attempt on the part of the playwright to come to terms with his own artistic vision.

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