Article Title

O'Neill and Jamie: A Survivor's Tale


Michael Hinden


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

“No, my brother is not alive,” O’Neill wrote to a correspondent in the 1930s. “Booze got him in the end. It was a shame. He and I were terribly close to each other, but after my mother’s death in 1922 he gave up all hold on live and simply wanted to die as soon as possible. He had never found his place. He had never belonged. I hope like my ‘Hairy Ape’ he does now.”1 The figure of O’Neill’s older brother, James O’Neill Jr. (“Jamie”), haunts the playwright’s work. O’Neill interpreters have speculated that Jamie served as the inspiration for several of the playwright’s tortured characters, and O’Neill’s biographers have traced the self-destructive course of Jamie’s life. But little has been written about O’Neill’s conflicted attitude toward his brother or his assessment of their relationship in the years after Jamie’s death. In this essay I explore how O’Neill’s struggle to free himself from his brother’s influence—and his feelings about having done so—provided a rich vein of material for his writing.


1Selected Letters of Eugene O’Neill, ed. Travis Bogard and Jackson R. Bryer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 378.

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