Contextualization Copy

EUGENE O’NEILL (1888-1953)


  • At the beginning of the 20th century, the U.S started to change its relations with the world and ended its isolation from international conflicts.
  • The U.S was the world’s richest and most powerful nation;
  • The U.S got involved in WW I (1917) and WW II (1941). The involvement in WWII was a consequence of the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbour;
  • The U.S dropped the first atomic bomb used in the war on Hiroshima and Nagasaki;
  • After WWII the U.S took over the role of leader of the Western World, establishing the Marshall Aid plan and NATO.


The 1920s were called “the roaring twenties”. It was a period of excess and enjoyment.

1920-1933 ̵ the Prohibition: the ban on alcohol, clubs are illegal but they function underground and alcohol is trafficked.

1929 ̵ the prosperity comes to a sudden end because of The Great Depression ̵ millions of people lose jobs and the economy suffers an abrupt decline;

Despite the economical hardships of the 1930s, society evolved:

  • Women of the jazz era embraced new roles; they had more freedom, danced, drank, went clubbing.
  • Fashion changed radically.

After WWII (1945) the economy enjoys a boom;

The consumer society is born:

  • Radio
  • Telephone
  • Refrigerator
  • Automobile
  • The middle class prospers and has access to higher education.


Principles of realism:

  • normal situations and ordinary characters are described in familiar settings;
  • attention to detail;
  • description based on experience, not imagination;
  • lower strata of society are emphasized;
  • very little use of metaphors.

Principles of naturalism:

  • It is an intensified form of realism that depicts a grim reality;
  • Nature is an indifferent force that acts on the lives of human beings;
  • Heredity and environment are the forces that affect and afflict individual lives;
  • The universe is indifferent and deterministic, humans are subject to fate.

Principles of expressionist drama:

  • Exaggeration and distortion of objective features of the outer world;
  • The embodiment of violent extremes of mood and feeling;
  • Direct expressions of thoughts and emotions;
  • Use of symbolism and dream-like elements;
  • Dehumanizing aspect in society;
  • Primitivism – the return to prior-to-civilization state;
  • Use of grotesque.

Realistic drama techniques:

  • verisimilitude
  • realistic stage settings, mostly indoors (generally consisting of three walls of a room and an imaginary fourth wall through which the audience watches the action);
  • real props;
  • costumes accurate to the character, time, and place of the drama;
  • natural dialogue with everyday speech and local vernacular;
  • no dramatic or “actorly” effect;
  • addresses social issues;
  • the protagonists assert themselves against an injustice that affects them or society;
  • the time in which the events occur is compressed;
  • the conflict is intensified;
  • the relationship between characters and their traits are intensified,


Born in New York, in an actor’s family;

Of Irish descent;

Worked as a journalist;

Won the Novel Prize in Literature (1936);

Won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.


  • “Beyond the Horizon”“
  • The Emperor Jones”
  • “Mourning Becomes Electra”
  • “Long Day’s Journey into the Night”