The evolution of closure in the plays of Eugene O'Neill

Barbara Voglino, Fordham University


This study attempts to account for the failed endings of O'Neill's earlier plays and the highly successful closures of his later plays by examining his endings with regard to contemporary closural theories. After an introduction to closure and its relevance to O'Neill's life and work, nine plays (Beyond the Horizon (1918), "Anna Christie" (1920), Desire under the Elms (1924), Dynamo (1928), Days without End (1933), Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), The Iceman Cometh (1940), Long Day's Journey into Night (1941), and A Moon for the Misbegotten (1943)), selected for their relevance to closure from his early, middle, and late periods, are examined extensively. After studying both the flawed endings of the earlier plays and the generally more "open" endings of The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey into Night, and A Moon for the Misbegotten, the writer concludes that O'Neill's facility with closure evolved most significantly with regard to completing the structures of his plays more appropriately, rendering reversals of character more credible through better preparation, employing ambiguity more purposefully, and abandoning theatricality for fidelity to life.

Subject Area

American literature|Literature|Theater

Recommended Citation

Voglino, Barbara, "The evolution of closure in the plays of Eugene O'Neill" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9816350.