The article views O'Neill's two early plays, The Hairy Ape and All God's Chillun Got Wings, as dramatic expressions of traumatic experience. They dramatize posttraumatic memory that haunts the characters to the point of death and mental illness respectively. The plays are seen as tragic in a sense different from the traditional view of tragedy. They are defined as trauma-tragedies, the term recently introduced into the theory of drama under the influence of Ruth Leys and her explorations of trauma. This tragic mode brings the audience into the traumatic drama by providing it with the most intense physical sensation of trauma possible and in this way with a specific tragic catharsis.

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