Abstract

The religious themes in “Anna Christie” reflect O'Neill's synthesis of disparate influences: his Catholic heritage, his enthusiasm for Nietzsche, and his growing interest in Eastern philosophy. This article examines each of these aspects as well as the historic context in which O'Neill transformed his earlier play, Chris Christophersen, into “Anna Christie.” That context includes the 1920 publication of H. L. Mencken's translation of The Antichrist, which may have reconnected O'Neill to Nietzsche's ideas as he was rewriting his play. Christian symbolism in “Anna Christie,” largely inspired by the communion prayer Anima Christi, reflects O'Neill's connection to his father while simultaneously expressing his alignment with Nietzsche's critique of Christianity's moral and metaphysical decadence. O'Neill also explores counterpoints to Christianity by drawing from the principles of Hinduism and Vedantic thought in constructing his metaphor of the sea.

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