Abstract

This article examines Irish-American identity in Eugene O'Neill's early work, including his “lost” plays. It demonstrates that characters such as Al Devlin in The Movie Man, Joe and Nellie Murray in Abortion, Eileen Carmody and Stephen Murray from The Straw, Robert “Yank” Smith in The Hairy Ape, and even the “Papist” child Mary Sweeney in The Rope are socially marginalized by American WASPs due to their Irish Catholic backgrounds. In the case of Yank such marginalization eventually convinces him that he is too “animalistic” to find a place in mainstream American society. Like Yank, the Irish-American characters in the other plays being examined find it hard to connect with (or are brutally disrespected by) the WASPs in their lives. Previous discussions of WASP/Irish-American tensions in O'Neill's work have focused primarily on O'Neill's late masterpieces; this article demonstrates that such tensions are a key feature of O'Neill's early work as well.

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