O' NEILL AS A DRAMATIST: DR. HARESHWAR ROY
Eugene O' Neill is
one of the greatest dramatist of America. As a dramatist, he earned
wide acclaim. His contribution to the American drama is notable, remarkable and
memorable. The bulk of his output is fairly large. He employed expressionistic
technique in some of his plays like 'The Hairy Ape' and 'The Emperor Jones'.
EXPRESSIONISM: Expressionism is a dramatic technique. Through this technique a playwright tries to depict inner reality. It is a revolt against naturalism or realism that expressed only the surface reality. The father of this technique was Strindberg. It was imported from
Germany to America. Under this technique the
emphasis shifts from the external to the inner reality. There is a deeper and
deeper probing of the sub-conscious. Action is increasingly internalised. What
goes on within the soul becomes more important. Here, there is a concentration
on the stream of consciousness. This technique presents the working of the mind
of characters. Here the playwright depends upon slip of tongue, dreams etc. He uses
symbols, metaphors, fables and allegories. Even unseen voices are heard to
express the secret thoughts of the characters.
NEILL AS EXPRESSIONISTIC: Eugene O' Neill was a tireless experimenter.
He experimented with a variety of dramatic forms and modes. He always sought
new techniques of expression and communication. This experimentation continued
from the beginning of his career up to the very end. He began his career as a
writer of realistic plays, but soon he fused realism with symbolic and suggestive
modes. In order to communicate inner reality he used expressionistic techniques
in his 'Hairy Ape' and 'Emperor Jones'. This technique is powerfully used in
'The Hairy Ape'.
EXPRESSIONISTIC TECHNIQUE IN THE HAIRY APE: The Hairy Ape is an expressionistic drama on the pattern of Strindberg's dramas. It has all the features of an expressionistic play. It deals with modern industrial unrest. It shows the conflict between science and spiritual chaos. Yank, the hero of the play, is searching his identity. He is a symbol of suffering man who has lost his sense of identity and belonging. The present play deals with the inner consciousness of Yank. Its characters are symbolic. Its language is also like that of the expressionistic plays. It exploits the stage effects like lightening. The characters are few. The real action takes place in the mind of the hero.
SCENE AND SETTING: Scenes and setting of 'The Hairy Ape' shows the manner of an expressionist. In the beginning we find Yank who is the symbol of the primitive, the animal-like in man. The description of the inhabitants of the
in scene V is equally expressionistic. In this description we get the
exaggerated distortion of reality. The eight scene of this play is one long
monologue. It is an admirable study of Yank's thought-processes. It fully
brings out the disintegration of Yank's personality. Here, the playwright has
used the technique of the 'interior monologue'. According to the norms, the
scenes are short in this play. The number of scenes is cut down to a minimum.
Each scene deals with the consciousness of the central figure. These scenes are
not logically related. 'The Hairy Ape' has eight scenes. But the story part of
the drama is not important. The question of the development of plot or
character does not arise.
CHARACTER AND ACTION: In an expressionistic play, the number of characters is cut down to the minimum. The attention is focused on the central figure. In 'The Hairy Ape', O' Neill focuses on the obsession of yank and what goes on within his soul. The dramatic personages in such play do not develop their permanent relationship. They express themselves briefly. Their conversation is symbolic. The language is clipped. We find all these things in 'The Hairy Ape'. The entire action is focused on the consciousness of yank. The dramatist has exploited the technique of interior monologue.
CONCLUSION: Thus, O' Neill's Hairy Ape is an expressionistic play. But Neill's expressionism is based on reality. The play does not have the complete formlessness of other expressionistic plays. There is no total decay of plot and character. There is realism in the delineation both of setting and character. In short, O' Neill has skillfully avoided the extremes of expression and maintained the coherence and integrity characteristic of a realistic play.