Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton June 9, 2016

The artist’s self-reflection: A pluralistic interpretation of the artist-characters in Eugene O’Neill’s plays

Shiyan Xu
From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies


There are various artist-characters in many of O’Neill’s plays, which – if interpreted in a new way – can be regarded as dramatic embodiment of multi-level significance. With their expressed awareness of being artists, they occasionally go beyond the narrow confines of O’Neill’s personal life experiences to reveal an implicit re-examination of the author’s own theatrical methods. In O’Neill plays poets are usually of symbolic significance in contrast to commercially motivated society. The novelist characters convey O’Neill’s tendency to combine novel and drama; they also represent the difficulties O’Neill experiences in such an endeavor. The characters involved with drama production reveal O’Neill’s ideas on the relationship between drama writing and production. The analysis attempts to explore the pluralistic space of interpretation of O’Neill’s artist-characters so that a more perceptive comprehension of his plays can be achieved.


I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Professor Jie Zhang, my advisor for my post-graduate project. As Dean of the School of Foreign Languages, Professor Zhang is extremely busy, but he is always ready to help me whenever I have questions about my research. I am gratefully indebted to him not only for his insightful advice, but also for his continuous encouragement. Without his support, my research would be impossible.


Eisen, K. (1994). The inner strength of opposites: O’Neill’s novelistic drama and the melodramatic imagination. Athens: University of George Press.Search in Google Scholar

Halfmann, U. (1987). Eugene O’Neill: Comments on the drama and the theatre: A source book. Tubingen: Gunter Narr.Search in Google Scholar

Maufort, M. (1987). Eugene O’Neill and the emergence of American drama. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Search in Google Scholar

O’Neill, E. (1988a). Complete plays. T. Bogard (Ed.), Vol. 1. New York: Viking.Search in Google Scholar

O’Neill, E. (1988b). Complete plays. T. Bogard (Ed.), Vol. 2. New York: Viking.Search in Google Scholar

O’Neill, E. (1988c). Complete plays. T. Bogard (Ed.), Vol. 3. New York: Viking.Search in Google Scholar

O’Neill, E. (1956). Long day’s journey into night. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Yu, H., & Zhang, J. (2015). “Anti-identity construction” of literary texts from a semiotic point of view. Foreign Literature Studies, (6), 59–67.Search in Google Scholar

Zhang, J. (2014). The intellectual mechanism of the text: Boundaries, dialogue and space-time – Reflections on the studies of the history of 19th century Russian literature. Foreign Language Studies, (5), 131–137.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2016-6-9
Published in Print: 2016-5-1

© 2016 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston