An untitled review of All God’s Chillun Got Wings (with Desire under the Elms and Welded), by Eugene O’Neill
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[ 783 An untitled review of All God’s Chillun Got Wings (with Desire under the Elms and Welded) by Eugene O’Neill London: Jonathan Cape, 1925. Pp. 74, 115, 91, separately paginated. The New Criterion: A Quarterly Review, 4 (Apr 1926) 395-96. One is diffident of passing judgment upon a play which one has not seen upon the stage, but Mr. O’Neill’s plays – especially the first of these three – are so readable, and so impressive when read, that their publication in a book must be noticed. I believe that in America, where Mr. O’Neill’s plays have had a prodigious success, their author is placed with Pirandello, or even above Pirandello, as the author of a renascence of the drama.1 This enthusiasm, for either Mr. O’Neill or Signor Pirandello, I cannot share. I know that Pirandello is a master of the technique of the theatre, as I have seen one or two of his plays; I believe O’Neill to be the same, because of the esteem which he enjoys. In reading All God’s Chillun Got Wings, we stick at the representation of the two principal actors, in successive scenes, in childhood , in adolescence, and in maturity; we wonder whether the play must not somewhat drag, from the lack of unity due to the attempt to cover such a span of time. But Mr. O’Neill has got hold of a “strong plot”; he not only understands one aspect of the “negro problem,” but he succeeds in giving this problem universality, in implying a wider application. In this respect, he is more successful than the author of Othello, in implying something more universal than the problem of race – in implying, in fact, the universal problem of differences which create a mixture of admiration, love, and contempt, with the consequent tension. At the same time, he has never deviated from exact portrayal of a possible negro, and the close is magnificent . The other plays show the same ability at work, but are intrinsically less interesting.2 T. S. E. Notes 1. TSE had received from a translation agency an unsolicited copy of “The Shrine,” a story by dramatist and fiction writer Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936), which he published in the second 1926 784 ] issue of the Criterion. In Aug 1925, he placed Pirandello’s name on a list of European writers for a proposed Faber monograph series “to introduce the British reader to the most important movements of thought and literary art on the continent” (L2 716-17), and he corresponded in Nov 1925 with C. K. Scott Moncrieff, one of Pirandello’s translators, about printing other pieces by Pirandello in the Criterion (L2 778). On 14 Jan 1926, however, he told Scott Moncrieff: “I should like to hold off for the present because Pirandello has been appearing in several places as well as once already in The Criterion and I should like to be able to introduce a few other Italians before using another of his stories” (L3 25). 2. When this review was reprinted in O’Neill and his Plays: Four Decades of Criticism, ed. Oscar Cargill, et al. (New York: New York UP, 1961), TSE asked the editors to preface it with the following note: “This note on All God’s Chillun Got Wings first appeared in The Criterion of April 1926. I should like to make it clear to the present readers that at that time I had never seen any of Eugene O’Neill’s plays on the stage. Since then I have gained experience of the theatre myself and I realize that a play must be judged from seeing it on the stage as well as reading the text. This is particularly true, I think, of the plays of Eugene O’Neill. It is only within the last two or three years that I have seen plays by him performed: A Long Day’s Journey Into Night in the London production and A Touch of the Poet in New York. I should like to say that I place his work very high indeed, and A Long Day’s Journey Into Night seems to me one of the most moving plays I have ever seen” (168). ...