Eugene O'Neill, fully Eugene Gladstone O'Neill

Eugene
O'Neill, fully Eugene Gladstone O'Neill
1888
1953

Irish American Playwright, Nobel Laureate in Literature

Author Quotes

All I know is that if you want to get anywhere with it, or with anything else, you have got to adopt an entirely different attitude from the one you have had toward getting an education. In plain words, you?ve got to make up your mind to study whatever you undertake, and concentrate your mind on it, and really work at it. This isn?t wisdom. Any damned fool in the world knows it?s true, whether it?s a question of raising horses or writing plays. You simply have to face the prospect of starting at the bottom and spending years learning how to do it.

I?m glad to know of your doing so much reading and that you?re becoming interested in Shakespeare. If you really like and understand his work, you will have something no one can ever take from you.

The best I can do is to try to encourage you to work hard at something you really want to do and have the ability to do. Because any fool knows that to work hard at something you want to accomplish is the only way to be happy. But beyond that it is entirely up to you. You?ve got to do for yourself all the seeking and finding concerned with what you want to do. Anyone but yourself is useless to you there? What I am trying to get firmly planted in your mind is this: In the really important decisions of life, others cannot help you. No matter how much they would like to. You must rely on yourself. That is the fate of each one of us. It can?t be changed. It just is like that. And you are old enough to understand this now. And that?s all of that. It isn?t much help in a practical advice way, but in another way it might be. At least, I hope so.

The trouble with you, I think, is you are still too dependent on others. You expect too much from outside you and demand too little of yourself. You hope everything will be made smooth and easy for you by someone else. Well, it?s coming to the point where you are old enough, and have been around enough, to see that this will get you exactly nowhere. You will be what you make yourself and you have got to do that job absolutely alone and on your own, whether you?re in school or holding down a job.

EDMUND: [with alcoholic talkativeness]: You've just told me some high spots in your memories. Want to hear mine? They're all connected with the sea. Here's one. When I was on the Squarehead square rigger, bound for Buenos Aires. Full moon in the Trades. The old hooker driving fourteen knots. I lay on the bowsprit, facing astern, with the water foaming into spume under me, the masts with every sail white in the moonlight, towering high above me. I became drunk with the beauty and singing rhythm of it, and for a moment I lost myself -- actually lost my life. I was set free! I dissolved in the sea, became white sails and flying spray, became beauty and rhythm, became moonlight and the ship and the high dim-starred sky! I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and a wild joy, within something greater than my own life, or the life of Man, to Life itself! To God, if you want to put it that way. Then another time, on the American Line, when I was lookout on the crow's nest in the dawn watch. A calm sea, that time. Only a lazy ground swell and a slow drowsy roll of the ship. The passengers asleep and none of the crew in sight. No sound of man. Black smoke pouring from the funnels behind and beneath me. Dreaming, not keeping lookout, feeling alone, and above, and apart, watching the dawn creep like a painted dream over the sky and sea which slept together. Then the moment of ecstatic freedom came. The peace, the end of the quest, the last harbor, the joy of belonging to a fulfillment beyond men's lousy, pitiful, greedy fears and hopes and dreams! And several other times in my life, when I was swimming far out, or lying alone on a beach, I have had the same experience. Became the sun, the hot sand, green seaweed anchored to a rock, swaying in the tide. Like a saint's vision of beatitude. Like the veil of things as they seem drawn back by an unseen hand. For a second you see -- and seeing the secret, are the secret. For a second there is meaning! Then the hand lets the veil fall and you are alone, lost in the fog again, and you stumble on toward nowhere, for no good reason!

LARRY: [with increasing bitter intensity, more as if he were fighting with himself than with Hickey] I'm afraid to live, am I?--and even more afraid to die! So I sit here, with my pride drowned on the bottom of a bottle, keeping drunk so I won't see myself shaking in my britches with fright, or hear myself whining and praying: Beloved Christ, let me live a little longer at any price! If it's only for a few days more, or a few hours even, have mercy, Almighty God, and let me still clutch greedily to my yellow heart this sweet treasure, this jewel beyond price, the dirty, stinking bit of withered old flesh which is my beautiful little life! (He laughs with a sneering, vindictive self-loathing, staring inward at himself with contempt and hatred. Then abruptly he makes Hickey again the antagonist.) You think you'll make me admit that to myself?

The fog was where I wanted to be. Halfway down the path you can’t see this house. You’d never know it was here. Or any of the other places down the avenue. I couldn’t see but a few feet ahead. I didn’t meet a soul. Everything looked and sounded unreal. Nothing was what it is. That’s what I wanted—to be alone with myself in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself. Out beyond the harbor, where the road runs along the beach, I even lost the feeling of being on land. The fog and the sea seemed part of each other. It was like walking on the bottom of the sea. As if I had drowned long ago. As if I was the ghost belonging to the fog, and the fog was the ghost of the sea. It felt damned peaceful to be nothing more than a ghost within a ghost.

You seem to be going in for sincerity today. It isn't becoming to you, really — except as an obvious pose. Be as artificial as you are, I advise. There's a sort of sincerity in that, you know. And, after all, you must confess you like that better.

For a moment I lost myself, actually lost my life. I was set free! I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and a wild joy, within something greater than my own life . . . to life itself. I caught a glimpse of something greater than myself.

I was set free! I dissolved in the sea, became white sails and flying spray, became beauty and rhythm, became moonlight and the ship and the high dim-starred sky! I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and a wild joy, within something greater than my own life, or the life of Man, to Life itself!.. And several other times in my life, when I was swimming far out, or lying alone on a beach, I have had the same experience, became the sun, the hot sand, green seaweed anchored to a rock, swaying in the tide. Like a saint's vision of beatitude. Like the veil of things as they seem drawn back by an unseen hand. For a second you see, and seeing the secret, you are the secret. For a second there is meaning! Then the hand lets the veil fall and you are alone, lost in the fog again, and you stumble on towards nowhere for no good reason.

LAVINIA: He made me feel for the first time in my life that everything about love could be sweet and natural... I have a right to love!

The old -- like children -- talk to themselves, for they have reached that hopeless wisdom of experience which knows that though one were to cry it in the streets to multitudes, or whisper it in the kiss to one's beloved, the only ears that can ever hear one's secrets are one's own!

You're two of a kind, and a bad kind.

For de small stealing dey puts you in jail, soon or late. But for de big stealing dey puts yo' picture in de paper and yo' statue in de Hall of Fame when you croaks! If dey's one thing I learned in ten years, listenin' to de white quality on de Pullman cars, it's dat same fact. And when I gets a chance to use it -- from stowaway to Emperor in two years. Dat's goin' some!

I will be an artist or nothing!

LAVINIA: I love everything that grows simply-- up toward the sun-- everything that's straight and strong! I hate what's warped and twists and eats into itself and dies for a lifetime in shadow...

The past is the present, isn't it? It's the future too.

Happy roads is bunk. Weary roads is right. Get you nowhere fast. That's where I've got—nowhere. Where everyone lands in the end, even if most of the suckers won't admit it.

If a person is to get the meaning of life he must learn to like the facts about himself -- ugly as they may seem to his sentimental vanity -- before he can learn the truth behind the facts. And the truth is never ugly.

LAVINIA: I want to feel love! Love is all beautiful! I never used to know that! I was a fool! We'll be married soon... We'll make an island for ourselves on land and we'll have children and love them and teach them to love life so that they can never be possessed by hate and death!

TYRONE: [Stares at him -- impressed.] Yes, there's the makings of a poet in you all right. [Then protesting uneasily] But that's morbid craziness about not being wanted and loving death. EDMUND: [Sardonically] The makings of a poet. No, I'm afraid I'm like the guy who is always panhandling for a smoke. He hasn't even got the makings. He's got only the habit. I couldn't touch what I tried to tell you just now. I just stammered. That's the best I'll ever do, I mean, if I live. Well, it will be faithful realism, at least. Stammering is the native eloquence of us fog people.

A credulous, religious-minded fool, as I've pointed out! And he carried his credulity into the next period of his life, where he believed in one social or philosophical Ism after another, always on the trial of Truth! He was never courageous enough to face what he really knew was true, that there is no truth for men, that human life in unimportant and meaningless. No. He was always grasping at some absurd new faith to find and excuse for going on!

He thinks money spent on a home is money wasted. He's lived too much in hotels. Never the best hotels, of course. Second-rate hotels. He doesn't understand a home. He doesn't feel at home in it. And yet, he wants a home. He's even proud of having this shabby place. He loves it here.

If that ghost have money I tells him never to haunt you -- less'n he wants to lose it!

Author Picture
First Name
Eugene
Last Name
O'Neill, fully Eugene Gladstone O'Neill
Birth Date
1888
Death Date
1953
Bio

Irish American Playwright, Nobel Laureate in Literature