EUGENE O'NEILL / PROVINCETOWN, MASS.)
Dec. 6, 1921.
My dear Mr. Boyd:
Will you kindly read the enclosed? It is the copy of an article I have done for the Sunday
Times explaining what I was driving at in the last act of "Anna Christie". I am
sending it to you, for your private perusal, in case it should never appear in that
journal. I want to be sure you see it because, having just finished reading your criticism
in the Freeman, it seems to me I owe you an explanation which a part of these pages will
I have a very great respect for your critical judgment; and so the fact that you reached a
conclusion about that last act quite contrary to my intention puzzles and troubles me.
Evidently the last speeches of the play are such profound anti-climax that they carry no
conviction at all.
But this is neither here nor there. What did get under my skin in your criticism is that
you think my ending was made to order for an audience. I swear to you it was not. I have
never done that sort of thing. That last act literally forced itself on me the way it is
-- (it would have been so much easier for me to have done it any other) -- because it
seemed the truth, the silly sentimental patch-up for the moment my three characters would
inevitably have contrived for themselves in real life. I meant it to be humorous -- not
"inaptly" so but a bit pitifully. I do not consider it a happy ending; but
whether it is or not really doesn't matter. To me it is the true ending.
And that is my excuse for the liberty of this letter -- to tell you, whose opinion I
really care about, that no matter how wrong you may find me in the accomplishment, it is
not -- and never will be -- fair to doubt the integrity of my purpose. My work in the past
ought, don't you think, to entitle me to the benefit of the doubt -- at least in this
first case where there ever could be even the shadow of a doubt?
As for the insertion of a phrase at the end of "The Straw", it must have
happened after the play opened, and was done without my knowledge or consent. The
published version is much too long and had to be cut and reconstructed in spots but I
always kept the ending intact.
It might interest you to know that "The Straw" was written three years back, and
"Anna Christie" over a year and a half ago -- both came before either "The
Emperor Jones" or "Diff'rent".
All sincerest regards to you.