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Down the Nights and Down the Days

Eugene O'Neill's Catholic Sensibility

Edward L. Shaughnessy
Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1996 Paperback Edition, 2000


Only a careful reader of O'Neill, as Shaughnessy's many articles and his earlier book (Eugene O'Neill in Ireland, 1988) have proven him to be, could have produced this study.  The author proceeds chronologically, with the seven chapters arranged under two headings.  The first part, "The Reluctant Apostate," deals with O'Neill's early life and develops what the second part will show, namely, that although he renounced his faith at 15, the foreboding presence of his Catholic heritage is interwoven in all of his writings.  The commentary on 14 plays is presented largely in the light of thematic references to the playwright's Irish and Catholic heritage.  Shaughnessy rounds out this study with a poignant epilogue focusing on O'Neill's funeral and an extended meditation by Dorothy Day, a close friend of O'Neill's in earlier days but one whom he never saw after her conversion to Catholicism.  The parting thought is that O'Neill's plays were neither dated "social sermons nor contemporary satire.  They are more like moral sermons."  This fine book is for public and academic libraries alike.A. G. Tassin


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