Places: Anna Christie

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1923

First produced: 1921

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Social realism

Time of work: Early twentieth century

Places DiscussedNorth Atlantic seacoast

North Anna ChristieAtlantic seacoast. Eugene O’Neill’s depiction of the seacoast is based on his own youthful experience as a seaman during a time when he had dropped out of college. The barge on which most of the action takes place stops in New York City, Provincetown, and Boston, moving from the Long Island Sound to the Nantucket Sound, around Cape Cod, and ending in Boston Harbor. While the barge hugs the coast, the greater sea intrudes in the person of Matt Burke, a virile sailor rescued from an open boat after the wreck of his steamer. For Anna, the sea and her seaman are rejuvenating and spiritually transformative. For Chris, however, the sea is an “old devil” which will destroy all who venture onto it.

Simeon Winthrop

Simeon Winthrop. Commercial barge that is the home and livelihood of Christopher Christopherson, a Swedish immigrant of fifty. The play’s stage directions describe the barge in some detail. For Chris, the barge is a retreat, but the barge inspires Anna with new possibilities.

Johnny-the-Priest’s Saloon

Johnny-the-Priest’s Saloon. Rough waterfront bar on New York City’s South Street, where Anna first reunites with her father. This location is based on O’Neill’s own memories of a bar known as Jimmy-the-Priest’s. Stage directions indicate double swinging doors and half barrels of cheap whiskey drawn by spigots, characteristic of saloons of its time and place.

BibliographyBogard, Travis. Contour in Time: The Plays of Eugene O’Neill. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Argues for viewing the O’Neill canon as the playwright’s autobiography. Contains a detailed comparison of the final version with earlier versions of Anna Christie.Estrin, Mark W., ed. Conversations with Eugene O’Neill. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1990. A fascinating collection of interviews with the playwright arranged chronologically from 1920 to 1948. Contains many of O’Neill’s comments about the characters and creation of Anna Christie.Floyd, Virginia. The Plays of Eugene O’Neill: A New Assessment. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1985. Chapters analyzing each of O’Neill’s plays. Asserts that Anna Christie is a failure of character and plot.Gelb, Arthur, and Barbara Gelb. O’Neill. Rev. ed. New York: Perennial Library, 1987. A monumental biography of almost one thousand pages with several sections of photographs. An excellent reference for details of the playwright’s life and plays.Houchin, John H., ed. The Critical Response to Eugene O’Neill. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. A collection of critical opinions, including reviews of productions from periodicals and scholarly essays, three of which focus upon Anna Christie. The diversity of perspectives is useful.
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