Places: Strange Interlude

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1928

First produced: 1928

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: After World War I

Places DiscussedLeeds home

Leeds Strange Interludehome. New England home in which the first two acts are set. The location suggests the domination of Nina’s puritanical father over her adolescence, and his priggishness is mirrored in his well-ordered study. In the second act, after Leeds dies, his study falls into disarray, suggesting that his values are not perpetuated in the modern world. Once he is gone, Nina is free to marry Sam Evans, a likable figure who, like Nina, worships the memory of Gordon Shaw, the fiancé she lost in World War I.

Evans homestead

Evans homestead. Decaying house that is an apt setting for Sam’s mother to reveal to the newly married Nina the dark secret of the Evans family–that the unborn child Nina now carries may grow up insane. After aborting her pregnancy, Nina seduces Ned Darrell in the Evans house so that she can bear a child to make her husband happy.

Evans apartment

Evans apartment. Well-appointed Park Avenue residence in New York City that suggests the level of affluence the Evans family has achieved. It contrasts, however, with the growing dissolution that Nina feels. Her son is more devoted to Sam Evans, whom he thinks is his natural father, than to her, At the same time, Nina continues to feel deep affection for Ned Darrell. In the apartment, her son sees a physical display of her affection for Darrell; afterward, he forms a hatred for Darrell and disgust for his mother.

Evans’s yacht

Evans’s yacht. Aboard their yacht anchored in the Hudson River Nina, her husband, and others watch her son Gordon in a boat race. Seemingly adrift herself, Nina reaches out symbolically to hold on to her son by threatening to reveal the dark secret about the family’s past to Gordon’s fiancé–even though Gordon is not Sam’s biological son. Ned prevents her from doing so, however, and her husband’s stroke aboard ship causes her to change her plans and nurse Sam Evans in his final days.

Evans estate

Evans estate. Luxurious, almost decadent, Long Island location at which the play’s final act takes place. The material excesses of the Evans home are set in stark contrast to the psychological bankruptcy of the widowed heroine. She turns for solace to the father-figure and longtime admirer Charles Marsden. Ironically, he responds by promising to return her to the refuge of her girlhood home.

BibliographyAlexander, Doris. Eugene O’Neill’s Creative Struggle: The Decisive Decade, 1924-1933. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992. Attempts to trace the creation of the plays to probable sources. Sees O’Neill’s writing of plays as opportunities “to confront and solve” problems in his own life. Asserts that Strange Interlude evolved from O’Neill’s attempt to confront the family “lie” about his mother’s drug problem and inadequacies as well as his growing disillusionment with his second wife.Bogard, Travis. Contour in Time: The Plays of Eugene O’Neill. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Recognizes O’Neill’s plays as efforts of self-understanding. Attempts to analyze the plays in relationship to events in O’Neill’s life. Excellent commentary on Strange Interlude and its psychological, mythical, and autobiographical elements, especially in relation to gender conflicts and attractions.Carpenter, Frederic I. Eugene O’Neill. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1979. An effective, short introduction to O’Neill’s life and plays, emphasizing the tragic dimension of the dramas. Sees Strange Interlude as a twentieth century morality play that lacks O’Neill’s usual high tragic vision. Emphasizes why the play has been successful in spite of weaknesses.Greene, James J. Eugene O’Neill’s “Strange Interlude”: A Critical Commentary. New York: Monarch Press, 1980. A brief introduction to the plot, characterization, themes, staging, strengths, and weaknesses of the play.Sheaffer, Louis. O’Neill: Son and Artist. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973. Authoritative biography of O’Neill, which emphasizes the personal and autobiographical details that helped to create Strange Interlude. Gives special attention to the psychological and theatrical elements in this experimental drama.
Categories: Places