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Desire and Return: A Spiritual Ecological Study of Eugene O’neill’s More Stately Mansions

Author WangJianLing
Tutor LiuYongJie
School Zhengzhou University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords More Stately Mansions spiritual ecology excessive material desire Spiritual loss spiritual return
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
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Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953) is America’s greatest playwright. He has been widely known as "father of modern American drama" for his outstanding contribution to the birth and flourish of American theater. Being a serious playwright, O’Neill spares no efforts to itemize and expose the pivotal issue confronted by human race--the predicament of existence--repudiating and ostracizing our sense of happiness. His concern with this issue reincarnates in his works. Life and death, hope and disillusionment, alienation and communication, desire and frustration, and the like are incessant themes in his corpora. He cherishes life and spends the entirety of his lifespan diagnosing the predicament of human spirit, seeking meaning and purpose of human life, and trying to find solutions to the spiritual pandemic in modern society. His concern for the condition of human spirit is entrenched throughout his dramatic creation, suggesting to the readers and theater-goers that they augment their concern for spiritual problems.Spiritual ecology delves into the issues of human spirit and spiritual harmony. In the play More Stately Mansions, the heroes’material pursuit leads to the erosion and loss of their spiritual value, and their craziness for wealth causes depletion of spiritual satisfaction. From the perspective of spiritual ecology, the present author of the thesis analyzes the ironic and detrimental conflict between material opulence and spiritual degradation experienced by the protagonists, and goes on to make a further attempt to solve this poignant conflict. The scenarios unfolded by O’Neill via his concern with human spirit and exposition of human spiritual problems, are worthwhile for modern men encapsulated with similar spiritual grit.The thesis falls into six parts:Introduction, four chapters and Conclusion.Introduction is a succinct overview of the playwright’s life, his writing experience, the writing background of More Stately Mansions, as well as the present research on Eugene O’Neill and the selected play at home and abroad.Chapter One is the sketch of ecological criticism, especially the spiritual ecological theory, and their important arguments as well. Chapter Two traces the formation of O’Neill’s concern with human spiritual ecological problems. His early years of maritime experience, the impact of the cultural traditions of the West, and the East Taoism, allegedly made a profound influence on his spiritual ecological awareness.Chapter Three scrutinizes the spiritual ecological imbalance besetting the Harford family members in More Stately Mansions within the framework of the spiritual ecological theory. The protagonists like Simon, Sarah, Deborah and Joel are ensnared by greed for wealth, fame and desire, which at the same time devours the affection between family members, stripping of the life the meaning of existence and sense of happiness.Chapter Four, from the forgoing analysis, elicits the plausible ways to help the emasculated human race break away from the spiritual spell. Only when human race get rid of the insatiable desire for wealth can we ostracize our conceptual and behavioral follies, return to nature and simplicity, re-experience the beauty and sweetness of human life.The last part is the Conclusion, which summarizes the former analysis, re-states the significance of the study on More Stately Mansions from the perspective of spiritual ecology, and then points out that the lost spiritual paradise can be regained unless we human race surmount and repudiate our excessive material desire, return to congenial nature, and re-construct spiritual harmony.

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