A Tough of The Poet: Play - Summary & Analysis

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      O’Neill bitterly and ironically denounces illusion and romantic dreaming. Cornelius Melody, the ‘real gentleman’ is forced to realize that there is no place in the new world for his over-blown refinement. The play deals with the intrusion of Sara Melody’s daughter of a disgraced Irish army officer, into the aristocratic New England Harford family.

      Cornelius Melody keeps himself away from other people by “a touch of the poet” which he is determined to preserve without fail. He maintains a horse which he cannot afford; his old officer’s uniform bolsters his self-importance. This ex-officer, forced to resign his commission and immigrated to the United States, where he makes a meager living, stands before a mirror reciting Byron. He sees a Byronic figure while standing before a mirror. He plays his role against the shabby setting of the world where he lives, fighting for his illusions. He is blindly supported by his wife, Nora, who suffers passively and is ready to ignore his faults. She accepts him with all his limitations. But he hates him and is critical of his weaknesses, and misses no opportunity to unmask him.

      Simon Harford, rejected by his family is living nearby the Melodys’ house that falls in love with Sara who looks after him during an illness. The Hartford family rejects the idea of a marriage between Sara and Simon, and tries to bribe Sara to leave the neighborhood. Major Melody’s pretensions become unmanageable and he challenges Harford's foaduel. He is beaten up by Harford’s manservant and thrown out of his residence. With his pride badly hurt, Melody drops his mask and realizes the truth about himself. He rushes to the stable to shoot not himself but his mare, the symbol of his pride and social superiority.

Critical Analysis

      Major Melody is a truly tragic character who arouses our pity. He manages to get rid of his self-woven web of illusions and pretensions and to accept life realistically and honestly. The excellence of the second half of the play lies in the perfect balance between its conflicting characters and motives. Simon, like O’Neill, has a touch of the poet. He also has an identical political philosophy.

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