Beyond The Horizon: Play - Summary & Analysis

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      Beyond the Horizon was O’Neill’s first full-length play. He uses a profusion of realistic details to depict the Mayo family’s progressive disillusion. Robert Mayo, who is about to realize his dream of journeying ‘beyond the horizon’ of going to sea, suddenly throws himself into a new dream of marital happiness with his neighbor’s daughter. His brother, Andrew, whose love the girl has rejected, undertakes the sea journey in his place. Thus, the two brothers exchange plans; Robert embraces a new dream in his decision to remain at home, while Andrew seeks a new life beyond the horizon.

      Both are failures; both are made to suffer the consequences of the betrayal of their respective dreams. Robert, giving up his romantic quest for the beauty and poetry of life beyond the horizon, dies in disillusionment on the form. Andrew, repulsed by the life of seaman, fails in his South American business venture. Like the brother Ruth, Robert’s wife, realizes too late that she made the wrong choice. Her marriage is a failure, and the romantic dreams are soon shattered by the stark realities of farm life.

      Robert finally realizes that sailing ‘beyond the horizon’ can be achieved only through death. For the living, the happiness that lies beyond the horizon remains an unattainable illusion.

Critical Analysis

      The theme of the play is the necessity of the dream to sustain a man and his quest to discover the mystery behind life-force wherein lies the secret to the meaning of life. Robert’s death illustrates the need for dream; his suffering provides him with insights into the purpose of life. Robert realizes in the end that the enduring reality is suffering. In O’Neill happiness through love is rarely realized. Suffering brings not merely salvation hereafter but also peace.

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