The Great God Brown: Play - Summary & Analysis

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      In this play, there are two abstract types of men who are each further divided; the two main characters of the play (the poet Dion and the businessman Brown) have a dual personalities: one is the real personality and the other is what each would like others to think of him to be, or what he shows he is. The pious Brown is secretly on love with Dion’s wife while the drunken, bohemian Dion inwardly yearns for God. Here the subconscious self and the manifest self are equally abstract.

Critical Analysis

      The play became for its daring use of masks to suggest the conflicting personalities of each of its characters. All the characters used masks to dramatize the contrast between their external, or public selves, and their inner, or private selves. And this new use of masks suggested psychological complexities beyond the scope of the realistic drama.

      Each character has a mask that he puts on or takes off depending upon whether his false or true self is speaking. The technical novelty of the drama is that O’Neill makes his characters wear masks. When they reveal themselves, they put the masks aside. The mask has importance for the plot as well. Brown steals the mask of the dead Dion in order to get Margaret - and dies as Dion.

      The play marks a milestone in O’Neill’s career, and it also prepared the way for his later triumphs. The final beauty of The Great God Brown lies in its symbolic joining of dissociated fragments of experience by the creative imagination.

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