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Hamilton, J.W. (1979). Transitional Phenomena and the Early Writings of Eugene O'Neill. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 6:49-60.

(1979). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 6:49-60

Transitional Phenomena and the Early Writings of Eugene O'Neill

James W. Hamilton


The material presented in this paper demonstrates certain unmistakable parallels between events in O'Neill's life and his works in 1914–15 when he was just beginning to write plays, having begun his artistic career earlier as a poet. His correspondence with Beatrice Ashe revealed conflicts of a depressive nature, which stemmed from unresolved dependent wishes, separation anxiety, rage, internalization and somatization. He attempted to cope with these through a regressive fusion with the love object in dream and fantasy, by utilization of transitional objects in the form of articles of clothing sent to him upon request by Miss Ashe, and by externalization in the creative process. As would be expected, the two remaining plays of this period deal with similar dynamic and genetic themes, variations of which were to be contained in all his subsequent writings, culminating in his autobiographical masterpiece, Long Day's Journey Into Night. The transitional object appeared to function as a spur to creativity in that it allowed O'Neill respite from intense separation anxiety and depression so that he could mobilize his fantasies and then synthesize them in his creative works.

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