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Strange Interlude

Strange Interlude

sam gordon nina darrell

a play by Eugene O'Neill, produced in 1928. A highly successful play which earned O'Neill a sizeable fortune and a Pulitzer Prize, it was immediately popular for its frank airing of sexual issues presented through a Freudian investigation of its characters' psychology. It tells the story of Nina Leeds and the men in her life, including her possessive father who persuaded her fiancé, Gordon Shaw, not to marry her before he went to France in the Great War, where he was killed. Nina laments not having given herself to Gordon, and disowns her father for his interference. She becomes a nurse in a military hospital where three men fall for her: Charles Marsden, a novelist devoted to his mother, Dr Edmund Darrell, who represses his love for her, preferring the safety of his scientific career, and Sam Evans, the weakest of the three, whom she is persuaded to marry. Once pregnant by Sam, she is told by his mother that there is a history of insanity in the family, and she has an abortion which she conceals from Sam. She then has a son by Edmund Darrell, whom Sam believes to be his, and, inspired by his apparent fatherhood, he becomes a confident and successful businessman. Nina refuses Darrell's plea that she divorce Sam and marry him, and they part. When they meet again eleven years later, their son, Gordon, named after her dead fiancé, has grown up preferring Sam to his real father, and is increasingly alienated from his possessive mother. Nina now realizes that she has lost both Gordon and Darrell, and Sam dies before she can tell him the truth about Gordon. She is left with the logical Charles Marsden, whom she then marries. The concluding lines of the play, when Nina says ‘our lives are merely strange dark interludes in the electrical display of God the Father’, may be interpreted as an expression of bitter irony or of patient acceptance. The action of Strange Interlude takes place over twenty-five years, but the sense of narrative continuity is deliberately fractured by O'Neill's concentration on the significant interludes in the lives of these characters.

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