Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: The Emperor Jones by Eugene O'Neill

Title: The Emperor Jones
Author: Eugene O'Neill
Genre: Plays
Publisher: Dover Thrift
First published: 1921

Rating: 5 out of 10

The Emperor Jones was the second of two plays I read by Eugene O'Neill, both published in 1921.

This play opens with the last of the many servants and subjects of a self-made "emperor" sneaking out from the palace and into the jungle. The setting is an unknown island in the West Indies, where Brutus Jones, a black convict who fled the United States, has set himself up as an emperor with absolute power and luxury.
A man named Henry Smithers appears to be 2nd in command, a sort of false friend to the emperor, and he is the first to learn that all of the slaves have slipped away into the woods. We learn that Smithers is the only white man on the island, and while he sneeringly sees this as an advantage, the emperor and everyone else see him as an outsider and a minority.

When the slaves begin a war dance and begin marching toward the palace, the emperor decides to do what is hinted as his specialty - run. And so, he runs through the dark jungle at night, though where he is going is unclear. After all, this is an island.
He is eventually caught, and forced to face all of his worst fears - many of which seem to be about himself.