The Emperor Jones (Google eBook)
, Jan 1, 2004
Widely known as the play that gave the American dramatist Eugene O'Neill international acclaim, The Emperor Jones is a one-act play that follows the complete disintegration of Brutus Jones. This protagonist, formerly a Pullman porter in the United States, has escaped his criminal activity there by establishing himself as a ruler in the West Indies. O'Neill, in an experiment with Expressionism, then leads Jones through a series of hallucinations in a forest when he attempts to escape his rebellious subjects. This highly symbolic nocturnal expedition leads Jones to confront his racially black past, as well as his own personal destruction from a man of self-confidence to a cowering shadow of his previous being. O'Neill's originality was as readily apparent in 1920 as it is today, for he insisted on the first racially integrated Broadway cast, particularly with an African American actor in the lead role, in the United States; O'Neill's amazing depiction of change and transformation in The Emperor Jones still endures.