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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Eugene O'Neill Statue - New London, Connecticut

JT Lynch Photo

The boy sits on the gray boulder by the City Pier, looking out into the harbor. A poignant figure immortalized as a statue, he will forever be a child on this spot.

He is Eugene O’Neill, and the spot is New London, Connecticut. One of America’s finest playwrights, and a Nobel laureate in literature, O’Neill spent his summers here until 1915.  His father, actor James O’Neill, took a house on Pequot Avenue, and called it Monte Cristo Cottage, a few years before Eugene was born in the late 1880s. 

JT Lynch Photo

The figure wears the lace-up boots, the diminutive cap of a child of the late nineteenth century. He is alone, a boy with much on his mind, who perhaps needs the solitude.

Much has been written of Eugene O’Neill’s troubled family—he wrote much of that himself—and there is a seriousness in the expression of the statue that indicates perhaps burdens too heavy for a child to carry, that the man will continue to shoulder the rest of his life.

JT Lynch Photo

It is believed that O’Neill wrote two of his plays here in New London, the rare comedy, Ah, Wilderness!, and the dark tragedy based on his own family, Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Not only did he write them here, but New London is the setting for those stories.

JT Lynch Photo

What is he writing on the pad of paper in his lap?  Is he drawing the boats on the harbor, or as he looks beyond the mouth of the Thames River, does he seem some less bleak future out towards Long Island Sound?

Is he taking notes on his own future?  He is not at play.

JT Lynch Photo

The statue was unveiled in 1988, some 35 years after O’Neill’s death (Monte Cristo Cottage was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971).  The sculptor is Norman Legassie. The image is based on a photograph of young Eugene by Nikolas Mury.

Nikolas Mury Photo

The bronze has tarnished to green, but the compelling, enigmatic expression remains.

JT Lynch Photo

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