Monday, April 27, 2015
Bioethical Themes in Theatre: Strange Interlude
Strange Interlude was written by Eugene O'Neill in 1923, and it was first produced on Broadway in 1928, he same year it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Strange Interlude is famous for it's use of soliloquies, where the characters share their thoughts directly with the audience.
The main character in this play, Nina Leeds, is the daughter of an Ivy League professor. When her fiancée is killed during World War I, Nina goes searching for a new husband and finally settles on a friendly, but simple man named Sam Evans. Nina becomes pregnant with Sam's child, and this is when she learns that mental illness runs in Sam's family, a secret to everyone except Sam's mother. Nina, after realizing that her child could be born with a mental illness, aborts Sam's child and becomes pregnant with the child of a local physician, Ned Darrell. Of course, Nina and Ned fall in love, and no one ever tells Gordon (the child of Nina and Ned) that Sam is not actually his father. Again, the bioethical issues raised in this play are still relevant today. The relationship between Nina and her physician is highly unprofessional, yet Net defends their relationship by implying that he has done the right thing by "giving" Ned and Nina a child with a significantly smaller chance of inheriting mental illness. Did Nina do the right thing by aborting the child to save it from a life of insanity? Who determines what is "correct" when it comes to the relationships between patients and their doctors? Would Nina and Sam have been happier if they had chosen not to have a child?
"Yes, our lives are merely strange, dark interludes in the electrical display of God the Father."
- Spoken by Nina, Strange Interlude, Eugene O'Neill