Conflicts stir the heart, and it is this aspect of the play that powers the desires of both Josie and Phil. There is certainly more than meets the eye to this trouble plagued relationship between father and daughter. A drunken, unrefined, lonely Irishman, Phil wishes nothing more than for his daughter to find happiness in marriage, although it would pain him to see her go. A rare glimpse of this loving sensitivity is seen when Phil says “Maybe he’d like a fine strong handsome figure of a woman for a change, with beautiful eyes and hair and teeth and a smile (O’Neill 300).
” Though appreciative of her father’s unusually gracious compliments, Josie can’t stand to succumb to manners and return the polite gesture. Instead, Josie replies in a jeering manner “Thank you kindly for the compliments. Now I know a cow kicked you in the head (300). ” It is this inability to humbly accept a compliment from her own father that Josie becomes renowned for, and therefore the vicious cycle of taunting and name calling continues between the pair. Not only are the differences between Josie and Phil Hogan present, but they are necessary to view the characters in a real life context.
The Hogans have no doubt endured many hardships during their years, namely the passing of Mrs. Hogan. In order for O’Neill to characterize these people accurately, he must show the variable in their lives, in this case being the death of a loved one. In another brief moment of heart-to-heart conversation, Josie and her father reminisce about their lost loved one in civilized terms: Hogan: A sweet woman. Do you remember her Josie? You were only a little thing when she died. Josie: I remember her well.
She was the one could put you in your place when you’d come home drunk and want to tear down the house for the fun of it. Hogan: Yes, she could do it, God bless her… In the seemingly stone-cold relationship between Josie and Phil Hogan, the dynamic factor for the pair to turn off their defenses and discuss the matter is again seen in a brief respite from the anger and bitterness of their other interactions. In an indirect correlation to the play through his own life, O’Neill again substitutes parallels of his existence into A Moon for the Misbegotten.
Jim Tyrone’s mother tells of his mother’s passing, a direct allusion to O’Neill’s past: “She had no one but me. The old man was dead. My brother had married–had a kid–had his own life to live… she only had me to attend to things for her and take care of her (Bowen 138). ” O’Neill had written this about his own mother, so the connection for the Hogan family to experience the same life changing hardship is only natural in O’Neill’s style of drama. Despite all the argumentative positions and clashes of interest between Josie and her father, they do relate to one another.
Phil knows his daughter will never turn heads (for beauty’s sake), yet he also understands her loss in not having a mother and living with four men most of her life. Phil Hogan’s irate reactions are merely a defense mechanism to push Josie away in a sense that will make her want to be more in life than he has been… to accomplish something worthwhile. At the same time, Josie throws insults at her father in a similar fashion. She certainly does not hold a weak appearance, yet inside she is as human as the next girl.
Her brash talks of sexual prowess are merely a front to convince people that she is in control, in a life that has not followed a storybook guideline by any means. The absence of her mother and gradual loss of her brothers to the “real world” put her in a position where she has to be responsible and look after things herself (this includes her father), and surely a lady-like woman couldn’t handle such a burden. The manner in which O’Neill bonds these two main characters together through a deceptive charade of degrading and disrespectful speech is a very unique approach to showing the love between them.
That is exactly what the reader must not falsely identify in A Moon for the Misbegotten, because in fact their relationship is one of sincere care and compassion, although on the outside it is hard to see. While the mantra of yelling and griping holds true for much of the play, the dynamic aspect of the occasional sincere conversation makes the reader stop and realize that there is more to Phil and Josie Hogan than just being a pair of intolerable and unforgiving characters.
Though the question of effectiveness may come into play about this creation of conflict in O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten, you must also question the affect on the play without this aspect of the perfectly believable father/daughter relationship. In O’Neill’s world, there is no room for courteous peddling when the subjects of family relationships arise, just as there was none for O’Neill himself. A Moon for the Misbegotten is a play expressing the hardships and losses of O’Neill’s life, from the loss of his mother to the traumatic experience of losing his brother, Jamie.
It is through Phil and Josie Hogan that we come to understand a look into Eugene O’Neill’s mind’s eye, and the play could surely not survive the test of time without their wonderfully crafted dysfunctional relationship.
Works Cited Bowen, Croswell. The Curse of the Misbegotten. New York: New York, 1959. Goldman, Arnold. “The Vanity of Personality: The Development of Eugene O’Neill. ” Eugene O’Neill. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: New York, 1987. 37-58. O’Neill, Eugene Gladstone. “A Moon for the Misbegotten. ” Modern and Contemporary Drama. Ed. Miriam Gilbert, Carl H. Klaus, and Bradford S. Field, Jr. Boston: 1994. 294-332 1.