Eugene O'Neill's Emperor Jones

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This essay will discuss some of the major archetypes employed by Eugene O’Neill in Emperor Jones and how each of these archetypes plays a role in foreshadowing Jones’ multi-layered downfall. By creating the myth of the silver bullet, Jones essentially becomes the embodiment of the trickster archetype in the play. The planter or slave overseer archetype takes different forms in the play, whether it is Smithers at the beginning, the slave auctioneer or even the prison guard, they all represent white domination over blacks. Finally, Jones’ three mortal sins can be depicted by a triangle; synonymous with the trinity archetype. The trickster archetype originates from Greek mythology, Norse and Slavic folktales and Native American lore . A trickster is someone who plays a trick on people or who breaks the rules of god or nature. In American literature, the trickster is often represented as a symbol of ultimate anarchic freedom; a humorous way of representing the contradictions between American ideals and practice. In African-American literature, the trickster has often been adapted as a “no win” to reflect the situation in which they found themselves in the United States. In the play, Jones creates a myth around the silver bullet to instill fear among his subjects and retain illegitimate power over them. The myth consists in the idea that he can only be killed by a silver bullet. What he has yet to realise is that the joke is on him as he cannot build an empire on something that is not true. His entire enterprise depends on empty air, and it’s only a matter of time before it crumbles under his feet. His arrogance does not stop there; he also carves himself a silver bullet. The fact that, at the end of the play, he kills h... ... middle of paper ... ...e constantly forced on black people at the time. Works cited: Books S. Rice Kim, World of a slave: encyclopedia of the material life of slaves in the United States. Morgan, Wrinifred, The Trickster Figure in American Literature. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Print. E. Wiethoff, William Crafting the Overseer's Image. University of South Carolina Press, 2006. Print. L. Rothgeb, Carrie, Abstracts of the Collected Works of C.G. Jung. Karnac Books, 1994. Print. Websites "Trickster." Wikipedia, n.p. n.d Web. 17 February 2014 "Trinity." Wikipedia, n.p. n.d Web. n.d. 18 February 2014 Other works consulted Lafontaine, Lewis "Carl Jung on Trinity" Carl Jung Depth psychology, n.p. 24 February 2014. Web. 26 February 2014. http://www.eoneill.com/companion/jones/characters.htm Ranald, Loftus, "Emperor Jones", Study Companion, O’Neill.com, n.p. n.d Web. 21-22 February 2014
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