In Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones, Emperor Brutus Jones is an African American male who has risen, “from stowaway to Emperor (of Haiti) in two years” (343). Jones looks down upon his subjects, viewing them as nothing but animals, even though they are African just like himself. As payback, Jones himself goes through a transformation which dehumanizes him and gives him very primal, animal related characteristics. Through this juxtaposition, O’Neill makes his play a critique of the dehumanizing effects people in power have had over the black race.
One of the first characters introduced in the play, the old native woman, has been completely dehumanized by the Emperor’s reign. When she realizes she cannot escape or reason with the regime, which is represented in her scene through Smithers, she immediately dehumanizes herself. The woman, “seeing the uselessness of struggling, gives way to frantic terror, and sinks to the ground, embracing his knees supplicatingly” (340). The woman is no longer a human being. She is not on an equal playing field with those that have oppressed her. Words like uselessness, frantic, sinks, and supplicatingly, all serve to show she believes she has no other option but to allow the regime to dehumanize her. The fact that she sinks to the ground, shows that she is tired and has been dehumanized for so long, treated as property for so long, there is no point in hoping for anything different. She just accepts the dehumanization now. Struggling to be viewed as a human being is equated with a useless action.
Later in the scene, the woman further proves the Emperor has complete control over her. She states, “Him sleep” (341). The use of the word Him is intere...
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...anization has been completed. The scene directions of scene seven state, “Jones’ voice is heard from the left rising and falling in the long, despairing wail of the chained slaves” (359). He is unified with the slaves. His ability to speak along with the slaves has been taken away. They have been dehumanized to a wail, a sound or noise, much in the same way animals are reduced to speaking in noises. Jones does not fight or try to kill these rowers. He realizes this is his history, and how wrong he was to enslave and dehumanize his fellow members of the black race. This realization is shown when he states, “Oh Gorry, I’se skeered in dis place! I’se skeered. Oh Lawd, pertect dis sinner!” (359). He is afraid just like all blacks would have been in the slave ships. He no longer is trying to exert power over those members of his own race that are less fortunate than him.
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