Perceptions of Characters in A Moon For the Misbegotten by Eugene O'Neil

Perceptions of Characters in A Moon For the Misbegotten by Eugene O'Neil

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Perceptions of Characters in A Moon For the Misbegotten by Eugene O'Neil

One of the major themes in the play, “A Moon for the Misbegotten” by Eugene O’ Neill, is the fact that people are rarely what they seem to be at first glance. We see this theme in at least three out of the six characters in the play. “A Moon for the Misbegotten” is the story of an Irish father, Phil Hogan, and his daughter Josie who live in a small shanty on a farm in Connecticut.
In the beginning of the play Phil Hogan is portrayed as a drunk, greedy farmer with absolutely no morals. In addition, he seems to be willing to sacrifice anything for a little bit of money. We also see him overindulging in alcohol but being stingy when it comes to sharing it with others. As soon as the curtain opens on the first act, we see that Mike, one of his children is leaving home because he can no longer deal with the lack of morality in the house. Mike also makes the audience aware that he is the third one of Phil Hogan’s sons that is leaving for this reason.
Josie Hogan, the only daughter of Phil Hogan, is the only one who seems to have completely followed in her father’s footsteps. She is a massive, overweight woman. We learn very early on that she is considered to be a slut by everyone in the town, and that she has a very rough way of speaking to people. She also seems to share her father’s attitude that the best way to go through life is as an immoral individual. In the very beginning of the play we find her lamenting the fact that three of her brothers have gone off to live their lives as upstanding citizens.
Another important character in this play is the Hogan’s landlord, James Tyrone, Jr. Before we even meet him, we learn from Josie that he has a reputation of “going to Broadway” to sleep with whores every night. The first time the audience is introduced to him, he is coming to visit the Hogan farm. We see him as a wealthy, upper-class landowner that has everything but still likes to impose on the less wealthy-namely the Hogans.
However, all of these perceptions that we have at first slowly begin to change as the play goes on and we come to realize the true personalities of all of the characters.

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Towards the middle of the play we begin to see the real personality of Phil Hogan. Even though he tries to make it seem as if he does not care about people and the only things important to him are money and alcohol, we come to realize that is not true. In the second part of the play Phil devises a plan to get Josie and James together. At first it seems as if the only reason he wants them together is so that Josie can steal James’ money. However, as the scenes progress it becomes very clear that the reason that he instituted this plan was because he knew that they loved each other, and he honestly cared about his daughter and wanted her to finally find some happiness.
In the scene where Josie and James are finally together we begin to realize that Josie Hogan is not really as “tough” as she makes herself out to be. Although she would like for everyone to think that she is big and heartless with no emotions, we begin to see that she is really very nervous that nobody will want to love her because of her physical appearance. The time when the true personalities of the characters really begin to emerge is in the second part of the play when James Tyrone, Jr. comes to Josie’s house half drunk. As the night goes on, James begins to confess that he is tormented by many, many family problems. The audience begins to realize that this person whom we had previously thought was just an upper class snob was really living a very emotionally turbulent life.
This scene is a major turning point in our view of the character of Josie, and in Josie’s view of herself. This was the first time in her life when she realized that a man could actually love her for herself and for her company, rather then only for sex. That night, Josie proves to be a wonderful shoulder for James to cry on. She feels very honored and proud that she was the only one in the world in whom he trusted enough to confess all of his problems. During this scene we realize over and over that the gruff, tough facade that Josie puts on is just a cover, but inside she really is a sweet and caring individual.
After both reading this play and seeing it performed, I definitely think that the cast did a terrific job acting out the story the way that the playwright intended. All of the characters that I saw on stage completely fit the images that I had in my head while I was reading the story. Josie was big and rough, yet she managed to play the emotional part of her role very convincingly. One would think that it would be difficult for an actor to act out the part of a strong, condescending landowner, and then the part of an individual whose whole life is falling apart, however the actor who played the character of James Tyrone, Jr. did just this. I think that even had I not read the book beforehand, this theme would have been apparent to me because of the superb manner in which the actors played their roles.
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