A play in two parts and nine acts, covering twenty-five years, 1919-1944, though chronological dates are irrelevant to this play, the personal passage of internal time being much more important. The play, which gained O'Neill his third Pulitzer Prize, is famous for its dramatic use of the interior monologue, really a development of the soliloquy, to convey the thoughts of the individual characters.
Act I: "The library of Professor Leeds' home in a small university town in New England." The room is lined with books, mainly editions of Latin, Greek, and other "classics in French and German and Italian" as well as early English writers and a few more recent ones, "the most modern probably being Thackeray." The room gives the impression of being a retreat from reality. The other furnishings include a sizable table with an armchair beside it, at left, a rocking chair at center, and bench with cushions. This arrangement of furniture is repeated throughout the play. It is late afternoon in August 1919.
Voices are heard, and the maid shows in Charles Marsden, a tall, thin, meticulously tailored man of thirty-five, delicately built, slightly effeminate, poised, somewhat dreamy, but "always willing to listen, eager to sympathize, to like and be liked." His expression is both ironical and sad around the mouth. He looks around the room and starts to meditate aloud beginning with the unchanging character of the room, the loss of his own father, his memories, his inability to write in war-destroyed Europe, and then his own charming novels of manners. He thinks of the widowed professor and his daughter, Nina Leeds, who bosses the professor and Charles himself. She has "become quite queer lately" as the result of the death of her fiancé, Gordon Shaw, shot down in flames two days before the armistice. Marsden's mother has seemed jealous of her son's concern for Nina, and obviously he is tied to her apron strings. He wonders why he has never fallen in love physically with Nina—but then sex is "all dreams with me . . . my sex life among the phantoms!" This leads him into a meditation concerning his disgust with sex-obsessed society, and he recalls his disastrous visit to a brothel at the age of sixteen when he felt that he had defiled both his mother and himself "forever!"
The entry of Professor Leeds breaks in upon his thoughts. He is an intelligent, small, slender, gray-haired man of fifty-five, slightly timid, but relaxed with Marsden, a former student, whom he has known since childhood. He greets Marsden cordially and thinks with relief that Marsden has always been a "calming influence on Nina." In reply to Marsden's inquiry, he says that Nina is much changed; she seems to be haunted by Gordon's ghost and even to hate her father. This the professor can understand because he suggested that Gordon ought not marry Nina before going to war, that it would not be the honorable thing to do, to tie her down, possibly with a child: "In justice to Nina, they must wait until he had come back and begun to establish his position in the world. That was the square thing." Gordon, the soul of honor, was vulnerable to this argument, and so he told Nina that they must wait. The girl now suspects that her father had "deliberately destroyed her happiness," even hoping for Gordon's death and being secretly pleased when the news came—and she is right. None of this has been said directly to her father, but she has hinted at it. The two men wait for Nina with conflicting emotions: Charles's heart is pounding, but he knows Nina sees him only as "dear old Charlie," while the professor hopes that she won't make a scene and worries about the state of her mind.
At this moment Nina enters. She is twenty, tall, athletic-looking, with blond bobbed hair and extraordinary eyes of "deep greenish blue." She looks the picture of health, but her manner conveys "a terrible tension of will alone maintaining self-possession." She announces, "I have made up my mind, Father," and at that Charlie comes forward to greet her. She greets him coolly and turns to talk to her father, who reminds her of her manners. In her thoughts she dismisses Charlie, the timid man who has never done anything "and never will." He will watch the "swimmers drown at last," but he will never jump in. And with that in her thoughts, her kiss is cold. The two engage in social inanities, but Nina shows her bitterness by saying that coming back safe from Europe is nothing, now that the war is over. Charlie takes this as a taunt, for he had worked in the press office while others like Gordon had died, but he covers up with cheery banter.
Nina now announces her decision to leave home and go to nurse the war-crippled in a soldier's hospital. She has arranged this through a friend of Gordon. Her father is appalled that she should think of such a step in her condition, but Nina can only think of "Gordon, my dear one! . . . gone forever from me." She plans to leave that very evening and asks Charlie to help her pack. "I must pay for my cowardly treachery to Gordon," she says, believing that she must give her health for the survivors. Only when she can give herself "for a man's happiness without scruple, without fear, without joy except in his joy," only then will she be able to live her own life once more, having expiated her holding herself away from Gordon. Both the professor and Marsden are appalled by her shameless physical longing as she speaks of that unconsummated relationship and the emptiness she now feels: "I didn't make him take me! I lost him forever! And now I am lonely and not pregnant with anything at all, but—but loathing."
Professor Leeds now explains his intervention in the affair, confessing that he had been actively opposed to the marriage but that he had acted out of fatherly concern for her. Nina, however, will not be placated and tries to leave. She teases Charlie about using this in a book, and when he jestingly suggests that he will have to propose to her, she suggests he help her pack. After their exit the professor begins to think all is for the best and believes that the ghost of Gordon will now be gone. As the curtain falls, he pulls out a Latin text at random and starts to read from it, "like a child whistling to keep up his courage in the dark."
Act II: The study, about 9 P.M. "in early fall, over a year later." Nothing in the room has changed except that the window shades are drawn. Charles Marsden is sitting center, dressed in a dark blue suit with "a gloomy brooding expression" as if in mourning. He looks weary, and his eyes stare unseeingly ahead. He meditates on the death of Professor Leeds, recalling his loneliness, and then his thoughts turn to Nina, whom he has visited twice at the hospital, wondering what she has "been doing in that house full of men . . . particularly that self-important young ass of a doctor! . . . Gordon's friend," through whom she was accepted there. As he broods, the doorbell rings and Nina enters, dressed in her nurse's uniform. She has changed, coarsened a trifle, but is still "strikingly handsome" and gives the impression of hidden experience. She looks about the room, recalls herself as "Daddy's girl," and then realizes that her father has been dead to her for a long time; she has written letters but has not seen him since going to work at the hospital. She has brought Dr. Edmund Darrell with her from the hospital in case something could be done for her father, but now, of course, his presence is not needed. Charlie upbraids her for her neglect of her father, but Nina replies that "I didn't want him to see what he would have thought was me," a callous-sounding remark that brings tears to Charlie's eyes.
His reverie is interrupted by the entrance of Sam Evans, a very blond, coltishly collegiate-looking young man of twenty-five who looks younger than his years. He is, as Marsden notes, no genius but a likable fellow nonetheless. In the course of conversation, Evans reveals that he has only recently come to know Nina, though he had met her some years ago at a prom when she was with Gordon Shaw, a classmate of Evans. Clearly Evans still worships Gordon and all that he stood for. He himself was no good at athletics, but he always kept trying; and when Marsden attempts to console him with the remark that sports heroes usually fade after college, he enthusiastically disagrees, pointing out that Gordon had become an air ace, "And he always fought just as cleanly as he'd played football! Even the Huns respected him!" Evans explains his presence by saying that Darrell had been his college dorm mate, a senior when Evans was a freshman. The two men then engage in conflicting thoughts, Marsden hoping that he might have been the one to comfort Nina, and Evans hoping that Nina will marry him, while Marsden, in turn, wonders about Nina's relations with Darrell. Suddenly Sam Evans starts to speak of his hopes of marrying Nina, treating Marsden as if he is Nina's guardian. In panic, Charlie sees himself relegated to the role of Nina's father but then reconsiders, thinking that there might be a chance for him, "what a vile thought," if Nina "were married to this simpleton." Pulling himself together, Marsden wishes Evans luck and suggests that they drop the matter as Darrell enters and sends Sam out for a sedative for Nina.
Darrell is twenty-seven, "short, dark, wiry, his movements rapid and sure, his manner cool and observant," rigidly controlled, the pure scientist who considers himself "immune to love through his scientific understanding of its real sexual nature." Darrell and Marsden spar in their interior monologues, the doctor sizing up the author as all "surface" like his novels and Marsden resenting the scientific evaluation he realizes he is being given. Darrell comes into the open and tells Marsden that between them they must straighten Nina out; she has been promiscuous at the hospital (but he softens the words for the super-sensitive Marsden), and he suggests that the best thing for her would be to marry Sam Evans because "his unselfish love, combined with her real liking for him, will gradually give her back a sense of security and a feeling of being worth something to life again, and once she's got that, she'll be saved!" Darrell says he is prescribing for Sam, as well as Nina, because Sam needs self-confidence, but Marsden suggests that Darrell might himself be in love with Nina, something the doctor denies: "In my mind she always belongs to Gordon. . . . And I couldn't share a woman—even with a ghost!" And in saying that he mentally recalls all the other men who have had her. Marsden has a curious feeling that Darrell is hiding something, but then Nina enters and starts to speak about her father's death and her own, turning to Charlie as "Dear old Charlie," torturing him with this approach, speaking lies, and finally asking him to say "lie" and then "life": "You see! Life is just a long drawn out lie with a sniffling sigh at the end!" Marsden in agony thinks how hard Nina has become, and then she speaks sarcastically about him to Darrell: "He believes if you pick a lie to pieces, the pieces are the truth! I like him because he is so inhuman. But once he kissed me—in a moment of carnal weakness! . . . And he looked so disgusted with himself! I had to laugh!" She treats him "with a pitying scorn," and Darrell remembers her indifferent treatment of him.
Then, her mind seeming to wander, she speaks of God, "the modern science God," "any God at any price" and her desire to believe. With this she turns to Charlie and asks why he has always been so afraid—drawing from him the answer, "I'm afraid of—of life, Nina." In reply Nina suggests, "The mistake began when God was created in a male image." Had God been perceived as a mother, then "we should have imagined life as created in the birth-pain of God the Mother" and thus have been able to understand pain and perceive death as a "reunion with Her, a passing back into Her substance, blood of her blood again, peace of her peace!" Excitedly, Marsden agrees that such an image is superior to that of a male God, and Nina, crying out a desire to believe in something, flings herself sobbing on her knees and hides her face in her hands on his knees. At this instant, Marsden perceives the kind of lover he must be for Nina, "a father, a pure lover." She then turns to him as if to a confessor, telling him of what she has done and how she wishes to be punished for it. Her promiscuity was an attempt to atone for keeping herself from Gordon, but now she sees herself as a fool. Charlie is horrified and feels himself almost contaminated by "this little whore," but then he accepts the role of father, picking her up to take her to bed. Just then Sam Evans enters and Marsden tells him that they have spoken of him and that Sam should "have every reason to hope." Respectfully, Sam refers to him as Mr. Marsden, and when Charlie suggests that he use his first name, Evans calls after him "Good old Charlie," a comment that is underlined by Marsden's bitter laugh—almost as if he had heard what Evans had said.
Act III: "Seven months or so later—the dining room of the Evans' homestead in northern New York State," about 9 A.M., late spring 1921. The room is large and depressingly ugly with brown water-stained wallpaper, a large table in the center, and high-backed chairs against the wall. Nina now married to Sam, is writing a letter to Edmund "Ned" Darrell. She is puzzled about the atmosphere of the old place, hideous despite its being surrounded by apple trees in full bloom. She has found it hard to sleep there, feeling that even the ghosts of the past have abandoned the place. She then looks up from her letter wondering whether she should tell Ned about her pregnancy and deciding against it since she has not yet told Sam. She wishes to keep her secret to herself a little longer. Sam and Nina are visiting with Charles Marsden in his car since Charlie is too fussy to allow either of them to drive. Mrs. Amos Evans, Sam's mother, also puzzles Nina because she is totally unlike Sam, who hardly seems to think of her and indeed didn't even mention her until she began importuning them to visit. Charles Marsden enters, and she teases him, as usual, about his timidity, "you slacker bachelor." As Nina leaves him alone he starts to wonder about her happiness and is sure she is pregnant. Then he becomes exasperated about having invited Nina and Sam to tour with him—all he wanted was a new setting for a novel. He considers Sam's mother, noting the sadness and grimness of her eyes, as he leaves.
Mrs. Evans and Sam then enter. She is a tiny woman of forty-five who "looks at least sixty." Once upon a time she must have been a delicate, almost romantic beauty, but now all softness seems to have vanished. "She is very pale. Her big dark eyes are grim with the prisoner-pain of a walled-in soul," but she still retains a vestigial sweetness. Sam looks eminently collegiate and happy as he prattles to his mother about the success he will be now that he is married. She will never have to concern herself about the apple crop again. Mrs. Evans seems rather abstracted, and then quite suddenly she asks whether Nina is going to have a baby. Sam says he doesn't think so, and his mother is relieved; Sam, however, expresses inward concern that she is not yet pregnant and says he will go upstairs to visit his aunt. But Mrs. Evans forestalls him, saying that Aunt Bessie wouldn't know him, suggesting instead that he join Charlie in a drive to town. Sam runs out, and Mrs. Evans looks after him, glad to see his happiness and hoping again that Nina is not pregnant.
When Nina returns, Mrs. Evans asks her whether she has noticed anything strange about the house and then asks whether she loves Sam, finally coming to the point and asking Nina whether she is going to have a baby. When Nina replies in the affirmative, Mrs. Evans asks whether it isn't too soon, but Nina, wondering at this, says that she wants a baby "beyond everything! We both do!" To Nina's terror and bewilderment, Mrs. Evans tells her, "But you can't! You've got to make up your mind you can't!" She then explains the hereditary insanity that exists in Sam's family, despite his apparent normalcy. She had married Sam's father in total ignorance of this horror, finding out only later when her husband begged her forgiveness, saying "he loved me so much he'd have gone mad without me, and I was his only hope of salvation." She believes that she might indeed have been able to save him, had they not accidentally had Sammy. For years she lived in fear of Sam's insanity, and then her husband "gave up and went off into it" when Sam was about eight years old. At that she sent Sammy to boarding school and later told him his father was dead, never letting the boy come home until now, years after his father's death. She has nursed Sam's father and also poor idiot Aunt Bessie, and she begs Nina to have an abortion so that the curse of the Evanses will die out and Sammy will live a normal life.
Bitterly, Nina says she has only married Sammy for his need and her own desire to have children. She sees the necessity of the abortion but is appalled to realize that she cannot leave Sam lest she be guilty of causing his insanity. Mrs. Evans begs her to stay with her son and then diffidently says that at times she used to wish, when she was carrying him, that she had deliberately "picked a man, a healthy male to breed by, same's we do with stock, to give the man I loved a healthy child," even though it would be adultery. She hints that this might be-an answer for Nina, since Sam so loves children and it would make him happy: "Being happy, that's the nearest we can ever come to knowing what's good! It's your rightful duty!" With this she tells Nina that they must never see each other again and gathers her into her arms as "the daughter of my sorrow!"
Act IV: About seven months later on a winter evening, Sam is sitting in Professor Leeds's old chair, and the disarrangement of the room betrays the presence of a confused mind rather than the meticulous intellect of the former inhabitant. Sam is smoking and sitting at the typewriter, looking thinner and drawn, desperately trying to write advertising copy. He seems deeply troubled both by his lack of success in his job and Nina's refusal to sleep with him for the past five months. He is puzzled about what happened between Nina and his mother, and then Nina "crashed . . . strain of waiting and hoping she'd get pregnant . . . and nothing happening." He wishes distractedly that they would have a child so that he would have something to work for and be able to succeed. Then he remembers that he has asked Ned Darrell to come out to check Nina: "Ned's the only one I can trust." With that he starts back to his typing as Nina enters, looking on him with contempt and dislike for his weakness; but then remorse sets in, and she pities him for his love and for trying so hard. She must sleep with him again soon, but then she recalls the "poor dead baby I dared not bear." Sam apologizes for his typing and confides that he has been told to shape up—or else--and Nina looks ahead to an endless vista of similar situations as she endeavors to comfort him by telling him of her love—and indeed she almost does love him as she says, "I want you to be happy, Sam," suggesting that they sleep together again soon. Then she says that Charlie is coming over to discuss her outline for Gordon Shaw's biography, an announcement that shatters Sam's happiness, but to Nina's surprise he says that Ned Darrell is also coming that very evening.
When Charlie arrives, he speaks of his mother's ill health and then discusses his corrections to Nina's biography of Gordon Shaw. As Sam looks them over, Charlie thinks about the abortion he is sure that Nina has had performed and snobbishly looks again at Sam as if he is a simpleton. Both Sam and Nina adored Gordon, "when actually he came from the commonest people." He repeats this thought aloud to Sam, who is busy checking the manuscript, when the doorbell rings and Sam says that it is Darrell. Charlie reacts "with anger mixed with alarmed suspicion and surprise" and thinks of leaving, but he is too late. Darrell has become more authoritative than before and looks on Marsden as an old woman, acting quite brutally when Charlie asks his advice about his mother's illness, suggesting that it might be the cancer she fears.
Marsden leaves, taking Sam with him, and Darrell speculates first about Charlie, then about Sam's lack of success and Nina's failure to have a child, as she enters, looking younger and prettier than before. She likes the touch of Ned's strong capable hands, unlike Sam's, as Darrell looks diagnostically at her. They momentarily discuss the book on Gordon Shaw, and then Nina turns to Darrell, asking whether he is getting married. On hearing his denial, she speaks in a "bitterly sarcastic" way, recommending that he have a baby, "a fine, healthy baby!" Then, "in a dull, monotonous tone recalling that of Sam's mother," she tells the story of Sam's family and of her abortion, suggesting that Darrell should not have tried to play God the Father in abetting their marriage. Darrell is horrified and suggests that she get Sam to give her a divorce, but Nina says that she could not bear the guilt of that.
Then she makes her proposition, making use of curiously formal language and taking pains to be objective and unemotional, as does Darrell, when they speak: "What is it precisely that Sam's wife has thought so much of doing?" Nina, after much timidity: "Sam's wife is afraid," and she asks, "you, Doctor, to suggest the father." Nina has changed now that she has married Sam: "She can't bear the thought of giving herself to any man she could neither desire nor respect." Finally she suggests that Ned, who used to attract her and has a superior mind, should be the man, and finally he agrees: "I must confess the Ned you are speaking of is I, and I am Ned." "And I am Nina, who wants her baby." In a spirit of gratitude on Nina's part and humility on Ned's, they agree: Ned thinks he will be happy for a while, and Nina says, "I shall make my husband happy."
Act V: "A bright morning in the following April" in the sitting room of a rented house in a seashore suburb of New York. The house is of the dull mass-produced type, but the arrangement of the furniture is similar to that of Act I: table and Morris chair at left, chair at center, and sofa at right. Nina is sitting in the center chair, trying to read. She is pregnant, "but this time there is a triumphant strength about her expression, a ruthless self-confidence in her eyes." She has just felt her baby move for the first time, and she thinks back to the begetting of the child, remembering the way that she and Darrell discovered desire for each other. Now she glories in her impending motherhood: "I am a mother . . . God is a Mother." She leans back happily as Sam enters, looking shabby, harried, and unshaven, trying to screw up his courage to speak to Nina and feeling that he has failed her by not giving her a child. He is beginning to feel suicidal, and he thinks he should offer her a divorce. His voice trembles as he calls her name; she opens her eyes, looking calmly and evaluatively at him while thinking about divorcing him because he has proved himself unable to give her anything—not even a home. He has lost his job and is depending on Ned to get another—but then Nina feels contrite because she had decided to sell her house to be near Ned.
Sam attempts to be cheerful, saying that he hopes to be back on the job soon. He also wonders about Charlie, whose mother has just died. Whenever Sam speaks, Nina treats him with incivility, but fortunately the doorbell rings, and Darrell enters. He looks older. "There is an expression of defensive bitterness and self-resentment about his mouth and eyes. This vanishes into one of desire and joy as he sees Nina." He moves toward her and stops on seeing Evans, who greets him. Darrell has indeed brought him a letter of recommendation, and Sam offers thanks, only to have Nina brusquely tell him to go and shave.
Left alone, the two lovers speak of their mutual happiness, though Darrell sometimes confesses to hatred for her. He believes now that she loves him rather than Gordon, but he cannot compromise either Sam or his career by taking any action, even though he does admit his love for her, after she has done the same. But almost instantly he must deny this avowal as Nina rejoices in it.
At this moment, Charles Marsden enters, haggard and in deep mourning but as immaculately dressed as ever. He is completely devastated by the death of his mother. Nina offers a sympathy she really does not feel because Mrs. Marsden had always disapproved of her. Darrell welcomes Marsden's arrival because it cools the passions between himself and Nina—but Charlie picks up their sensual vibrations and hates both of them, yet he realizes that he cannot hate his "little Nina" and tries to cover up his thoughts by discussing his mother's last days and her death from cancer. But suddenly he turns on Darrell: "I think you doctors are a pack of God-damned ignorant liars and hypocrites!" Then he apologizes and talks wildly about the "repulsive" nature of the room, a comment Nina takes literally. He asks after Sam, noting that he cannot understand his loss since Sam seems to care very little for his mother. Inwardly, Nina recalls the wish of Sam's mother for her son, "Make my boy, Sammy, happy!" and feels both remorseful and trapped. But when Charlie leaves, Nina and Ned resume their tormented conversation, Darrell regretting his loss of scientific objectivity and Nina claiming that "only your love can make me happy now! Sam must give me a divorce so I can marry you." Darrell, inwardly thinking of his career, uses Sam as a reason to deny her request, but Nina maintains that she has given Sam enough of her life and that she is now entitled to happiness. She holds his hands and forces him to look at her, and Sam finds them in this position, innocently misconstruing it as part of a medical examination, but then he wonders why she shrinks away from him when he touches her.
Nina then suggests that Darrell stay for lunch, and as she leaves she remarks, "after lunch we'll tell Sam," leaving her husband wondering what she means. Darrell cannot look Sam in the face, and conflicting emotions sweep over him; thoughts of his career, of the effect that news of their love would have upon Sam, of Nina's continuing love for Gordon, of his own desire to get away from her tentacles; then he resolves to tell Sam about the baby.
Returning to reality, he says he is going to Europe in a few days and therefore must rush off instantly. Then he reveals that Nina is pregnant: "You're going to be a father, old scout." With that he leaves "honorably! ... I'm free!" Sam stands in a "state of happy stupefaction," and as Nina enters, he takes her in his arms, kissing her happily, saying that Ned had told him the good news. Wildly, Nina asks after Ned, and Sam is surprised that he has not told Nina that he plans to be in Europe for at least a year studying and will be out of town visiting until the ship sails. Nina frantically thinks that Ned has left her, not like Gordon but "like a sneak, a coward! . . . a liar!" Enraged, she decides that she'll make Sam hate Ned. But then pity overcomes her and she cannot tell him the truth. Almost pathetically, Sam asks Nina if she will be happy now, and Nina replies, "I'll try to make you happy, Sammy." But in her thoughts she speaks of the child moving within her: "my life moving in my child . . . God is a Mother." She perceives this child as wholly hers but then with anguish remembers the "afternoons with you, my lover . . . you are lost . . . gone from me forever!"
Act VI: The same room a little over a year later. It now seems to reflect "a comfortable homey atmosphere, . . . [with] a proud air of modest prosperity." Sam looks "healthy and satisfied," stolid, determined, and even confident. Nina "looks noticeably older, the traces of former sorrow can be seen on her face," but she seems contented and calm." Marsden has aged greatly." His grief is turning to resignation. As usual, he is immaculately dressed, this time in dark tweed. Sam is reading the newspaper, Nina is knitting a baby sweater, and Marsden is pretending to read a book. The thoughts of the three are spoken: Nina is maternally concerned about her baby son, Gordon, and wonders why Darrell has not written to her. However, she forgives him because of the wonderful baby, and Sam has made a superb father. Marsden wonders what had been going on between Nina and Ned, recalling that the doctor had really been "going the pace" when he had seen him in Munich. For Darrell as for him, running away to Europe was no cure for sadness. He must write novels again, and he wants to remember his mother without pain. Evans thinks exceedingly practical thoughts. He has been doing well in his business and wonders if Charlie might invest some of his money in it: "he'd be an easy partner to handle." Marsden looks evaluatively at the pair, thinking that he preferred the old, more vulnerable Sam, and then announces that he is going to bring his widowed sister, Jane, to live with him, to assuage his loneliness and also to circumvent his mother's will because she had disapproved of Jane's marriage.
As usual, Nina teases Charlie about being a timid bachelor, threatening to pick out a wife for him. Somewhat nettled, Charles mentions having seen Ned Darrell in Munich and rather maliciously says that "he was with a startling looking female— . . . I gathered they were living together." Marsden gets the jealous reaction from Nina that he had wanted and proceeds to twist the knife by suggesting that Darrell had nothing at home to be faithful to. Nina recovers and treats the matter airily but then tortures herself with being jilted. Again she teases Marsden with possibly being the father of "little Marsdens," but when Charlie replies, "It's a wise father who knows his own child," Nina is afraid, a feeling that evaporates when she hears that Ned has asked after her. However, she exerts herself to win Charlie over again but thinks contemptuously of him when she does, while he hates himself for wanting to hurt her. Charlie realizes that he has almost admitted his love for Nina, while she is concerned to keep him as a "dependable friend." However, he rejoices inwardly, "Nina likes me!" But then he bitterly realizes that he is only her comfortable "old doggie." Sam recalls him to reality as he returns to speak glowingly about his baby and his wish that the child be everything that Sam himself wanted to be at college and couldn't: "I want him to justify the name of Gordon and be a bigger star than Gordon ever was, if that's possible." Marsden is inwardly contemptuous of this adolescent dream. Then Sam starts to talk of his business plans and hints to Charlie about needing one hundred thousand dollars but Charlie is impervious and Sam realizes this, suggesting that Charlie might have some ideas to contribute instead. He is becoming progressively more shrewd, and Charlie evaluates this new situation and also his own aimless life.
The doorbell rings, Marsden answers it, and finds Darrell, "pale, thin, nervous, unhealthy looking. There are lines of desperation on his face, puffy shadows of dissipation and sleeplessness under his restless, harried eyes." His dress is careless, almost shabby. In answer to Marsden's rather nasty inquiry, he says that he has come back to wind up the estate of his father, who died three weeks ago. Now he realizes that he still loves Nina and has returned in the hope of claiming some happiness for himself; otherwise he is finished. Marsden realizes Darrell and Nina love each other and is therefore singularly waspish to Darrell, deciding to protect Nina from herself and also to look after Sam, the "simpleton" who may well decide to ask Darrell to back him. He praises Sam's energy and success ever since the baby was born as well as his paternal instincts. Both Ned and Nina wish desperately to be alone; but when Ned hears that Nina has called the baby Gordon, he sees himself left out of a closed corporation: "Gordon, Sam, and Nina! . . . and my son!" In an internal rage he promises to tell Sam the truth. Meanwhile, Nina has come to the realization that she needs Sam for a husband and Ned for a lover, while Marsden has suddenly stumbled on the possibility that Gordon is Ned's child. Rejecting this thought, he promises to fight for Sam and his baby against the two of them, and then he leaves them alone.
The lovers fall into a passionate embrace, and Ned tells Nina she must come away with him; but Nina reminds him, "You're forgetting Sam—and Sam's baby!" Ned says they will take their baby with them and Sam will have to give Nina a divorce, but Nina refuses. The happiness of her child comes first, and Ned had given him to Sam for Sam's salvation. Now that Nina feels she has made Sam happy, she loves his joy and "the devoted father in him." In other words, she cannot leave him, even though she still loves Ned. Darrell says he will go away forever, but Nina wishes him to remain as her lover, wanting to keep both men. This angers Darrell, who looks upon Nina as "inhuman and calculating" and threatens to tell Sam. Just then, Sam enters with such evident joy in seeing his old friend and such pride in the child that Darrell is disarmed. Nina calls for Charlie, who enters with the words, "Here, Nina. Always here!"
She looks around her at her three men as they sit, Evans at the table, Marsden in the center, and Darrell on the sofa on the right, all absorbed in their own thoughts. Darrell, with a curious objectivity, notes the success of his "experiment" with Sam and Nina but sees his own deterioration as he gloats over Sam, the putative father of his child. Sam is concerned about the health of both Ned and Nina, and Marsden tries to assess the situation of Nina and her three men: "I feel, with regard to Nina, my life queerly identified with Sam's and Darrell's...her child is the child of our three loves for her....I would like to be her husband in a sense. . .and the father of a child, after my fashion. . .I could forgive her anything. . .permit everything." He perceives that Nina is using Darrell's love only for her own happiness and thus Nina will always be his. Nina looks on the three men with triumph: "I feel their desires converge in me!. . .to form one complete beautiful male desire which I absorb.. . .1 am pregnant with the three!...husband!...lover!...father!...and the fourth man . . . little man!. . .little Gordon!. . . he is mine too! ... that makes it perfect." She then says she is tired, and Evans orders her to bed. As she leaves, "the eyes of the three men follow her."
Act VII: Eleven years have passed , and the Evans family is now ensconced on Park Avenue, New York City. The sitting room of the apartment retains the same general arrangement of the furniture, but there are more pieces, obviously expensive. Nina is now thirty-five, slimmer than before and healthy; but her face shows great internal strain in its many lines, and "her eyes are tragically sad in repose and her expression is set and masklike." Gordon is a healthy, athletic-looking child who looks older than his eleven years, with "quick-tempered" sensitive eyes. He is different from any of the people we have seen. Darrell has aged greatly; his hair is gray-streaked and he has grown heavy, while his face has an unambitious look and his eyes are embittered. His manner is one "of cynical indifference."
It is an early fall afternoon, Gordon's birthday, and the youngster is resentful that Darrell is there to be in the way. Obviously he dislikes Ned and wants to be rid of him; he would smash any birthday presents from him. Nina looks tenderly upon her child and wishes now "to rot away in peace! ... I'm sick of the fight for happiness!" She looks over at Darrell, wondering what has kept them together all these years and wonders about her part in turning him aside from his promising career and corrupting him. But then she refuses to take the blame, saying that she had "shamed him into taking up biology and starting that station in Antigua." Otherwise he would have simply stayed around, idle. How-ever, she now wants to see the last of him for a while because she gets the feeling that he is really waiting for Sam to die. Darrell looks with "apathetic bitterness" on Nina and wonders what she is thinking. He can't understand the hold she has over him—he has always come running back after breaking with her. Once upon a time, he used to hope that Sam would succumb to the family madness, but he has become healthy. "Sam is the only normal one!. . .we lunatics!. . .Nina and I! ...have made a sane life for him out of our madness." He looks at the child and again expresses his dislike of the name Gordon, blaming Nina for the mess he has made of his own life.
Nina breaks the silence to ask when he plans to return to the West Indies, wondering how he can leave his work for "such long periods," to which Darrell replies that his best experiment was concluded twelve years ago and he no longer wants to meddle with human lives. Cynically, he notes that Sam's business acumen has made both himself and Marsden so wealthy that they can afford to take up hobbies, to be dilettantes. However, he really is interested in the work of the station, particularly in his young assistant, Preston, who will one day do great things if he "never carries his experiments as far as human lives!" Nina rebukes him for his bitterness on Gordon's birthday as Darrell bitterly says that the child gets more and more like Sam. Nina says he reminds her of Gordon Shaw, but Darrell disagrees, sniping at her vision of the "rah-rah hero!" Gordon, overhearing all this, sees Darrell forever belittling his father as the doctor mocks Sam as a material success in terms of money, the right club, and so on. Finally, Gordon leaps to Sam's defense and tells Darrell to shut up, at which Nina insists that he apologize to "Uncle Ned," a title which angers Gordon—"He's not my anything! "—and he is ordered out of the room.
Left alone, Nina and Ned indulge in pointless recriminations and also in some psychological analysis, Darrell suggesting that Gordon "realizes subconsciously that I am his father, his rival in your love; but I'm not his father ostensibly, . . . so he can come right out and hate me to his heart's content!" He reproaches Nina for no longer loving him, and she begs him not to start that again, though she knows that she will again become lonely and call him back once more. She begs Ned to remember that Gordon is the child of their love, but Darrell gives another analysis of the situation: "He feels cheated of your love—by me. So he's concentrating on Sam whose love he knows is secure, and withdrawing from you." Nina thinks this comment is foolish, suggesting that Darrell has never tried to seek Gordon's love; he has not even bothered to bring him a birthday present. At this, Ned says that he has indeed done so, but he has left it outside so that he will not have to see the child destroy it, as he has destroyed all the other gifts he has brought in the past. The two of them then look tenderly at each other, Nina regretting the ruin she has been to him and Darrell saying that she has brought him his only happiness.
After these frank avowals, Nina begs him to go away for two years—without bitterness, this time—and to work really hard and then return. They kiss to seal the bargain, and as they kiss again, Gordon enters and watches them with a combination of "jealousy and rage and grief." He decides not to reveal himself, but Nina has the curious feeling that someone has observed them. Gordon's voice is heard announcing "Uncle Charlie," and the lovers wonder what the child might have seen; but then Darrell snipes at Marsden, "The damned old woman," jealously wondering what Gordon can see in "that old sissy." His rage goes deeper than that: he is still angry that Marsden wanted to put up half the money that Sam needed to set himself up in business, even though Ned had offered the whole amount. He does not wish to share anything with Charlie.
As Marsden enters, Darrell is quite nasty, suggesting that it must be "a great comfort" to have his sister to take the place of his mother. Nina is embarrassed because Charlie has "become such a comfort." The two men then make derogatory remarks about their respective professions, biology and writing novels of manners. Marsden realizes that Darrell knows that he, Charlie, has really lost Nina to him: "we have built up a secret life of subtle sympathies and confidences." He does not "lust" physically for Nina; his love is finer than anything Nina has ever known. Nina, watching him, sees Marsden as a perfect lover for old age "when one was past passion." Suddenly her thoughts turn against all her three men; "the wife and mistress in me has been killed by them," and she makes an excuse to leave with Charlie. Left alone, Darrell does not wish to stay for lunch as a "ghost" at his son's feast. At this, Gordon enters with an exquisitely made model yacht. He loves it, wants it badly, but regretfully must smash it because Darrell is the giver. Then it comes out: "I saw you kissing Mother!" and he accuses Ned of cheating on Sam. But Ned appeals to the child's sense of honor, and Gordon agrees to keep silent as Sam enters.
Sam has grown prosperous and stout with an air of command. He greets Gordon fondly, and Darrell cringes at the sight, deciding he has had enough and must leave. As before, he announces that he must leave immediately because he is sailing in a few days. To his own surprise, Gordon calls him "Uncle Ned" as he leaves, but Darrell thinks that is because he is glad to see the last of him. Left alone with his father, Gordon discusses his birthday presents, finessing the question of Ned's gift by asking to hear again about Gordon Shaw and the reason for his being named after him. When he hears that "Mother loved him a lot," the child intuitively realizes that Darrell dislikes the name Gordon because it means that Nina loved Shaw more than him. Therefore young Gordon resolves to "be just like Gordon and Mother'll love me better'n him!" He asks Sam if he resembles Gordon Shaw, and Sam tells him that if he can be like his namesake, "I'll give you anything you ask for!"
Contentedly, Gordon asks Sam to retell the story of a boat race in which Shaw managed to "talk" a weaker crewmate to the finish and then collapsed himself. Gordon talks to his father about athletic prowess, whether his father used to fight, and whether he could "lick Darrell." This disturbs Sam, and Gordon probes on, coming to the conclusion that Nina must have loved Gordon Shaw better than Sam. Nina, at first jealous of the rapport between Sam and young Gordon, then breaks into the conversation and hears that Ned has left. She lies to Gordon, with the conscious motivation of getting back her son's devotion, saying that she is beginning to find Ned a bore, and then she explains her kissing him as a sentimental good-bye. Gordon is overjoyed, while Sam thinks she might be too hard on their oldest friend, saying that it is a pity that Ned has never married. Gordon kisses Nina—to take away Ned's kiss—and she hugs him. But then she feels remorse for being too cavalier about Ned, and Gordon senses the direction of her thoughts and moves away from her. Sam tells her to stop babying the child, warning him that that was probably what made Marsden the way he is. Nina treats this remark with submissive scorn, but Sam asserts his authority, insisting that he is right. The curtain falls as Nina, "with intense hatred," thinks, "O Mother God, grant that I may some day tell this fool the truth!"
Act VIII: "Late afternoon in late June, ten years later , aboard the Evans' motor cruiser anchored in the lane of yachts near the finish line at Poughkeepsie.... Two wicker chairs are at left," a table with a chair at center, and a chaise longue at right. In other words, the original arrangement of furniture is almost repeated here. "Nina is sitting by the table at center, Darrell in the chair farthest left, Marsden in the chaise longue at right. Evans is leaning over the rail directly back of Nina, looking up the river through a pair of binoculars. Madeline Arnold is standing by his side." Nina, now forty-five, has aged notably; her hair is completely white, and her make-up succeeds only in emphasizing her age. Her face is thin, her smile forced, but she has retained her excellent figure. "She is dressed in a white yachting costume.... Her eyes ... now seem larger and more deeply mysterious than ever." She resembles the neurotic, passionately embittered, and torn Nina of the first act. Darrell, by contrast, seems the cool, scientific doctor of Act II, slender, suntanned, with iron-gray hair. He looks his age, fifty-one, but no more. "Marsden has aged greatly," his stoop is more noticeable, and he is once more in mourning as in Act V, this time for the death of his sister, Jane, two months earlier. However, he seems more resigned than despairing. Sam Evans has remained much the same, except that he has become stouter and more opinionated, as befits a successful businessman. Madeline Arnold is nineteen with dark hair and eyes, athletic, suntanned, reminiscent of a young Nina: "She gives the impression of a person who always knows exactly what she is after and generally gets it, but is also generous and a good loser. . . . She is dressed in a bright-colored sport costume.
Evans and Madeline are desperately trying to see the race upriver, and Evans fusses because his radio has gone dead at this crucial moment. Both of them are concerned about Gordon; and Nina, realizing that she is losing her son, is bitter and antagonistic to this younger woman. Her remarks to Madeline are distinctly acid, and Sam thinks she is "the prize bum sport." Without his efforts the engagement would never have happened, and he is determined to see that "their marriage goes through on schedule, no matter how much Nina kicks up!" Darrell notes Nina's dislike and realizes that she would like to break this engagement as she once did his. He is no longer her slave, yet he has come to this boat race—"duty to Gordon." As Evans becomes excited, Nina pleads a headache, and Sam wishes she were not such a "killjoy." He would like to have had Gordon's friends on the cruiser, but instead he is saddled with her, Darrell, and Charlie. Darrell looks at her, noting her reversion to the Nina of Act I, and then with remorse thinks that her men are deserting her now. Marsden is on the verge of tears. Everyone is tense, and Evans upbraids Nina when she insists that "Gordon is you," though as good an athlete as Gordon Shaw, "but there the resemblance ceases." Evans looks so apoplectic that Nina notes his high blood pressure, a remark that Darrell correctly takes for a momentary death wish, and he rejoices that he no longer is really concerned or in love with her. Evans then takes Madeline and Charlie below, leaving Darrell and Nina alone, at her request.
Both Marsden and Madeline leave with some hostility toward Nina. The two former lovers look on each other, Darrell "with melancholy interest" and Nina with sadness, recalling the past: "the only living life is in the past and future. . .the present is an interlude . . . strange interlude in which we call on past and future to bear witness we are living." Nina tells Ned she has asked him to come so they can be friends and compliments him on his youthful appearance. Proudly, Darrell speaks of the success of his biology station and the work of his assistant, Preston, who is becoming world-famous: "He's what I might have been... if I'd had more guts and less vanity." With some bitterness Nina realizes that he must regard their affair as a mistake, and she thinks that he has forgotten Gordon in his affection for Preston, whom he does agree might be an unconscious "compensating substitute." Obviously, Darrell is not really impressed with the fact that his son is recreating the feats of the famous Gordon Shaw, but he is surprised to discover that Nina has really lost her son to Sam, who has made all the decisions concerning him. At this moment she doesn't care if Gordon comes in last, a sentiment with which Darrell silently agrees: "it's time these Gordons took a good licking from life!"
Madeline appears, saying that the race has begun and that Gordon is third. Darrell notes that Madeline cares about his winning, and Nina indicates her disapproval of their marriage. Ned sees Nina as a possessive mother in action and interprets her wish to enslave Madeline as she had him, and therefore he defends Gordon. Without listening to him, Nina speaks of her fear of losing Gordon, their son, suggesting that Darrell give him "a good talking to." With deep internal struggle, Darrell says he is not going to interfere. "I won't touch a life that has more than one cell!" he tells Nina, "You've got to give up owning people, meddling in their lives as if you were God and had created them!" The two admit a residual affection for each other, but Darrell still refuses to interfere, even when Nina starts to discuss Sam's high blood pressure. But with a slip of the tongue, Darrell indicates his own secret wish for Sam's death.
Sam then comes out, looking upriver for the approaching shells saying that Charlie has been drinking far too much. As he goes in, Darrell secretly hopes that Gordon will lose, while Nina thinks of a way to tell Sam about Gordon's parentage, but she will need Ned to corroborate her statements. She suggests that Sam's mother was lying about the hereditary insanity, but Darrell has already checked that story and found it true. Desperately she tries to rekindle the old passion and get Ned to tell Sam, but the doctor refuses, even though he believes that "if it hadn't been for Sam I would have been happy! . . . I would have been the world's greatest neurologist!" But finally he refuses to tell Sam, explaining that he himself was only a body to Nina, "a substitute for your dead lover," Gordon Shaw. From then on he wishes Gordon to lose. As Nina desperately thinks of a way to get young Gordon back, Charlie comes out and also starts to root against Gordon: "I don't like him since he's grown up!" He believes that "these Gordons are too infernally lucky—" And then in a curious outburst, he suggests that he and Nina will eventually be married.
Madeline and Evans come out excitedly to watch the race, but Marsden seems oblivious, thinking of plans for his married life with Nina and for the book he will write, "the book of us!" the last chapter of which is currently in the making. Nina seems also removed from the race and plots a way to tell Madeline of the hereditary insanity in Sam's family as a way of explaining her objection to the engagement. As the shells draw closer, Nina insists on talking to the exasperated Madeline, telling her that she must break their engagement; but Darrell intervenes, claiming that Nina is not herself, having just passed the menopause and being "morbidly jealous of you and subject to queer delusions!" Nina is in despair as Darrell maintains he wants Gordon's best interests yet hopes that he will be beaten in this race. Marsden realizes that something important was almost revealed in that moment, and he moves by taking Nina's hand. With that, she reveals the whole story of Sam, his hereditary insanity, Darrell, and Gordon's parentage, finally looking at Marsden: "Only you are alive now, Father—and Gordon!" And with that they exchange forgiveness as the shells come close to the finish, Darrell encouraging Gordon's opponent, Navy; but when Sam ex-postulates, Darrell bitterly goes on: "Meant Gordon, of course! Gordon is always meant—meant to win!" Nina calls silently on "Mother God" to protect Gordon: "Madeline will bring you down in flames!"
As expected, Gordon wins, and Sam takes Nina in his arms: "Our Gordon! The greatest ever!" Nina despairingly tries one last protest, "Gordon is Gordon's!" as Sam humors her. Suddenly he staggers and falls down with a bad stroke. "With a cry of grief" Nina asks, "Oh, Ned, did all our old secret hopes do this at last?" But Ned professionally pooh-poohs this idea, telling Nina that Sam will need "perfect care" and "absolute quiet and peace of mind." At first Nina is crushed, but she vows: "I will never leave his side! I will never tell him anything that might disturb his peace!" Inwardly Marsden thinks, "I will not have long to wait now." But then, ashamed, he speaks something like a priestly valediction over Sam as Darrell says, "I will give my life to save you," and Nina says, "Save—again?" But then she remembers all that Sam has done: "Dear husband, you have tried to make me happy, I will give you my happiness again! I will give you Gordon to give to Madeline." Madeline, looking after Gordon's shell, dreams ahead to the consummation of their marriage: "your head will lie on my breast. . . soon!"
Act IX: "Several months later. A terrace on the Evans estate on Long Island" overlooking a harbor and the sea. "There is a stone bench at center, a recliner at right, a wicker table and a chair at left," the same furniture arrangement to the last. Gordon, the handsome, sun-bronzed all-American athlete, is sitting on the bench while Madeline has her arm around his shoulders. Gordon, materialistically raised though he has been, still has enough sensitivity to grieve. Madeline seems more maternal toward him than before as she attempts to console him for his father's death.
Gordon blames first himself and then Nina for not having had Sam take better care of himself, but they both praise his mother's total devotion to Sam during his last months. Gordon then says that he has had the curious feeling that it was really the result of a feeling of duty and that her grief is more for the loss of a friend than a husband. He still believes that perhaps she loved Darrell more than Sam but that she had sent him away; he considers Darrell's continual visits the result of the doctor's weakness. Now he expects that they will marry, "and I'll have to wish them good luck!" Madeline does not believe Gordon, thinking that Nina and Darrell would have acted upon their love against all obstacles, as she and Gordon have done.
As they kiss, Marsden enters and is quite shocked by what he sees. But then, with "self-mockery" he realizes that Sam was not Gordon's father and that he himself will soon be able to marry Nina: "dear old Charlie . . . yes, poor dear old Charlie!—passed beyond desire, has all the luck at last!" At this he interrupts the "biological preparations" of the lovers, giving Madeline a rose: "Hail, love, we who have died, salute you!" Madeline finds this statement uncanny but writes it off as coming from "poor old Charlie!"
Gordon then says he wants to see both Nina and Darrell alone, and Madeline moves away. He wants to be fair, but he is in a state of mixed emotions—in love with Madeline, loving his father more than his mother, still confused by the way she had kissed Darrell on his own eleventh birthday. He recalls Nina's last months of devotion, but when he sees Darrell, the old desire to hit him comes back. Nina is dressed in mourning and looks much, much older, having given up any attempt to defeat time. Darrell has lost his suntan and also seems older. Both Nina and Darrell wonder why Gordon has asked to see them. Nina suspects that he is critical because she cannot weep any more, and Darrell expects a "final accounting." Nina looks forward to being left "free at last to rot away in peace." She will return to her father's house, which Sam bought back for her, and Charlie will come to visit, and they will talk of the days before she even knew Gordon Shaw. Darrell compares Gordon unfavorably with Preston, his own protégé and surrogate son, as "a well-muscled, handsome fool!"
To Darrell's surprise, Gordon mentions a curious provision in Sam's will in which a half-million dollars is left "to the Station to be used in biological research work." It is not left to Darrell but specifically to the station, "but I suppose if you won't carry on, whoever is in real charge down there will be glad to accept it." Darrell sees this as Sam's attempt to steal Preston, and Nina thinks that "even in death Sam makes people suffer," though she urges Darrell to accept "for science." Insultingly, Gordon suggests the same. When Nina tells him to be silent, he says that he wishes to speak further, and Darrell authoritatively tells him to go ahead. With this, Gordon threatens to spank Darrell, while Nina thinks "the son spanks the father." As she laughs at Gordon, Darrell goes to her, and Gordon slaps Darrell across the face: "I realize you've acted like a cur!" Hysterically, Nina cries out, "what would your father say? You don't know what you're doing! You're hitting your father!" Darrell says that it is all right, "you didn't know—" and the two are reconciled, even though Darrell reveals his hope that Gordon would lose his last race.
This great revelation of his parentage passes over Gordon's head, and he addresses Darrell by his last name, as an equal. Now Gordon reveals his knowledge that the two were always in love and his own hatred of the idea. But since they both are free, he hopes they will marry and "be as happy as you deserve." It is Darrell's turn to try to tell Gordon the truth, but Nina intervenes, asking Gordon if he had ever suspected her of infidelity with Darrell. When Gordon denies it with horror, she releases him to Madeline, while Darrell, even when given the chance to speak decides to keep forever silent.
Left alone, Darrell asks Nina to marry him, prefacing the proposal with the wish that she refuse—as a favor to him. However, he must ask since Gordon expects it. Nina, without that prodding, refuses: "Our ghosts would torture us to death. But I wish I did love you, Ned. Those were wonderful afternoons long ago! The Nina of those afternoons will always live in me, will always love her lover, Ned, the father of her baby!" Darrell kisses her hand in farewell: "And that Ned will always adore his beautiful Nina! Forget me! I'm going back to work!" He advises her to marry Charlie as a reward for his lifelong devotion and also if she wishes to find peace. With this Marsden appears, and Nina tells him she has refused Ned and asks Charlie if he wants to marry her. As Charlie stands there in secret ecstasy, Darrell says, "Bless you, my children" and then Charlie speaks of his plans for their marriage in late afternoon and then living in Nina's old house. Life is coming full circle.
Suddenly the noise of a plane taking off is heard. It is Gordon with Madeline, and as they circle overhead, Nina waves farewell to "my dear son!" At this Darrell shouts up, "You're my son, Gordon! . . . [and then] Good-bye, Gordon's son!" Nina calls up to her son, "You've got to be happy!" as Darrell comments on that wish, which he himself had once shared. Now he will return to "sensible unicellular life that floats in the sea and has never learned the cry for happiness!"
But Nina no longer seems to hear him, and so he goes into the house as she seems to return to the year 1918, when she received the cable telling of Gordon Shaw's death. Now her son, Gordon, has flown to a new life, and she and Charlie are alone as before. She realizes that her "having a son was a failure, wasn't it? He couldn't bring me happiness. Sons are always their fathers. They pass through the mother to become their father again. The Sons of the Father have all been failures!" In paternal comfort, Charlie suggests that they should forget that whole time since her meeting with Gordon Shaw, "regard it as an interlude of trial and preparation, say, in which our souls have been scraped clean of impure flesh and made worthy to bleach in peace." Nina's reply reveals identical sentiments: "Strange interlude! Yes, our lives are merely strange dark interludes in the electrical display of God the Father!" With this she leans on his shoulder, wishing to return home, with Charlie, to live in peace and "to be in love with peace together—to love each other's peace—to sleep with peace together—! — to die in peace! I'm so contentedly weary with life! Charlie . . . who passed beyond desire, has all the luck at last!" Act IX thus repeats Act I, and Nina is again safe with a father figure. She is where she belongs.
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