The Dreamy Kid (1919) contemporises with the
racial violence of 1919 and illuminates the turning
point of black cultural uprising. It was written and
staged in 1919, a year of historical importance for it
marks the end of the Progressive Era (1900-19) and the
starting point of both Harlem Renaissance (1919-33) and
Civil Rights Movement (1919-60). The play involves a
stereotypical situation of black-white showdown where a
black gang leader, Abe a.k.a. Dreamy who is running from
law after murdering a white man in self-defence is
gunned down when he comes to stand his final watch over
his grandmother’s deathbed on the following evening.
O’Neill here underplays the homicidal offence of Dreamy
perhaps to ham the racial tone up which makes the
violence at play’s end an image common in the cultural
quagmire of the time. On one hand, the hegemonic police
force, offstage though, is bound by the duty of ethnic
extermination and hence has come to take the criminal
out; and on the other, the besieged and enraged black
youth would not give up easily or alive without a
blood-spattered gun battle.
Indeed, racial violence ran high in America during the
time the staging of Eugene O’Neill’s The Dreamy Kid
took place. Termed as “Red Summer” by Johnson (Erikson
2293-4), The Crisis reported that at least 77
lynching of blacks took place during the summer and the
early autumn of 1919. Such Post-war riots characterised
by whites’ attack and blacks’ fighting back pepped the
cultural climate of the time. For instance, Claude
McKay’s “If We Must Die,” considered “the inaugural
address of the Harlem Renaissance” (Maxwell), draws upon
the fierce race riots that shook the urban centres of
contemporary America. Published in the July issue of the
Liberator, the poem not only depicts a rancorous
outcry against white aggression but also implores the
blacks towards bloody reprisal. While O’Neill’s play,
staged in October on Broadway, may not have caused a
nationwide cultural uproar like McKay’s poem, deserves
attention for portraying an image of black resilience
and resistance through the title character Dreamy.
The Dreamy Kid, in fact, neither had the ripple
effect if compared to the works of other Progressive Era
artists like Pauline E Hopkins, Bob Cole, Johnson
Brothers, and Paul Laurence Dunbar which on stage and
page challenged the racial representation and intricate
counter-currents of resistance, nor did it have the hype
of Noble Sissle’s and Eubie Blake’s Shuffle Along
(1921), the first musical revue written and performed by
African Americans which is considered to have laid the
cornerstone of Harlem Renaissance with instant Broadway
success. In fact, drama as a genre took the backseat
during the beginning of Jazz Age as black musicals were
vastly popular amongst both black and white audiences
for their tremendous entertainment and commercial
values. While Renaissance playwrights Katherine Davis
Tillman, Helene Johnson, Willis Richardson, Randolph
Edmonds, Arna Bontemps, Rudolph Fisher, Wallace Thurman,
and Langston Hughes wrote serious dramas covering and
promoting differing facets of black life and culture,
many of them had to wait until the creation of the Works
Progress Administration’s Federal Theatre Project in the
mid-1930s to stage their plays.
O’Neill’s play, therefore, lured very little critical
attention. Yet scholars from time to time applauded the
playwright mainly for liberalising and integrating the
American stage by giving African-American actors an
access to Broadway (Sternlicht 47; Gelbs 399; Bogard
100). While most of them were dismissive of O’Neill for
yielding to stereotypes particularly in drawing Dreamy
and Mammy, they much-admired O’Neill’s strong resolve,
perhaps following Ridgley Torrence’s Three Plays for
a Negro Theatre (1917), in casting black actors in
black roles warding off minstrelsy, a common practice of
the era (Raland 61, Engel 45-6; Shaughnessy “The
Over the years, critics and scholars have started to
note certain historical relevance of the play. John
Lovell Jr. and Gary Jay Williams were not only very much
appreciative of O’Neill’s sympathies for blacks of his
time but also tried to label Dreamy as the playwright’s
“darker brother” (45; 3). Virginia Floyd claims, “The
Dreamy Kid succeeds because its characters and plot
are credible” (157). Joel Pfister studies parallels
between the strained Black and Irish emigrations to US
who, according to him, shared a common lot after
arriving in America. Both ethnic groups suffered
scientific racism, and were “victims of similar cultural
stereotypes disseminated since the mid-nineteenth
century.” O’Neill, he views, was well aware of the “N”
word applicable to either races in antebellum South, and
hence in matters of race-relations he maintained “a
stance against ‘discrimination of any kind.’” Referring
to Great Migration at the turn of the century and the
Black American Dream of assimilation and success, he,
like Edwin Angel, affirms, “the doomed Dreamy is
O’Neill’s embodiment of the black dream of freedom in
the North turned into a nightmare” (124).
In an article, Shaughnessy sees O’Neill’s “integrity” as
“unassailable” and adds that the playwright’s depiction
of Africans and Irish-Americans in theatre should be
perceived as “faithful realism” (“O’Neill’s African and
Irish-Americans” 161). While he claims that O’Neill
dealt characters on three levels: “the cultural,” “the
psychological,” and “the spiritual,” he denies Dreamy
the third stage for failing to “meet on an existential
common ground” (150-51). JP Diggins, on the other hand,
applauds Dreamy as “a hardened black man rising to
individual responsibility and moral choice.” According
to him, Dreamy falls into the “authentic Negro
character” type that theatre critic George Jean Nathan
detected in the middle of second decade of twentieth
century. Dreamy, Diggins views, is a character “capable
of sensing the conflict of values that is at the heart
of tragedy.” He adds, if Dreamy lacks any “spiritual
value,” it is due to the erosion mainly caused by the
mainstream white culture that implanted a sense of
“double consciousness” among blacks which DuBois
explained a decade before (138-42).
O’Neill’s play stands in interstice between the end of
Progressive Era when the idea of black culture burgeoned
and the start of Jazz Age when that very culture
experienced renaissance. He wrote at a time when
minstrel tradition had not completely fallen off, and
hence if we see “blackface” as a contaminated form of
interracial desire, following Lott’s and Kaplan’s
observations, O’Neill’s drawing upon a black subject can
be seen as a white playwright’s gazing upon a black
matter out of that “desire.” Yet critics underscore his
Irish root as a potent force that helped the playwright
know racism firsthand to draw upon white hegemonic
control through The Dreamy Kid.
O’Neill understood and recognized the plight of blacks
because he and his family lived through the American
“melting-pot” set up. Gelbs and Sheaffer, the
playwright’s biographers, mentioned how the Yankee New
Londoners of his neighbourhood used to rebuke O’Neill’s
family for being Irish immigrants. In fact, the
antebellum “white nigger” phrase became synonymous to an
Irishman where “to be an Irish” in the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries meant to be black and to
be black meant to be “subhuman” (O’Toole). Between the
wars, the Congress made arrangements to limit the Irish
immigrants’ influx by calling them the most degenerative
and defective of all immigrant sects (Barkan 199-200).
Whether as a playwright O’Neill deflects or draws upon
the racial politics in his plays or simply played the
race card has been a matter of interesting speculation.
While Diggings says O’Neill wrote keeping in mind “the
need of a writer to transcend his background than to
express it” (139), Pfister considers a salient part of
the playwright’s work deals with the effect of
internalised racism where both classes of immigrants
(Irish and black) are presented as “victims of similar
cultural stereotypes” (123). O’Neill staged most of his
plays during the first quarter of the twentieth century
when the “negro-phobic” structure of United States
advocated racial self-preservation and claimed that
culture was a creation of race.
O’Neill exploits his stage to put forward various
positions in the racial debates through The Dreamy
Kid. As Progressive Era’s ethnic taxonomies led to
systematic black exclusion through “visible” and
“invisible” (Galtung) racial violence, black survival
depended upon a tightrope of highly organized structure
of white power. Between the wars, Jacobson and Kaplan
views, there arose a major reconceptualisation of
“whiteness” as a system of meaning positioned to verify
inclusion in the imagined “American” national identity.
While a number of sociologists had misgivings about the
legitimacy of racial differentiations, especially as
social Darwinism was applied to ethnic classifications,
the nation’s perception of race was refigured along
black and white borderlines. Whiteness’ such
historically contingent positionality solidified the
difference in social and cultural levels which Kaplan
called “eradication [of blacks] and celebrations [of
whites]” (Kaplan 152-53). The inclusiveness of other
white sects, migrated Caucasians like Jewish and Eastern
European, largely banked upon reinforcing of racial
conflict as a “Negro problem” (Jacobson 103-10).
The confrontational face-off that The Dreamy Kid
posits is in the black resistance in response to the
power and dominion wielded by the white to control the
black. The theory of black survival through resistance
was a significant point in the era of black cultural
uprising. Black intellectuals became furious when racial
hostility reached a disastrous peak after the much-hyped
White’s and Dyer’s bills had failed to secure
anti-lynching legislation. DuBois, in October 1916 issue
of The Crisis wrote, “If we are to die, in God’s
name let us not perish like bales of hay.” Violence
against blacks would cease, DuBois stated, “when the
cowardly mob is faced with effective guns in the hands
of the people determined to sell their souls dearly.”
Similarly, A. Phillip Randolph, editor of The
Messenger, viewed, “The black man has no rights
which will be respected unless the black man enforces
that respect.” Calling “self-defence” a “recognized and
accepted law,” he also asked the African-Americans to
carry out the act as the means of survival (qtd. in
Graham and Gurr 402).
Dreamy in the play is an on-the-run streetwise
African-American youth who just a day ago murdered a
white man in a brawl in an act of self-defence. When
Ceely, the matron asks Dreamy what he has done that he
is too finicky about visiting Mammy on deathbed, a
restless Dreamy “with … a careless bravado”
replies, “I croaked a guy, dat’s what! A white man.”
While Ceely recoils in horror hearing this, he “boastfully”
narrates the incident that it was merely an act of
self-protection. Before the deadly encounter with the
white fellow took place, he continues, he had been
warned that the white man would kill him surely.
According to him, he did his best to stay out of the
encounter, but his attacker was pigheaded, and that is
what forced his hand:
’T’warn’t my doin’ nohow. He
was de one lookin’ for trouble. I wasn’t seekin’ for
no mess wid him dat I would help. But he tole folks
he was gwine ter git me for a fac’, and dat fo’ced
my hand. I had ter git him ter pertect my own life.
According to Dreamy, if he didn’t kill the white fellow,
the latter must have killed him. The general law of
nature bears the fact that the greatest instinct in
every human being is self-preservation, i.e. if the life
of any creature is jeopardised, s/he would instinctively
fight against all odds and circumstances to ward off the
attacker. That is what Dreamy did, and he could expect
the law to back him up later. But Dreamy lived in an era
of burgeoning “scientific racism” in US when the law of
the land was “raced,” and hence was determined and
influenced by colour and position. He lived in a time
when “a set of Jim Crow ‘race laws’” was put in place to
“prevent” black access in almost all spheres of life so
that whites could continue to dominate blacks (During
163-64). Dreamy’s murdering a white man therefore posed
a threat to the enactment of “systematic” black
exclusion. As he grew up in New York, he knew how the
state system functioned. If he turned himself over to
police, the white-biased law would not have protected
him. As the law of the state, Dreamy views, would surely
have him “sent to de chair” if caught (685), he chooses
to run away from it.
If Dreamy’s killing the white man in self-defence may be
seen as an example of black resistance, which is “the
natural result of centuries of scornful treatment,
industrial oppression, and constant assertion of race
superiority” (Pickett 17), his evading the arrest, sheer
determination of not to be taken alive but rather
killing more when attacked is the result of the new
racial awareness that the blacks had in Post-war
America. Constant feeling of indignation and repulsion
that the blacks harboured gave way to the feeling of
assertion of militancy and aggression. The “New Negro”
formula called for self-assurance and self-defence to
redress the racial grievances that would enact a change
in and definition of black rights in Post-war America
(Lewis 3; Huggins 71). Therefore, when Irene
apprehensively tells him that police might hunt him down
someday, Dreamy proclaims: “Dey’ll have some gittin’. I
git some o’ dem fust. Dey don’ git dis chicken alive!
Lawd Jesus, no suh. Not de Dreamy” (688)! He later
reiterates this in the same confident vein, “Dey don’
get the Dreamy alive—not for the chair! Lawd Jesus, no
suh” (690)! Dreamy is a prototype of such image who,
with militant intent, vows not to be taken alive but
fight back with severe aggression in the hope that this
would overhaul his race’s centuries old despised
Dreamy thus has been raising a gang of army for some
time as he has developed an entrenched feeling of hatred
towards the white system of the legal, political, and
social structures that hindered his race’s progress for
long. Ceely’s description of Dreamy conforms to such
picture. Dreamy, according to Ceely, has been clubbing
around with “tough young niggers” for some time, and has
raised a “gang” of army of which he is the “boss.” He
does not work, is busy “fightin’ wid white folks,” and
is always “totin’ a pistol in his pocket” (676). Calling
him the “lowflung young trash,” Ceely, who like many
blacks of the time, concedes to “internalised racism”
that permits accepting hegemony, says she knew Dreamy
would soon fall in serious trouble. Dreamy is hanging
around with his black militia gang because it provides
him with “group sense” and security, and he takes
“pride” in his ability in and determination of taking
the fight to the policemen, the agents of
institutionalised racism, since he believes he has done
nothing wrong. Such projection distils a typical
platform where stereotyped black and white are involved
in racial conflict, and are shown to put off cultural
pluralism. O’Neill’s play further traffics in historical
and political foundations of the great racial division
through the conflict between Dreamy and the offstage
Dreamy’s kaleidoscopic projection both as an innocent
and a brute black youth, however, anatomises the
conflict that the play aims to decode. While the
antithesis is a result of the rapid changes in black
life and identity that needed to be reconstructed in
North, it also gives potent clue for such relegation.
Dreamy’s diatribe needs to be assessed side-by-side
Mammy’s dialogues in the play. Between her drift offs,
Mammy, other than requesting Dreamy not to desert her in
her last moments, revisits the time when she gave Abe
the moniker “Dreamy:”
Down by de crik—under de ole
willow—whar I uster take yo’—wid yo’ big eyes a-chasin’—de
sun flitterin’ froo de grass—an’ out on the water— …
yo’ was always—a-lookin’—an’ a-thinkin’ to yo’se’f—an’
yo’ big eyes jest a-dreamin’ an’ a-dreamin’—an’
dat’s w’en I gives yo’ dat nickname—Dreamy. (690)
As per Mammy, an innocent Dreamy, as an infant, would
gaze at the world with joy, admiration, and eyes full of
dream. The innocent, dreamy eyes spurred her to give him
such name, she tells. Mammy even recollects the very
moment when she gave him the nickname: “Does you know
how yo’ come by dat nickname dey all calls yo’—de
Dreamy? Is I ever tole yo’ dat? Hit was one mawnin’ b’fo’
we come No’th” (684).
Giving Abe the moniker “Dreamy” a day before migration
therefore carries paramount significance for Mammy. To
Mammy, Dreamy has always been a good boy and she shows
strong faith in him. She says to Ceely, “Dreamy ain’t
gwine let his ole Mammy die all lone by he’se’f an’ him
not dere wid her” (1.682). She seems content and proud
with the good upbringing she provided Dreamy with: “if
dere’s one thing more’n nother makes me feel like I
mighter done good in de sight er de Lawd, hits dat I
raised yo’ fum a baby” (1.684). She “anxiously”
waits for her grandson on deathbed and prays not to be
withdrawn from the world until she sees him for the last
time: “All I’se prayin’ fer is dat God don’ take me befo’
I sees Dreamy agin” (676).
The word “Dreamy” is a sort of commemoration of the
moment of belief that time in North would heal the deep
scars of South for Mammy. Dreamy the word stands not
only for Dreamy the person, the apple of her eye, but
also the “Dreamy” North of betterment. Therefore, the
moniker is a tribute to the black American dream, a
yearning that moved the lives of millions. Craving
Dreamy to see therefore is a solemn hymn to the belief
in the dream of better days which brought blacks like
Mammy here in North. Seeing Dreamy would re-emphasise
the belief with assurance that the dream is still alive
and kicking and not lost into oblivion.
Mammy does not know her dream has already turned into a
nightmare in Dreamy. Dreamy is no longer the meek, jolly
kid she once reared. He, in fact, is a killer wanted by
police. A stage description of the interior, “a
washstand with bowl and pitcher … [b]ottles
of medicine, a spoon, a glass, etc. … on the stand,”
(675) clarifies the fact that she has been laid up for
quite some time with hardly any communication with or
knowledge of the world outside her room. Mammy doesn’t
know the outer reality on street for blacks like Dreamy
kids as her movement is constrained. She asks Dreamy why
he has not been around for some years to talk to her: “I
wants ter talk. You knows you ain’t give me much chance
ter talk wid yo’ dese las’ years” (683-84). It suggests
that she does not know the reason why Dreamy is unable
to come and visit her all these days as she is in the
dark about Dreamy’s carryings on nowadays.
Mammy learned racism in South and Dreamy in North. She
dreamt of living a non-racist life in North and thus
wished to provide Dreamy with an unconstrained
upbringing. But for Dreamy even the confines of Mammy’s
bedroom is under racist attack. As Mammy talks endlessly
of the moments she thinks worth reminiscing, he raises
his ears continuously to every sound that comes from
hallway staircase and peeks through the window curtains
to make out if he is tailed by the plainclothesmen.
Thus, while Mammy tried to unlearn racism in North,
Dreamy encounters it on and off, here and there. Keeping
her unlearned cost him his life because he knew seeing
Mammy on deathbed would be a death-trap for him since
the cops are after him. Yet he chooses to be beside her
jeopardising his life and not heeding his gang’s advice
to stay away. On one hand, O’Neill’s stagecraft spares
her the agony of learning the bitter truth, and on the
other, shows a failed black resettlement. Mammy’s such
illusion versus Dreamy’s lived reality not only serves
as the central conflict of the drama but also brings to
fore twentieth century’s one of crucial intellectual
debates: whether moving from South to North really paid
off for blacks. As August Wilson considered black
migration North, in his words, “a transplant that did
not take,” so his Seven Guitars and Ma
Rainey’s Black Bottom show African-Americans making
“atonement for this so-called original sin” (Shannon
660). O’Neill, through Mammy and Dreamy, representatives
of two generations of blacks, shows how the black dream
was conceived and what it has turned into. Mammy’s
traditional, southern “red-and-yellow quilt” may
still look “gaudy” as is the case in Morrison’s
Beloved, but the “white curtain”
separating her one-room tenement from overlooking the
neighbourhood streets is “ragged.” The tattered
condition of the curtain not only tells of poverty, but
also stands for the squalor of which Mammy is unaware.
Mammy thus seems to be living in social amnesia as she
has forgotten the knowledge of racism, which is part of
the centuries long US history that repeats itself.
Although Ceely, Irene, and the whole neighbourhood know
Dreamy’s true self, they hide it from Mammy lest it
would break her illusion. Mammy’s perception of Dreamy
stands in contrast when the stage description reads: “His
eyes are shifty and hard, their expression one of tough,
scornful defiance. His mouth is cruel and perpetually
drawn back at the corner into a snarl” (680). With a
revolver tucked inside the “flashy” dress, the
description suggests there is hardly any innocence or
dreaminess in Dreamy’s eyes now. Mammy is unable to
detect this transmutation in Abe.
Dreamy loses his innocence because the very society he
lives in denounces and castigates him for his racial
affiliation or skin colour, deprives him of the basic
opportunities of sustenance, job or descent living.
Floyd views, “As years passed, Abe’s eyes lost their
dreaminess, which was crushed by the harsh realities of
his life on the streets of New York” (154). Thus he
invariably resorts to disreputable or violent means to
stay alive. Blauner recounts a testimony of a black
American living in that era to delineate how wretchedly
they survived: “We need jobs. I got eight kids, and I’ve
only worked ten days this year. I ain’t ever been a
crook, but if they don’t do something, I’m gonna have to
take something. I don’t know how they expect us to live”
(200). The social system that banks upon systematic
exclusion and breeds racial narrow-mindedness and
oppression made it impossible for a coloured person to
maintain a livelihood to exist respectably in society.
Dreamy, therefore, like many blokes of his race hardly
had any opportunities to advance in a racially
prejudiced society. That is why he is involved in
“fightin’ wid white folks,” since he considers them as
an entrenched vehicle of his people’s oppression, his
folks’ poverty and repression. George S Schuyler
observed in the twenties: “It is difficult enough to
survive and prosper in this world under the best of
conditions, but when one must face such an attitude on
the part of those who largely control the means of
existence, the struggle is great indeed. … Nothing else
could be expected from a people who confront a
continuous barrage of insult and calumny and
discrimination from the cradle to grave. The Negro is a
sort of black Gulliver chained by white Lilliputians, a
prisoner in jail of color prejudice, a babe in the
forest of bigotry” (285; 291). Dreamy is already a
“prisoner” before even committing a felony. He is
“chained” by the “invisible” complex dynamics of power
structures that existed in the then America.
Dreamy, however, is “passing” as innocent. He is,
therefore, an impostor to Mammy. In the eyes of the
society he might be a murderer but Mammy needs him
beside her for her peaceful removal from earthly life.
She says, “Dreamy! Yo’ promise yo’ sacred word yo’ stay
wid me till de en” (688). She even goes far to threaten
Dreamy with the superstitious curse saying that if he
departs her on deathbed he wouldn’t have much luck in
life: “If yo’ leave me now, yo’ ain’t gwine git no bit
er luck s’long’s yo’ live, I tells yo’ dat” (688)! She
asks him to say prayers for her on his knees and
clutches to his hand when her time nears. She is sure
that her withdrawal would be peaceful beside a meek,
innocent, God-fearing Dreamy. While she reads Dreamy’s
uttering of “Lawd Jesus” as tinged with religious
ecstasy to smoothen her release, the audience knows it
is blasphemous and pronounced from a different
perspective by Dreamy. Masking his newly evolved
identity, Dreamy may play Jesus to Mammy, but he is a
Judas in the eyes of white law.
Dreamy, nevertheless, fits the racist image of a violent
black man circulated for a long time and thus formed a
common American perception that coloured youths are
criminals and less than human. In the eye of law, he is,
then, an obstinate criminal or flagrant lawbreaker who
is a threat to white civilisation that needs to be
continuously controlled, confined, disciplined, and
punished. The “invisible” police force in the play plays
such “racial duty” of checking the blacks. The way
Negrophobia is not seen but felt in the systemic ways of
its operation that prevents black progress and
undermines black attainment, the presence of police in
the play likewise is not visible, but reported on stage
by various characters before and after Dreamy’s arrival
in Mammy’s one-room shabby tenement. While the “visible”
effects of violence would result in killing, like
Dreamy’s killing the white and possible more killings in
Dreamy-police encounter at play’s end, the “invisible”
effects of violence are even more vicious as it
reinforces the existing structural and cultural violence
caused by “visible” or “direct violence” (Galtung).
Dreamy’s homicide disturbed the hegemonic formation, so
now he has to undergo institutional and cultural
violence. The police would run the cleansing operation
by target shooting to quell an uprising to set the
structure right, i.e., re-establishing white hegemony.
Using force, i.e., police to effect hegemony has been a
common phenomenon in the US which pervaded particularly
throughout Jim Crow era. The play seems to insist on the
common black perception of the police force as a racist
organization, which not only limited free movement of
blacks, but also served the interest of white people by
either killing blacks in encounters or supporting the
whites in interracial riots. Historians often charge
members of police force with harassment and
unconscionable brutality against the blacks. The police
offstage, invisible yet omnipresent, represents one
hostile force propagating “institutionalised racism.” As
Blauner views, “Of all establishment institutions,
police departments probably include the highest
proportion of individual racists (97),” Sullivan’s and
Mickey’s advances from pub to streets of the
neighbourhood, which Dreamy and Irene notice peeking
through the curtain, are bound to provoke a
counter-racist tirade from Dreamy. The conflict between
Dreamy and the policeman vis-à-vis the runaway
black felon and the institutional white force,
therefore, is accentuated by the playwright as part of
the central action of the play.
When the police reach the doorstep and their “sound
of movement from hallway” seems silent like on
tiptoes since they are about to break in from outside,
Mammy “groans weakly” to breath her last holding
Dreamy’s right hand. Cocking the revolver in the other
hand, violent Dreamy makes his “pledge” to shoot
down some of the policemen as he “aims his gun in the
direction of the door (691).” The police perform the
modes of racial dominion with a view to rooting out the
“undesirables,” making sure the boundary is marked.
Dreamy on the other hand shows a counter current of
resistance by threatening to undermine white supremacy.
Dreamy’s crisis, nonetheless, is the crisis in American
civilisation. His cultural inclusion would require a
structural overhaul of the institutions. Centuries old
cliché regarding the land acquisition and the
utilisation of labour force that prompted Indians to be
relegated and Africans to be enslaved has pulverised
deep into the state system. Racism that soaked into all
parts of American society established a system where
xenophobia against the people of colour has been a
Did Dreamy have any choice? What could he have done? He
must have wanted to meet violence with violence as means
to ensure his race’s coexistence, inclusion, and
cultural and structural assimilation in the long run.
Dreamy’s death in such manner might be read as an act of
cultural genocide. While this death provides no utopian
opposition to Negrophobia, it may stand as an image for
a black “racial counterculture” (Gilroy 200). O’Neill’s
play in no way suggests that a biracial awareness of
whiteness is achieved. Although it shows formation of a
new black identity through Dreamy who achieves a sort of
communal plenitude by resisting white dominance, the
black man is still left mired in his “place.”
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