Abortion, the least of O'Neill's lesser plays, tells of Jack Townsend, the star athlete of a large eastern university who has just pitched the winning game. His planned celebration with his fiancée and his family is forestalled by the brother of a girl Jack has made pregnant. The girl has died following an abortion, and her brother is intent on murdering her seducer. Jack valiantly takes away the brother's gun and in a frenzy of repentance uses it on himself.
As a young writer, influenced by European and American naturalism, O'Neill was exploring concepts of "ironic fate" governing men's lives. Here the irony, such as it is, is carried by the musical accompaniment to the action provided by the approach of a college band at the play's climatic moment. The band is playing an unnamed marching song and is celebrating Jack's triumph in the game. A group of idol-worshiping students follow, and outside the window sing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow." Their cheerful chorus, accompanied by the band, drowns out the sound of the suicide shot. As Jack's fiancée enters and finds the body, the student parade moves off, their voices growing fainter as the curtain falls.
([Jack Townsend] snatches [the revolver] up and presses it to his temple. The report is drowned by the cheering. He falls forward on his face, twitches, is still.) The Students—...Rah! Rah! Rah! Townsend! Townsend! Townsend! (The band strikes up: "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow." The students commence to sing.) [I, 219-20]
For He's a Jolly Good Fellow - traditional
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