Anna Christie is seventy-two now; Anna Christopherson herself would be ninety-two. And why not? All that salty sea air could have been an ideal preservative. The play won Eugene O’Neill his second Pulitzer Prize in 1921 and may be said to have begun serious American theater. Its large simplicities of theme and construction are well known: a prodigal daughter returns to her father’s barge and strives, with some success, to exorcise her own and her father’s past. Of course, it was not Anna who had been prodigal, but her parents, who had farmed her out to cousins in Minnesota. There, as she tells her father, one of them “that you think such nice people—the youngest son— Paul … started me wrong. It was none of my fault.” Raped thus at sixteen, she went to Saint Paul and worked as a nurse until the breaks drove her to “a house.” She hates men—“every mother’s son of...

 
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