본문 바로가기
  • Home

Reconsidering ‘A New Mark’ in American Drama: William Vaughn Moody’s The Great Divide

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2008, 21(2), pp.155-182
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Jungman Park 1

1성균관대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Many critics and scholars have hailed William Vaughn Moody’s The Great Divide (1906) as the new mark or the first modern play in American drama. Such evaluation is more or less problematic since the play seems to be apparently following the conventional ways of play writing and making. This is evident from the fact that this play takes the form of melodrama, the most popular play type of the time, and accordingly employs several melodramatic elements such as the sentimental love story, a crisis plot, and a happy ending followed by the protagonists’ suffering. In addition, the play, with its realistic and picturesque setting, has potential to create spectacles in order to entertain the audience members. Therefore, this paper raises the question of what specialty, if any, makes this play differentiate itself from other melodramas of the time and obtain the credit of being historically significant, despite its inherent commonplaceness. In answering the question, this paper examines possible reasons for the play’s evaluation as a new-mark in American drama history. For discussion, this paper argues that the playwright attempts to bring ‘ideas’ to the front as the central focus of the play and successfully manipulates them to the extent that they maintain the tension throughout the entire play while hackneyed melodramatic elements and entertaining values, the two foremost expectations from the contemporary theatre business, become comparatively attenuated towards the end of the play. For evidence, this paper traces the dynamics in which the theme of East-West contrast is reinforced and finally develops into a dominating idea of the play, winning over the melodramatic banality. In addition, pointing out that the playwright’s experimentation with dramatic styles and techniques such as symbolism and expressionism intensifies the depth of the idea, this paper argues that the play was exceptional enough to wipe out the years-long disgrace that American drama, due to its deep-rooted commercialism and lack of experimental spirit, had been far behind the European counterparts. Completing the discussion, this paper concludes that William Vaughn Moody’s The Great Divide truly marked a watershed in American drama which divided drama-that-would-be from drama-that-is by foreshadowing a new realism loaded with serious ideas and various experimentations with dramatic style and technique, and by showing the American commercial theatre a new path to take in the near future.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.