THE FIRST MAN – Monologue (Martha)

A monologue from the play by Eugene O’Neill

NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Hairy Ape, Anna Christie, The First Man. Eugene O’Neill. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1922.


You must make allowances for me, Curt. And forgive me. I AM getting old. No, it’s the truth. I’ve reached the turning point.

Will you listen to my side of it, and try to see it–with sympathy–with true understanding–[With a trace of bitterness.]

forgetting your work for the moment? [Pause.] I have to confess frankly–during the past two years I’ve felt myself– feeling as if I wasn’t … complete.

I tried my best to conceal it from you. It would have been so unfair to let you guess while we were still in harness.

But oh, how I kept looking forward to the time when we would come back–and rest–in our own home! You know–

you said that was your plan–to stay here and write your books–and I was hoping– But you’ve got to go. I won’t try to stop you.

I’ll help all in my power–as I’ve always done. Only–I can’t go with you any more. And you must help me–to do my work–by understanding it.

Oh, Curt, I wish I could tell you what I feel, make you feel with me the longing for a child. If you had just the tiniest bit of feminine in you–! [Forcing a smile.] 

But you’re so utterly masculine, dear! That’s what has made me love you, I suppose–so I’ve no right to complain of it. [Intensely.] 

I don’t. I wouldn’t have you changed one bit! I love you! And I love the things you love–your work–because it’s a part of you.

And that’s what I want you to do–to reciprocate–to love the creator in me–to desire that I, too, should complete myself with the thing nearest my heart!

After all, your work is yours, not mine. I have been only a helper, a good comrade, too, I hope, but– somehow–outside of it all.

Do you remember two years ago when we were camped in Yunnan, among the aboriginal tribes?

It was one night there when we were lying out in our sleeping-bags up in the mountains along the Tibetan frontier.

I couldn’t sleep. Suddenly I felt oh, so tired–utterly alone–out of harmony with you–with the earth under me.

I became horribly despondent–like an outcast who suddenly realizes the whole world is alien. And all the wandering about the world,

and all the romance and excitement I’d enjoyed in it, appeared an aimless, futile business, chasing around in a circle in an effort to avoid touching reality.

Forgive me, Curt. I meant myself, not you, of course. Oh, it was horrible, I tell you, to feel that way. I tried to laugh at myself,

to fight it off, but it stayed and grew worse. It seemed as if I were the only creature alive–who was not alive.

And all at once the picture came of a tribeswoman who stood looking at us in a little mountain village as we rode by.

She was nursing her child. Her eyes were so curiously sure of herself. She was horribly ugly, poor woman, and yet–

as the picture came back to me–I appeared to myself the ugly one while she was beautiful. And I thought of our children who had died–

and such a longing for another child came to me that I began sobbing. You were asleep. You didn’t hear. 

[She pauses–then proceeds slowly.] And when we came back here–to have a home at last, I was so happy because I saw my chance of fulfillment–

before it was too late. [In a gentle, pleading voice.] Now can you understand, dear? Can you?

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