A monologue from the play by Eugene O'Neill

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Thirst and Other One-Act Plays. Eugene O'Neill. Boston: Gorham Press, 1914.
  • POET: Did you ever become so sick of disappointment and weary of life in general that death appeared to you the only way out? That is the way I felt—sick and weary of soul and longing for sleep. When the ship struck the derelict it seemed to me providential. Here was the solution I had been looking for. I would go down with the ship and that small part of the world which knew me would think my death an accident. I was going to die, yes. So I hid in the steerage fearing that some of the ship’s officers would insist on saving my life in spite of me. Finally when everyone had gone I came out and walked around the main deck. I heard the sound of voices come from a dark corner and discovered that this woman and her child had been left behind. How that happened I don’t know. Probably she hid because she was afraid the child would be crushed by the terror-stricken immigrants. At any rate there she was and I decided she was so happy in her love for her child that it would be wrong to let her die. I looked around and found this life-boat had been lowered down to the main deck and left hanging there. The oars had been taken out—probably for extra rowers in some other boat. I persuaded the woman to climb in and then went up to the boat deck and lowered the boat the rest of the way to the water. This was not much of a task for the steamer was settling lower in the water every minute. I then slid down one of the ropes to the boat and cutting both of the lines that held her, pushed off. There was a faint breeze which blew us slowly away from the sinking ship until she was hidden in the fog. The suspense of waiting for her to go down was terrible. Even as it was we were nearly swamped by the waves when the steamer took her final plunge. I think all that happened to me is an omen sent by the Gods to convince me my past unhappiness is past and my fortune will change for the better. But if I had known the sufferings that poor woman was to undergo as a result of my reckless life-saving I would have let her go down with the ship and gone myself. The child was naturally frail and delicate and I suppose the fright he received and the exposure combined to bring on some kind of convulsion. It was just about this time yesterday morning when the poor little fellow died.