The Emperor JonesIn Eugene O’Neil’s play, The Emperor Jones, he presents a crucial lesson to mankind: one should not pretend to be someone who he is not. Multiple repercussions may occur to someone who denies their background and race. For example, in The Emperor Jones, the character, Brutus Jones, dissembles as a free white man (Jones was really black and was supposed to be in slavery during that time). Because of Jones’ denial, he encounters numerous illusions in the forest of his black heritage, which haunt him until he is finally killed by his natives, under the accusation of an insurgence against his people. O’Neil introduces the theme of denial bluntly. In the opening scene of the play, it is clear to the audience, from a nineteenth century perspective, that Brutus Jones’ physical features oppose his personal opinion of his individual status. Jones, a colored man, was expected to be a slave during the eighteen hundreds. Ironically, Jones proudly claims to be a white man and is portrayed as a powerful man in this first scene. After O’Neil presents his theme of denial, he supplies following scenes with the consequences of illusions, displaying his true lineage. One apparition Jones encounters is a gang of Negroes chained, working on the road supervised by a white man. The anticipation of the audience is that Jones will assist the white man with managing the slaves. Instead, Jones is ordered to work; subconsciously, he proceeds to the slave work with his fellow natives. Jones finally realizes his actions and shoots the apparition, which immediately disappears.
Jones experiences a similar illusion later of chained blacks, sitting in rows, wailing, awaiting their slavery. Intuitively, Jones joins their rhythm and swaying and his cry rises louder than the others. This illusion leaves on its own and Jones advances through the forest. These two apparitions demonstrate that inside, Jones really understands that he is colored, but he cannot admit it. The next two of Jones’ illusions display that the other people realize that Jones is black which aggravates him even more. First Jones confronts a slave auction. He spectates until he realizes that it is he, who is being auctioned. As a result, Jones loses control and goes wild. Finally, Jones witnesses a religious sacrifice, one similar to his native religious. It is not until Jones realizes that the witch doctor is offering him as a sacrifice, to be eaten by the crocodile, that Jones loses control once again. O’Neil presents a theme of denial in The Emperor Jones. O’Neil teaches that denial of one’s heritage is a dangerous situation that may result in apparitions and death. He suggests a cure to self-denial if it’s not too late. O’Neil implies that if the people associated with such a person familiarize him with his real identity, he might be saved. Unfortunately, the natives were too fearful of Jones to express such feelings. It wasn’t until Jones saw the illusions of the people identifying him as a black person that he realized that he was colored. At this point it was too late for Jones to turn back, which ensued in his death.