chapter  Five
29 Pages

The replacement child as writer

ByHarriet Thistlethwaite

The term “replacement child” has been coined to denote a child born after a short time: conceived within six months of the miscarriage or death of the previous infant. This chapter considers how the replacement child is affected by the loss, and looks at the material of two writers in particular: most extensively the playwright Eugene O’Neill, and more briefly, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. It argues that there are very varying experiences of being a replacement child but some strong resonances towards the dead siblings will be seen to occur in their lives and writing. In the middle period of his playwriting O’Neill seems to be conflicted by an uncertainty as to whether his mother’s addiction betrayed him or he had betrayed his mother through debauchery. There are a good number of artists in the canon who are known to have been replacement children.