How is O’Neill's Long Day’s Journey into Night a modern tragedy?

O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night is a modern tragedy in the sense that it deals with recognizably modern themes. Though O’Neill may pay homage to his Ancient Greek forebears in terms of dramatic structure, the content of the play, with its psychological determinism and collapse of traditional family relationships, is recognizably modern.

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It is largely the substance of O’Neill’s posthumously published masterpiece that makes it a recognizably modern tragedy. The setting, the characters, and the fraught, complex relationships between them all contribute toward the status of the play as a species of modern tragedy.

Whereas in ancient Greek tragedy, the principle struggle is between man and the gods, the central struggle in Long Day’s Journey into Night is between man’s own past, present, and future. The tragic characters on display owe more to Freud and Jung than they do to Sophocles or Aeschylus. Here, it is deep-seated neuroses, rather than the whim of the gods, that is largely responsible for the prevailing tragedy.

There’s a certain psychological determinism at work throughout the play, which makes it thoroughly modern. This means that all of the characters, to a considerable extent, are the victims of factors outside their control. And it is these factors that account for much of their behavior

James Tyrone, for...

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