Neil Simon, known for writing comedy, said of his play Broadway Bound: "I knew that basically I was writing a tragedy, and that the laughs that come often during the evening were all bittersweet."...

Neil Simon, known for writing comedy, said of his play Broadway Bound: "I knew that basically I was writing a tragedy, and that the laughs that come often during the evening were all bittersweet." He felt that Eugene O'Neill had it right by being dead when Long Day's Journey into Night opened. For O'Neill the play was written with "deep pity and understanding and forgivenees..."

The greatest comparison of these two writers lies in these two plays. Using these plays and the earlier biographical material, discuss the relationships between the men(authors) and the characters they choose to represent them.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Simon and O'Neill recognized how their art was reflective of their own experiences.  O'Neill draws upon his own experiences in constructing Long Day's Journey into Night.  He develops the intimate suffering that takes place in the privacy of one's home.  His own understanding of the pain that human beings can inflict on one another in the domestic realm motivates his characterizations in Long Day's Journey into Night.  

The hurt in the domestic becomes critical elements out of O'Neill's life that makes their way into the drama.  Moments such as Mary saying that "That's what makes it so hard – for all of us. We can't forget" or James rebuking his wife with "As if that could do any good! You'd only postpone it. And I'm not your jailor. This isn't a prison" reflect how O'Neill perceived personal relationships.  The development of James as a character is reflective of how O'Neill saw his own father.  James is described as having "inclinations still close to his humble beginnings and Irish farmer forbears" and yet possessing dreams that surpass such a reality.  When James says, "There's nothing like the first after-breakfast cigar, if it's a good one, and this new lot have the right mellow flavor," it reflects the propensity for embracing alcohol, a condition that plagued O'Neil's father.  The dysfunctional dynamics that feed the addiction which underscores the family's relationships with one another are remnants of O'Neill's own experiences.  The writing retains such a personal feel that Simon's idea resonates clearly.  O'Neill benefitted from dying before the play debuted. Simon's words speak to a personal connection that the author has with their work.  To display a personalized notion on stage reveals such hurt and raw emotions that it is almost too fragile to behold.

Simon speaks with some authenticity on the subject.  Like O'Neill, he projects his own life experiences into Broadway Bound.  Simon grew up during the Great Depression.  Financial and material challenges presented his parents with a "tempestuous relationship."  Unlike O'Neill who internalized this into tragic drama of the subjective, Simon was able to convey such hurt and pain through comedy.  O'Neill's prophetic title of "Only when I laugh" in terms of how much "it" hurts reflects a personalized reality that emerges in his work.  This is evident in Broadway Bound.  The domestic challenges of Jack's and Kate's marriage impacts Eugene and Stanley.  Like Simon himself, both brothers use their comic art as a vehicle assuage such pain.  The "tempestuous" nature of their parents' marriage is evident in how Jack challenges Stanley and eventually leaves.  The laughs seem to subside into tears when Kate silently accepts her fate as Jack leaves, content in her children's happiness and contentment.  This echoes Simon's "bittersweet laughs" throughout the evening.  As with O'Neill, the hurt in the domestic realm operates as a vital component that shapes Simon's drama.

For both writers, dramas such as Long Day's Journey into Night and Broadway Bound are reflections of their subjective experiences.  Their autobiographical narratives is woven into the characterizations of both dramas.  The ability to convey the pain and hurt that is sadly reserved in the realm of the domestic become essential elements that craft both dramas.  The relationship that both authors have are ones of sad creators, forgers of a narrative that brings sadness upon the viewer/ reader only because of the revelation that the hurt and melancholy on the stage actually did happen.  The authentic feel of both dramas' exploration into sadness is confirmed by the autobiographical element within them.

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Long Day's Journey into Night

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