Long Day’s Journey into Night

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The play is overtly autobiographical, with O’Neill calling his father James Tyrone, his mother Mary Tyrone, his older brother James Tyrone, Jr., and himself not Eugene but Edmund Tyrone--thereby assuming the first name of the youngest brother, who died in infancy when exposed to measles by the oldest. In the preface, dedicated to his third wife Carlotta, O’Neill thanks her for the “love that enabled me to face my dead at last and write this play--write it with deep pity and understanding and forgiveness for all the four haunted Tyrones.”

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Two events propel the action: Mary Tyrone, despite having recently been treated for drug addiction, relapses into her morphine habit; and Edmund learns (as O’Neill did) that he has tuberculosis and must enter a sanatorium. When other family members move urgently closer to Mary for her sympathy and support, she inexorably moves away from them into the fog of her illusions.

The family is shown as living in a closely symbiotic relationship, with each important attribute of one member affecting--usually for the worse--the behavior of the other three. The quartet is linked by resentment and guilt, but also by love and need. Anger and recrimination alternate with pity and understanding. Each character takes turns being victim and persecutor, aggressor and protector.

The drama rises above the confessional level to show the Tyrones as a universal family, whose soul-searing discoveries and dreams, loves and longings belong to us all. By critical consensus, this is O’Neill’s greatest play.

Bibliography

Barlow, Judith E. Final Acts: The Creation of Three Late O’Neill Plays. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. A collection of ten essays by O’Neill’s major critics arranged in the chronological order of their publication, examining such topics as the monologues, the characters, the form, and the language. A helpful guide to the play.

Carpenter, Frederic. Eugene O’Neill. Boston: Twayne, 1979.

Gassner, John, ed. O’Neill: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964.

Gelb, Arthur, and Barbara Gelb. O’Neill. Enlarged ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. A monumental one-volume biography. Invaluable to the serious student of the playwright and his work.

Hinden, Michael. “Long Day’s Journey into Night”: Native Eloquence. Boston: Twayne, 1990. An excellent introduction to the play and its history. Two admirable chapters are devoted to a close analysis of the major characters and their motivations. Extensive bibliography.

Manheim, Michael. Eugene O’Neill’s New Language of Kinship. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1982. Argues that the early plays contain the same autobiographical characters and situations as Long Day’s Journey into Night. An interesting list of motifs for each character in the play is included.

Porter, Laurin. The Banished Prince: Time, Memory, and Ritual in the Late Plays of Eugene O’Neill. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Research Press, 1988. Analyzes the futile attempts of characters in the last plays, including Long Day’s Journey into Night, to reclaim the past through memory and the ritual of confession.

The Play

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The plot of Long Day’s Journey into Night observes the classical unities, its action telescoping from 8:30 a.m. to midnight of an August day in 1912, set in the Tyrones’ summer home at New London’s beach, Connecticut. The curtain rises with Mary and James Tyrone entering their dining room. She retains a young and graceful figure in her mid-fifties, has a striking, “distinctly Irish” face, uses no makeup, and sports dark brown eyes that are “unusually large and beautiful, with black brows and long curling lashes.” Qualifying this favorable impression is her extreme nervousness, expressed by continually fluttering hands so spoiled by rheumatism that they “have an ugly, crippled look.” O’Neill stresses her “shy convent-girl youthfulness . . . an innate worldly innocence.”

James Tyrone, eleven years Mary’s senior but belying his age by ten, is handsome, healthy, soldierly erect. In contrast to his wife, “he has no nerves.” His stolid Irish peasant heritage has kept him fit, but also keeps him from fully understanding the complex natures of his wife and sons. The latter soon join their parents. The elder, Jamie, resembles his father physically but lacks Tyrone’s grace and stamina. He shows “signs of premature disintegration,” while his cynical sneering “gives his countenance a Mephistophelian cast.” Twenty-three-year-old Edmund is his mother’s son, with luminous eyes in a hypersensitive face. The author notes, “It is in the quality of extreme nervous sensibility that the likeness of Edmund to his mother is most marked.”

These four tormented persons form a closely symbiotic quartet. Each important attribute of one affects—usually for the worse—the behavior of the other three. Each is both innocent victim and culpable victimizer; each takes turns occupying one angle of a dramatic triangle, playing not only the victim, but also the persecutor and rescuer. In act 1, as in this plays’ humorous counterpart, Ah, Wilderness! (pr., pb. 1933), O’Neill refers to actual landmarks, people, and events belonging to New London’s history, such as anecdotes regarding the pond of a Standard Oil millionaire and the pigs of Tyrone’s tenant farmer. The play is overtly autobiographical, with the playwright saluting his third wife, Carlotta, in his somber preface, for her “love that enabled me to face my dead at last and write this play—write it with deep pity and forgiveness of all the four haunted Tyrones.” The O’Neills have become the Tyrones, with Eugene making the significant change by calling his alter ego Edmund—the name given the second O’Neill son, who died in infancy when exposed to measles by the oldest.

Two events propel most of the action: Mary Tyrone, despite having recently been treated for drug addiction, relapses into her morphine habit just as her husband and sons dared hope that she was permanently cured; and Edmund learns (as the playwright also did, in 1912) that he has tuberculosis—called “consumption” by the Tyrones—and must enter a sanatorium. During act 1, Tyrone berates Jamie for having encouraged Edmund to ruin his health by drinking and womanizing; then Jamie lashes back at his father, accusing him of miserliness for hiring a cut-rate quack doctor to deliver Edmund, since it was this physician who introduced Mary to morphine to ease her labor pains. Mary ends the act by evading their reproaches, then sinks into an armchair when alone, desperately drumming her fingers as she tries to resist her irrepressible longing for narcosis.

Act 2 opens at roughly 12:45 p.m. The brothers seek to escape confronting their mother’s downslide by drinking, but Mary’s withdrawn manner when she reappears confirms their worst fears. Mary denies their accusations by taking the offensive, charging her husband with unwillingness to make a proper home for his family. She blasts at Tyrone: “You should have remained a bachelor and lived in second-rate hotels. . . . Then nothing would ever have happened,” Tyrone loses all hope: “He suddenly looks a tired, bitterly sad old man.” In the act’s second scene, half an hour later, a telephone call from the family physician confirms Edmund’s tuberculosis. Mary deals with this hard news by reliving the trauma of Edmund’s birth. Alone with Edmund, she refuses to accept his life-threatening illness, then confesses her helplessness to stop her drug habit.

Act 3 begins at 6:30 p.m., with the fog beginning to roll in. Mary’s mind is in an induced haze (or fog): “She has hidden deeper within herself and found refuge and reality in a dream,” and that dream reverts her to her happy schoolgirl years in the convent. She increases her morphine dosage; her eyes grow more feverish, her manner becomes increasingly effusive. With Tyrone, she alternates reproaches for his pettiness, alcoholism, and rootlessness with assurances that she loves and forgives him. Edmund seeks her loving concern in his sickness—“Don’t you care a damn?”—but she is too sick herself to support him. As she leaves her family to resort to morphine again, Tyrone ends act 3, as he did act 2, “a sad, bewildered, broken old man.”

In act 4 it is midnight. Tyrone has become still sadder and more defeated, drunk by now and playing solitaire. Edmund soon enters, equally soused, and classifies himself in a lengthy confession as one of life’s fog-bound people, taking refuge in its shroud from an accursed life: “The fog was where I wanted to be . . . to be alone with myself in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself.” This act becomes a series of searing confrontations as the three male Tyrones takes turns articulating their resentments, only to offer them up on the altar of reconciliation. After Edmund has denounced his father for his niggardliness, particularly his unwillingness to send his son to a first-rate hospital for tubercular treatment, Tyrone pathetically admits to the self-betrayal he feels at the waste of his career: Forced to work from the age of ten by his father’s desertion, James Tyrone forfeited his potential as a great actor (confirmed by Edwin Booth) for the assured security of a money-making, mediocre melodrama—an obvious reference to an American production of Alexandre Dumas’ play, Monte-Christo (pr., pb. 1848), in which James O’Neill toured for a generation. “What the hell was it I wanted to buy,” Tyrone wonders. Edmund forgives his father; they forge a bond of mutual understanding.

Then Jamie stumbles in, after an evening of drink and sex at the local brothel. Tyrone goes out on the porch to avoid a confrontation, leaving the brothers to have theirs. In the play’s most profound psychological episode, the older brother confesses his ambivalent feelings toward the younger to him. Jamie describes how he romanticized his dissipations to entice Edmund to share them, because “The dead part of me . . . wants company, he doesn’t want to be the only corpse around the house!” Jamie also tells Edmund that he loves him more than he envies or hates him—loves him enough to hope that his younger brother will reject his nihilistic life-style and deny their kinship.

Suddenly Mary appears, providing the climax for this act as she did for the previous ones. She has her wedding gown over one arm, turns on all the parlor lights, and is so fully carried into her past that even her face seems youthful. Oblivious to the men’s presence, she reenacts her version of her piano-playing promise, her joyous preparation for nunhood in the convent. When Edmund cries out to and for her, she tells him not to touch her—her vocation is solely a religious one. She remembers next that her mother superior suggested that she should test her purpose by going home after graduation to live for a year or two like other young women before deciding whether she really wanted to become the bride of Christ. During that period, Mary recalls, “I fell in love with James Tyrone and was so happy for a time.” The listening men remain silent and stationary as the curtain descends.

Dramatic Devices

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O’Neill combines the retrospective techniques of Henrik Ibsen with the exorcistic intensity of August Strindberg. As in such Ibsen masterpieces as Ghosts (pb. 1881 as Gengangere), Rosmersholm (pb. 1886), and The Master Builder (pb. 1892 as Bygmester Solness), he minimizes the physical action: Properties are few, the setting is simple, suspense is absent, and dialogue is all-important as the characters exhume and examine their past, continually rocking it backward and forward. To quote Mary once more: “The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future, too. We all try to lie out of that but life won’t let us.”

The play begins with sunshine streaming through the windows, but by lunch time, in act 2, the sun has turned to “faint haziness,” which becomes increasingly dense in the early afternoon, with the fog rolling in by the beginning of act 3 and becoming a wall by act 4. The fog becomes the play’s pervasive leitmotif: Its gradual thickening is an obvious reflection of the increasingly befogged mental state of the Tyrone household. It is a profound, eerily enveloping backdrop for the Tyrones’ various tragedies; its ominous ally, the foghorn, loneliest and most mournful of man-made sounds, broods portentously over the family like a herald of doom. Early in act 1, Mary mentions her inability to sleep well the previous night, with “that awful foghorn going all night long.” Her husband compares it to a “sick whale,” but Mary reminds him that he snored so hard, “I couldn’t tell which was the foghorn!” Act 3’s stage directions mention regularly sounded foghorns, “moaning like a mournful whale in labor.” Mary detests it: “It won’t let you alone. It keeps reminding you, and warning you, and calling you back.” O’Neill seems to be using the foghorn as a manifestation of Mary’s conscience and sense of guilt for having isolated herself from the needs of her family, refusing to bear her maternal and spousal responsibilities.

For the same reasons, Mary loves the fog: “It hides you from the world and the world from you. . . . No one can find or touch you any more.” For Edmund, his whole life is a lonely, self-hating stumble through a blinding fog. Like his mother, he finds night and fog protective masks from the unbearable horror of existence. Complimented by his father for his eloquence in voicing his despair, Edmund replies, “Stammering is the native eloquence of us fog people,” Essentially, O’Neill has both Mary and Edmund equate fog with not only the evasion of truth and self-awareness, but with death itself.

O’Neill’s use of liquor and morphine to effect the removal of his characters’ defenses and disguises is evident. His use of interior lighting, though, deserves notice. At the center of the Tyrones’ living room is a table with a green-shaded reading lamp. It is the only light in the room, illuminating Tyrone’s isolation as he sits close to it, alone, playing solitaire as the final act begins. When Edmund returns home and hurts his knee in the unlit hall, Tyrone’s penuriousness is shown to cause physical suffering, paralleling his preference for a cheap, state-run sanatorium where Edmund’s tuberculosis might be so poorly treated as to result in his death. In an attempt to conquer his miserliness and break through to Edmund, Tyrone turns on the three bulbs in the chandelier as he confesses to his son that he has warped his acting talent for money. Then, fearing Edmund’s contempt, he reverts to habit and turns off the “extra” lights. The darkness is shockingly dispelled by Mary, who begins her final, surrealistic entry by switching on all five bulbs of the front parlor’s chandelier, then playing a Chopin waltz despite her arthritis-stiffened fingers. This is a coup de theatre: The long day’s journey into the night of dreams and loss of self and death turns out, ironically, to be a journey into shining lights while Mary’s mournful last speeches expose this family’s soul-shaking woes.

Places Discussed

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*New London

*New London. Connecticut town that was both the boyhood and young-adult home of Eugene O’Neill, who employs it as the setting of this markedly autobiographical drama. The family’s summer home is modestly furnished with items of lesser value than one would expect for a wealthy, successful actor. His modest rooms are also dimly lit in the night scenes, because Mr. Tyrone wishes to save money on the electric bill.

One feature of this house that plays a prominent, almost haunting role in each scene is the spare room upstairs. There it is that Mrs. Tyrone withdraws from the rest of the family to give herself shots of morphine, to which she is addicted. An eerie aura also surrounds this house because of the dense fog, which rolls in from Long Island Sound and enshrouds it.

Another aspect of New London and the Tyrone family’s interaction with its citizens is important to the meaning of the play. The family is not the social equal of the prominent families in this ocean-side city. Mr. Tyrone has made his fortune by acting, a profession of some disrepute in his day. The addictions which afflict his wife and two sons (morphine, alcohol, and dissolute lifestyles) further isolate the Tyrones from the more substantial and well-respected residents of New London. The social isolation of the Tyrones is mirrored symbolically in their fog-enshrouded house.

*Broadway

*Broadway. Great theater district of New York City in which Mr. Tyrone makes his fortune. It is also referred to disparagingly throughout the play as a place of frivolous adult playtime. It is a place where Jamie Tyrone, a reprobate in his father’s eyes, idles away his time drinking and womanizing.

*Hilltown Sanatorium

*Hilltown Sanatorium. Mentioned in the last act of the play as Edmund’s destination, where he goes for six months to cure his tuberculosis. It is a climactic point in the drama when it is revealed that Edmund’s father is sending him to a state-run facility usually reserved for charity cases. Mr. Tyrone, ever fearful of poverty, will even sacrifice his young son to possible death at an ill-equipped sanatorium rather than pay for a more expensive, private facility.

While Hilltown is a fictitious name, it was based on an actual Connecticut public sanatorium. This real place was a wood-frame farmhouse in an isolated, hilly town about ten miles west of New Haven, in which terminal tubercular patients were housed. The sanatorium itself was named “Laurel Heights.” O’Neill actually stayed there for less than forty-eight hours, while the physician in charge contacted the playwright’s father and forced him to transfer O’Neill to a more appropriate, private sanatorium.

Historical Context

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There are two historical periods relevant to Long Day's Journey into Night. The play was written between 1939 and 1941, but it is set in 1912, at a critical period in the author's own life, paralleling that of his fictional persona, Edmund Tyrone.

Public Events
Events of moment from the outside world do not intrude on the Tyrone family dialogue. For example, there is no mention of the April, 1912, sinking of the Titanic, which took over fifteen hundred passengers to their watery death, and was the greatest maritime disaster of the age. Nor is mention made of Captain Robert Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, which ended in March, 1912, when Scott and the last survivors died in a heroic attempt to reach awaiting shelter and provisions.

O'Neill's focus, relentlessly on the Tyrone family problems, simply made unnecessary the need for allusions to such important topical events. They are conspicuous only by their absence, a fact that contributes to the play's claustrophobic impact. An awareness of the outside world is reflected not in events but in the social consciousness of the Tyrones. They have a sense of living on the margins of respectability, not fully accepted by the "Yanks" because of Tyrone's impoverished, shanty-Irish, Roman Catholic heritage.

For the audience there is a foreshadowing of the impending American love affair with the automobile, which Henry Ford made possible when he introduced the Model T in 1908. By 1913, his company was able to sell the model for $500, putting it within the financial reach of most middle-class families. Tyrone, bound by his past, dislikes the second-hand auto he has bought for Mary, and he expresses his preference for the trolley and walking. Only Mary uses the car, and she must be driven by a paid chauffeur, to Tyrone's tight-fisted consternation. Clearly, the world is passing Tyrone by, as in real life it seemed to be passing O'Neill's father by.

A Battle of the Books
Two bookcases occupy the Tyrone living room. The first, small and plain, contains works by modern writers, many of them favorites of Edmund and Jamie: novels by Balzac, Zola, and Stendhal; plays by Ibsen, Shaw, and Strindberg; poetry by Rossetti, Wilde, Dowson, and Kipling; and philosophical works by Nietzsche, Marx, Engels, and Schopenhauer. The second, larger, glass-fronted bookcase contains older works, including three sets of Shakespeare, sets of the romantic fiction of Dumas and Victor Hugo, fifty imposing volumes of the world's greatest literature, several major works of history and miscellaneous old plays, poetry collections, and Irish histories. This second, more venerable appearing bookcase contains the preferred readings of James Tyrone, Sr. There is but one common link: Shakespeare's picture adorns the wall above the plainer bookcase, implying that he holds a place of honor even in the hearts of the sons.

The rift that separates Tyrone and his sons, though firmly based in familial guilt and shame, has been widened by their disparate tastes in literature and philosophy. Throughout the play, literary allusions and quotations provide a dominant recurring theme in the emotionally charged rounds of repeated accusation and counter accusation. Clearly, Edmund's taste is for the realists and naturalists in fiction and drama, materialists and nihilists in philosophy, and fatalists and adherents to the detached, art-for-art's-sake school in poetry.

Tyrone finds Edmund's tastes deplorable, writers full of nothing but gloom and despair. He dismisses the lot of them as decadent, depressing, and godless. For him, Shakespeare reigns supreme. He even has a theory that the real Shakespeare was not English but an Irish Catholic.

O'Neill's real father, like Tyrone, was one of the last of the matinee idols, working in a theater that admitted little that was new or unconventional. Typical fare was warmed-over Shakespeare and heroic melodrama, works that provided lucrative vehicles for popular actors like James O'Neill but insulated the theater from the real world. Eugene O'Neill would change all that; influenced by the writers whose works rest on Edmund's bookcase, by the 1920s he would revolutionize the American theater.

Substance Abuse: Morphine and Alcohol
By 1912, responsible physicians had stopped the indiscriminate use of morphine as a pain killer and treatment for depression. New laws required pharmacists to dispense it only by authorized prescription, ending its unrestricted use. However, for many Americans like Mary Tyrone, the damage had already been done. Morphine and laudanum, another opium derivative, had left thousands addicted, and many faced the social stigma and disgrace that drug addiction finally involved.

The excessive use of alcohol was more widely tolerated, at least in men. The saloon was an established American institution by the end of the nineteenth century. It served as a working man's social club where males could imbibe, discuss the day's events, and wager on cards and billiards. Some of the saloons were also haunts for prostitutes, while others were outright bordellos; most, like their English pub counterparts, did not admit ladies.

Many saloon patrons, like Jamie Tyrone, were problem drinkers and gamblers, prone to violence, sexual promiscuity, or insolvency. Their excesses fueled the temperance reform movement, led and supported by a growing legion of women who wanted to protect families from "demon rum" and improve the nation's moral character and health. The movement would finally win a legal victory in 1919 with the passage and ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment. But the victory proved hollow. The ban on alcohol gave rise to illegal bootlegging, bathtub gin, and the infamous speakeasy, a Jazz Age substitute for the old saloon. Unlike the saloon, the speakeasies were patronized by men and the new generation of liberated "flappers," setting the model for the bars and nightclubs that went into legal operation when prohibition ended.

Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, called "consumption" by the Tyrones, was a dread disease in 1912, claiming close to 100,000 American lives annually. Treatment, provided in special hospitals called sanatoria, was largely in an experimental stage of development. Although physicians knew that a germ caused the disease, they had no miracle cure. A few used x-ray treatments, but most tried to counter the disease's symptoms with prolonged rest, special diets, and an abundance of fresh air. Edmund, who discovers that he has consumption, faces a period of recovery in a sanatorium, just as O'Neill himself did in 1912.

The Great Depression
Prohibition ended in 1933, a half-dozen years before O'Neill started writing Long Day's Journey into Night. Throughout the 1930s, America suffered a deep economic depression from which it had not completely recovered by the time O'Neill began the play. Although O'Neill's political sympathies were with the working class, he wrote what has been termed "private tragedy," not social-conscience polemics like Clifford Odets's Waiting for Lefty (1935) and other works of the leftist Group Theatre. In the 1930s, O'Neill's reputation went into a decline, despite the fact that he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1936.

World War II
World War II commenced in 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Two years later, on December 7, 1941, the United States entered the war when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, by that time O'Neill had finished Long Day's Journey into Night. The War's impact and his declining health brought his writing to a near standstill. In 1943, in the middle of the war, O'Neill and Carlotta burned the fragmentary parts of his projected cycle of plays, which by then he knew he would never finish.

Literary Style

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Long Day's Journey into Night is Eugene O'Neill's thinly veiled autobiographical study of a dysfunctional family disintegrating because of its inability to cope with drug addiction, life-threatening illness, shame, and guilt.

Dramatic Unities
Throughout the four acts of Long Day's Journey into Night, O'Neill preserves the unities of time and place. The setting remains the living room of the Tyrone's summer home in New London, Connecticut, and, in emulation of the classical practice, the action unfolds within a single day in August of 1912, starting in the early morning and ending around midnight. Each scene and act is a segment of that single day, and within each the progress of time is scrupulously faithful to the passage of real world time, relentless and impersonal.

Symbolism
O'Neill, within the realistic limits of his drama, uses symbolism very effectively. Of fundamental significance is the fog. It serves first as a mood enhancing but wholly natural phenomenon. At the beginning of the play, the fog of the night before has lifted, and the optimism of the Tyrone family is reflected in the day's early brightness. But by dinner time in Act III, the fog has again rolled in, its presence announced by a foghorn "moaning like a mournful whale in labor." Its return suits the encroaching sense of futility and isolation of each of the main characters, particularly Mary. It is she who asks why the "fog makes everything sound so sad and lost."

At a more complex symbolic level, the fog has further significance. It is evoked as a metaphor in the rhapsodic self-scrutiny of Edmund, for example. Confiding in his father, Edmund claims that he desires to melt into the fog, to "be alone with myself in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself," to become "a ghost belonging to the fog."

The fog is also a place of forgetfulness, a place where reality is dimmed, and the world is oddly distorted. It thus serves as a symbol of Mary's drug-induced stupor and her escape into an idealized past that offers her a brief respite from pain.

Autobiographical Elements
The "haunted Tyrones" are dramatic portraits of O'Neill's real family, and the events of the play reflect a critical time in his life when he was about to enter a sanatorium with a mild case of tuberculosis. Like James Tyrone, O'Neill's father, James O'Neill, had been a highly successful actor, famous in the role of Edmund Dantes in a stage adaptation of Alexandre Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo. Like Mary, O'Neill's mother, Ella Quinlan, became addicted to morphine under circumstances that may have been like those described in the play. And, like Jamie, O'Neill's older brother was an alcoholic and struggling actor who literally drank himself to death after Ella O'Neill died of cancer. Many of the play's details are also rooted in fact, including the New London setting and the Tyrone family history.

Allusions
Although the drama is not rich in allusions to public events of the time, it does use references to several writers and often includes parts of poems and character references and lines from dramatic works woven into the dialogue. While the furniture in the living room is both sparse and shabby, its two bookcases are filled with volumes of writers past and present, carefully named by O'Neill in his stage directions and mentioned in the dialogue. Tyrone's preference is for Shakespeare, who is often quoted, while Edmund's is for more modern writers and philosophers, like Nietzsche, Dowson, Marx, Baudelaire, and Swinburne, writers that his father finds gloomy, morally repugnant, or anarchistic. Jamie, too, has read his share of literature. In the final act, it is he who quotes several lines from Swinburne's "A Leave Taking" in choric counterpoint to Mary's painful monologue.

Allusion is also made to the famous American actor, Edwin Booth. It is a point of great pride for Tyrone that he had once acted on stage with Booth, who thought highly of Tyrone's skill. But the memory is painful, for Tyrone is plagued by the belief that he traded his talent short for easy money.

Foreshadowing
Long Day's Journey into Night begins cheerfully enough. The day is bright, and the initial exchanges between Tyrone and Mary are affectionate and playful, but foreboding clues to the play's tragic turn are quickly introduced. Mary's behavior hints at her return to morphine use. We learn that she had spent a sleepless night and that her appetite is poor. She is obviously restless. She also seems slightly disoriented, even mildly hysterical. Her fluttering hands and obsessive concern with her hair, her inability to find her glasses—all these foreshadow her mounting loss of self-control.

Monologue
Lengthy monologues are used in Long Day's Journey into Night in at least two important ways: as reveries and confessions. Central are the reveries of Mary. As she plunges deeper into her drug-induced daze, she rambles on about the past into which she desperately wants to escape. At times she seems incoherent; she even babbles. In her final appearance, she begins a long, inchoate monologue, almost totally oblivious to the efforts of other characters to break through to her. Edmund's long poetic discourse on fog is both a sort of confession and a reverie, as is Tyrone's monologue on his earlier life in theater. Almost pure confession is Jamie's meandering fourth act monologue in which he starts explaining why he stayed with Fat Violet and ends with his admission that he has tried to corrupt Edmund.

Naturalism
Naturalism, which espouses a clinical approach in literature, is noted for its "slice of life" action lines. Such fiction often lacks closure, remaining open-plotted and inconclusive. Problems, like those in Long Day's Journey into Night, are left unresolved, hanging on and dragging the characters into an implied future beyond the scope of the work. Naturalistic works also tend to be grim. They strip away a character's sense of dignity to expose unpleasant truths that lie at uncomfortable depths, even below the character's conscious being. It is invariably a painful process, and it is one that is central to O'Neill's play.

Oedipus Complex
Often noted is the Freudian influence on O'Neill, particularly his espousal of the Oedipal attachment of sons to their mothers and sexual jealousy and enmity towards their fathers. Although a possible inner source of guilt in Edmund, the character whose behavior most clearly evidences a latent Oedipal guilt is Jamie. He seeks a surrogate mother among matronly prostitutes and reveals a bitter jealousy towards Edmund, his chief rival for Mary's affections in the Oedipal model outlined by Freud.

Compare and Contrast

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1910s: World War I begins in the summer of 1914, with the United States joining the allies against Germany in 1917.

1940s and 50s: O'Neill finishes Long Day's Journey into Night prior to America's entry into World War II on December 7, 1941. The Cold War with the Soviet bloc flares into open combat in Korea, a "police action" ending with an armistice agreement signed on July 27, 1953, four months before O'Neill dies. In 1956 the Soviet Union cracks down on dissidents in Poland and Hungary; that same year Long Day's Journey into Night wins O'Neill, posthumously, his final Pulitzer Prize.

Today: The 1990s bring an end to the Cold War and to fears of a nuclear holocaust.

1910s: The airplane, automobile, and motion pictures, all in their infancy, begin a radical transformation of daily American life.

1940s and 50s: Films, with sound since 1928, are the most popular entertainment medium; commercial airlines continue to replace trains in distance passenger travel; and American houses start sporting double garages. By the 1950s, television becomes both popular and increasingly affordable; jet engines become common on commercial planes; and large finned automobiles with powerful engines streak through America on a growing network of parkways and highways.

Today: Houses without at least two television sets grow rare; railroads continue a losing struggle to survive; and automobiles, while legally moving faster on interstate highways again, get smaller, more fuel-efficient, and ever more expensive.

1910s: America begins reflecting an awareness of foreign movements in art and letters, of the French naturalists like Zola and Balzac, and the realistic drama of Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov; O'Neill reveals that foreign influence in his very first plays.

1940s and 50s: American readers remain drawn to the fiction of William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and F. Scott Fitzgerald; the plays of Clifford Odets, Maxwell Anderson, Lillian Hellman, and Robert Sherwood also have a dedicated following, but O'Neill's reputation remains stagnant. By the 1950s, a host of postwar novelists and poets make their mark, challenging Faulkner and Hemingway, Frost and Eliot, for book stall space; the realistic problem play reaches its maturity in the works of Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, William Inge, and O'Neill, while avant garde rumblings are heard in the Off- and Off-Off Broadway wings.

Today: Laurels in fiction are up for grabs; in theater, August Wilson, Sam Shepard, and David Mamet continue making an indelible mark.

1910s: Through stricter federal laws governing drug use and the militant success of the Anti-Saloon League and the Women's Christian Temperance Union, America seeks to end drug addiction and alcohol abuse; achieves Prohibition with ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919.

1940s and 50s: With prohibition repealed in 1933, America returns to imbibing alcohol, creating a new, post-World War II problem: the drunk driver; morphine still widely used as a pain killer. The Beat Generation brings "mind expanding" drugs like marijuana closer to the mainstream; middle-class America turns to tranquilizers to cope with depression; hard drugs begin to plague the inner cities; synthetics like methadone replace morphine in some medical applications.

Today: Drug abuse remains a major problem, with crack cocaine and heroin an inner-city blight and marijuana use common everywhere in America, especially among the young; groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) help stiffen penalties for driving while under the influence, in some states upgrading repeat offenses to a felony.

Media Adaptations

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Long Day's Journey into Night was first adapted to film by Sidney Lumet, and starred Katharine Hepburn, Sir Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards, Jr., and Dean Stockwell. A black and white film, Embassy, 1962; available from Republic Pictures Home Video.

Long Day's Journey into Night was produced again as a made-for-television film by Jonathan Miller, using Sinclair Lewis's adaptation of the play, and starring Peter Gallagher, Jack Lemmon, Bethel Leslie, and Kevin Spacey, in 1988; available from Lorimar Home Video/Vestron.

A third version of the play, filmed at the Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, was directed by David Wellington, and starred Peter Donaldson, Martha Henry, William Hutt, and Tom McCamus, Stratford Festival, 1996; not currently available.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Further Reading

Hayes, Richard, "A Requiem for Mortality," Commonweal, Vol. 64, February 1, 1957, pp. 467-68. A belated review of the Broadway production of Long Day's Journey into Night praising both the play and the cast for achieving "tragic nobility" within a realistic framework.

McDonnell, Thomas P., "O'Neill's Drama of the Psyche," Catholic World, Vol. 197, April, 1963, pp. 120-25. Argues that Long Day's Journey into Night is O'Neill's apotheosis in his quest for a tragedy of self, of his own tormented psyche.

Manheim, Michael, Eugene O'Neill's New Language of Kinship, Syracuse University Press, 1982. This study's introduction, its chapter on Long Day's Journey into Night, and its appendix focused on the play's motifs offer solid help in interpreting the play.

Pfister, Joel, "The Cultural Web in O'Neill's Journey," in Staging Depth: Eugene O'Neill and the Politics of Psychological Discourse, University of North Carolina Press, 1995, pp. 203-15. Relates Mary from Long Day's Journey into Night to Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet and Annie Keeney in O'Neill's earlier play, Ile.

Raleigh, John Henry, "O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and New England Irish-Catholicism," Partisan Review, Vol. 26, no. 4, Fall, 1959, pp. 573-92. A helpful background study that relates the "dualism of religion-blasphemy" that permeates the play to Catholicism and Irish myth.

Sources

Atkinson, Brooks, Review of Long Day's Journey into Night, New York Times, Vol. 47, November 8, 1956, p 2.

Bogard, Travis, Contour in Time: The Plays of Eugene O'Neill, revised edition, Oxford University Press, 1988.

Clurman, Harold, "The O'Neills," Nation, Vol. 182, March 3, 1956, pp. 182-83.

Falk, Dons V., Eugene O'Neill and the Tragic Tension: An Interpretive Study of the Plays, Rutgers University Press, 1958.

Gibbs, Wolcott, "Doom," New Yorker, Vol. 32, November 24, 1956, pp. 120-21.

Hewes, Henry, "O'Neill: 100 Proof—Not a Blend," Saturday Review, Vol. 39, November 2, 1961, pp. 30-1.

Hewes, Henry, "O'Neill and Faulkner via the Abroad Way," Saturday Review, Vol. 39, October 20, 1956, p. 58.

Kerr, Walter, Review of Long Day's Journey into Night, in New York Herald-Tribune, November 8, 1956.

Raleigh, John Henry, The Plays of Eugene O'Neill, Southern Illinois University Press, 1965.

Rolo, Charles J., "The Trouble of One House," Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 97, March, 1956, pp. 84-5.

Seldes, Gilbert, "Long Day's Journey into Night," Saturday Review, Vol. 39, February 25, 1956, pp. 15-16.

Whicher, Stephen, "O'Neill's Long Journey," Commonweal, Vol. 63, March 16, 1956, pp. 614-15.

Bibliography

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Barlow, Judith E. Final Acts: The Creation of Three Late O’Neill Plays. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. A collection of ten essays by O’Neill’s major critics arranged in the chronological order of their publication, examining such topics as the monologues, the characters, the form, and the language. A helpful guide to the play.

Carpenter, Frederic. Eugene O’Neill. Boston: Twayne, 1979.

Gassner, John, ed. O’Neill: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964.

Gelb, Arthur, and Barbara Gelb. O’Neill. Enlarged ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. A monumental one-volume biography. Invaluable to the serious student of the playwright and his work.

Hinden, Michael. “Long Day’s Journey into Night”: Native Eloquence. Boston: Twayne, 1990. An excellent introduction to the play and its history. Two admirable chapters are devoted to a close analysis of the major characters and their motivations. Extensive bibliography.

Manheim, Michael. Eugene O’Neill’s New Language of Kinship. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1982. Argues that the early plays contain the same autobiographical characters and situations as Long Day’s Journey into Night. An interesting list of motifs for each character in the play is included.

Porter, Laurin. The Banished Prince: Time, Memory, and Ritual in the Late Plays of Eugene O’Neill. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Research Press, 1988. Analyzes the futile attempts of characters in the last plays, including Long Day’s Journey into Night, to reclaim the past through memory and the ritual of confession.

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