Long Day's Journey into Night

by Eugene O’Neill

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What are the major conflicts within the Tyrone family and how do they affect each character?

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Eugene O'Neill's autobiographical play Long Day's Journey into Night reveals the vast dysfunction of the Tyrone family.  The play represents the internal and external conflicts of the family members.

The main character, Jamie, assumed to be O'Neill himself, struggles externally with alcoholism, an addiction that plagued O'Neill throughout his life.  He argues constantly with his father, a selfish miser, and blames him for most of the family's troubles.  Internally, Jamie struggles with the knowledge that he contributed to the death of his younger brother, ironically named Eugene.  By climbing into Eugene's crib with a known case of chicken pox, Jamie realizes that he willfully contributed to both his brother's death and his mother's battle with morphine addiction from which she will not recover.

Tyrone, the father, deals with his age and declining looks by desperately clinging to money.  Determined not to lose his financial vitality, he spends money wildly on property investments and refuses to move his family to a climate more favorable for both his wife and Edmund, Jamie's younger brother who suffers from tuberculosis.  His tyrannical presence intimidates both Mary and Edmund and provides fodder for Jamie's rage.  He responds to Jamie's accusations with insults of his own, calling him a bum, a womanizer and a freeloader.

Mary has no power to change her future nor can she assuage the conflict between her sons and her husband.  Edmund, a kinder soul, continually battles his disease but finds no hope for his future.  Not one member of the family is free from conflict, and these conflicts prevent the family from achieving any positive outcomes.



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