Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Review of the Play - Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neil

The picture is a statue
of a young Eugene O'Neil.

Avoiding one’s problems never leads to a good thing and Eugene O’Neil demonstrates in the play Long Day’s Journey into Night that by leaving problems unresolved they become bigger problems. The characters each have their own set of problems including addiction, sickness, loose and miserly behavior. Each Tyrone is a victim of their own circumstance which they helped to create and now are unable to escape their invisible cages. They are also the oppressor for the next Tyrone. O’Neil designed the play as a series of encounters each character is placed with one, two or three of the others until every combination is worked through. It seems as if each character is at the mercy of their past. Throughout the play the characters dwell on the “What If scenario,” those who influenced them, their dreams, ambitions and their disappointments.

Avoidance has worsened the problems of the Tyrone’s because it has torn apart a family that could have been a loving respected family. The success James Tyrone could have enjoyed for the rest of his life, however, came too late to cancel the bitterness left by his childhood struggles and he turned that upon his family. He is quoted in the play as saying, “Yes, forget! Forget everything and face nothing!” This is what we experience throughout the play and each character lives up to this quote. James tells his sons that they are worthless and continues to remind them of their failings, shortcomings and how much they are a burden to him because of paying for their school, having to support them and get them started in their careers. His scornful remarks become even more vocal when he is drunk.

Mary is a drug addict who avoids the real world and hides by creating her own view where everything before marriage and children was an ideal world. She had been in rehabilitation but upon returning home goes back into her old habits of taking prescription drugs. She has not dealt with the underlying reasons that keep her addicted. Mary resents not being a pianist or a nun, but she never looks at her children or husband without harsh criticism. She blames herself for her second son’s death because she wasn’t there for him. She avoids confronting the issue that Edmund might really be sick, and dismisses it as a summer cold. Mary resents the fact that her husband never cared enough to make a home for her and she lives in a place that she doesn’t like and the family is there for such a short period of time that she can’t find decent servants.

The oldest son Jamie grows up jealous of his youngest brother Edmund because he never received the love from his mother. Jamie is on a road to destruction with his behavior, his drunkenness and outright resentment of his father, brother and mother. His brother Edmund who is following Jamie’s behavior is not far behind his brother. He is struggling with his summer cold which we learn is consumption. When Edmund is diagnosed not a single family member can show any physical comfort to him because of their own pain. None of these characters have realized how far they have sunk. We learn by example and the Tyrone sons have grown up with a loveless, insulting and an unforgiving way of life which furthers their destructive behavior.

Eugene O'Neil biography of his life can be found at wikipedia.

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