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Long Days Journey Into Night
by Eugene O'Neill
This work is interesting enough for its history. Completed in 1940, Long Day's Journey Into the Night is an autobiographical play Eugene O'Neill wrote that--because of the highly personal writing about his family--was not to be released until 25 years after his death, which occurred in 1953. But since O'Neill's immediate family had died in the early 1920s, his wife allowed publication of the play in 1956. Besides the history alone, the play is fascinating in its own right. It tells of the "Tyrones"--a fictional name for what is clearly the O'Neills. Theirs is not a happy tale: The youngest son (Edmond) is sent to a sanitarium to recover from tuberculosis; he despises his father for sending him; his mother is wrecked by narcotics; and his older brother by drink. In real-life these factors conspired to turn O'Neill into who he was--a tormented individual and a brilliant playwright.

From: Ernest Belden Date: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 02:07 AM I am about halfway through the play and am very impressed. It is very well done, by this I mean true to life. The reader can sense the intensity of emotions. It seems that all the participating individuals are trapped with no chance of escape. This makes me apprehensive about the conclusion of the play as I expect catastrophe. Ernie
From: Ann Davey Date: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 05:33 PM Robt, Did you see Vanessa Redgrave in this on Broadway? This is really a powerful play. I'm about half way through. Ernie, We have talked about "consumption" (TB) before and what a widespread disease it was. At the beginning of the 20th century, was there any hope for anyone who had it? Or was it a death sentence? Ann
From: Pres Lancaster Date: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 05:54 PM Ann, about TB, consumption: EUGENE O'Neill was drawing himself when he drew EDMOND in the play. O'Neill went to a sanitorium and of it he has said, "It was there that I discovered I wanted to write" (not necessarily the exact words, but the sense). pres
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 07:42 PM Ann, Yes, I saw Vanessa Redgrave give a wonderful performance of Mary Tyrone on Broadway. The cast also included Brian Dennehy as James Tyrone, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Jamie and Robert Sean Leonard as Edmund. All of them were excellent but Philip Seymour Hoffman stole the show. Robt
From: Ann Davey Date: Thursday, September 09, 2004 12:28 AM Thanks for the information, Pres. I wondered where O'Neill fit into this autobiographical play. So far Edmund is certainly the most sympathetic character. Oh, Robt, I am really envious! What a cast. I remember reading a review of the play - probably in the New Yorker. Ann
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Tuesday, August 31, 2004 11:39 PM Despite the four hour performance time of LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, which left my rear end partially paralyzed after I saw it last summer, the play reads as being economically written. O’Neill has captured a family’s lifetime in a day. All of the elements, from casual conversation to anecdotes, candor and rages, create a coherent family portrait. And with such dramatic wallop! You’d think that balancing two unfolding tragedies at once would snap the seesaw. Instead the two sad revelations about Mary and Edmund Tyrone merge into a wider environment of loss within the whole family. And so much love amidst the bitterness, which is the juxtaposition that makes this such a compelling play for me. Robt
From: Barbara Moors Date: Wednesday, September 01, 2004 10:32 PM I don't think I've read anything that catches the depths of family dynamics any better than this play. You may not have experienced it to the extremes that the Tyrones did but you know exactly what is happening and what they are talking about. Harold Bloom wrote the introduction to my edition and his summary of this subject rings in my ears: No dramatist to this day, among us, has matched O'Neill in depicting the nightmare realities that can afflict American family life, indeed family life in the twentieth-century Western world. And yet, that is the authentic subject of our dramatists who matter most after O'Neill: Williams, Miller, Albee, with the genial Thornton Wilder as the grand exception. It is a terrifying distinction that O'Neill earns, and more decisively in Long Day's Journey into Night than anywhere else. He is the elegist of the Freudian "family romance," of the domestic tragedy of which we all die daily, a little bit at a time. The helplessness of family love to sustain, let alone heal, the wounds of marriage, of parenthood, and of sonship, have never been so remorselessly and so pathetically portrayed, and with a force of gesture too painful ever to be forgotten by any of us. Barb
From: R Bavetta Date: Wednesday, September 01, 2004 11:11 PM Ark. I thought sure I could find this online. Ah well, I'll be home soon. R There is nothing to do with a day except to live it. -----Richard Wilbur
From: Ann Davey Date: Monday, September 06, 2004 11:52 AM I'm in the process of reading this now. So far, it is very, very good. More later. Ann
From: Ernest Belden Date: Monday, September 06, 2004 06:07 PM There is nothing that I can ad to Harold Bloom's profound statement. Eugene O'Neill produced a great work of art and a genuine reflection of painful family dynamics. I don't recall ever having seen or read a play that would equal A Long Day's Journey. Ernie
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Monday, September 06, 2004 08:36 PM Barb, You wrote: “You may not have experienced it to the extremes that the Tyrones did but you know exactly what is happening and what they are talking about.” Yes, I clearly understood the Tyrone family dynamics while reading LDJIN, and certain things were familiar from my own experience. Even after I’ve seen the movie and the play on stage, some of the play was further clarified while reading it, I think due to O’Neill’s masterful stage directions. I like the structure: all in a day from morning until the wee hours of the night; and meals as pivot points: after breakfast, before and after lunch, before dinner. Meals always figure into family dynamics. Robt
From: Ian Cragg Date: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 03:58 PM I'd agree that it's a very well-structured play, only sometimes I can't help wondering if the structure doesn't become a little obvious at times. Thinking particularly of the way O'Neill organises the day so that practically every character gets a one-to-one scene with the other characters. But then again, it's in these conversations that the revelations emerge and we understand the characters a little more. Considering that it's meant to be an autobiographical play, it's remarkable how even-handed O'Neill is, particularly in dealing with Tyrone and Mary. James Tyrone can be a narrow-minded, tight-fisted bully, but then he lets slip how poor his own upbringing was, and how his family's material security dominates his thinking. At first glance Mary seems to have "victim" written all over her, but later on we have the disturbing moment when we see that this is a woman who is capable of condemning her own son for something he did as a seven-year-old boy some twenty years earlier.
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 07:54 PM Act 4, Tyrone: “My mother was left, a stranger in a strange land, with four small children.” Is this the origin of the title of Robert Heinlein’s novel? Robt
From: R Bavetta Date: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 08:21 PM I think they both got it (stranger in a strange land) from the Old Testament. R There is nothing to do with a day except to live it. -----Richard Wilbur
From: David Moody Date: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 08:47 AM And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter. And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land. -- Exodus 2: 21-22 (KJV) David
From: Robert Armstrong Date: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 11:08 AM Thanks David and Ruth for the reference. Robt
From: Pres Lancaster Date: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 01:36 PM O'Neill's dedication of the play, copied below, says much about it: For Carlotta, on our 12th Wedding Anniversary Dearest: I give you the original script of this play of old sorrow, written in tears and blood. A sadly inappropriate gift, it would seem, for a day celebrating happiness. But you will understand. I mean it as a tribute to your love and tenderness which gave me the faith in 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. These twelve years, Beloved One, have been a Journey into Light--into love. You know my gratitude. And my love! Gene Tao House July 22, 1941
From: Pres Lancaster Date: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 02:24 PM “ . . . the final, brutal family portrait, Long Day’s Journey into Night.” ~ Tynan “Even when we are not at all touched by the feeling itself or the idea presented, we are stabbed to our depths by the importance of this feeling to him, and we are all his, not because of what he says, but because saying it meant so much to him.” ~ Stark Young, quoted by Tynan. “No more honest or unsparing autobiographical play exists in dramatic literature. Yet what grips us about it is not the craft of a playwright. It is the need, the vital, driving plaint of a human being.” ~ Tynan “One goes expecting to hear a playwright, and one meets a man.” ~ Tynan Most of this material comes from a review of a 1958 production in London. The Cast included Alan Bates, Ian Bannen, Anthony Quayle, Gwen Ffrangeon-Davies. pres
From: Pres Lancaster Date: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 05:59 PM Long Day's Journey into Night was the last of O'Neill's 22 or 23 plays. Many feel that all the others, in spite of success and different subjects, were but preparation or training for this play. pres
From: Ann Davey Date: Friday, September 10, 2004 09:03 PM Well, I finished this play tonight and it certainly packs a wallop. Much as some of the family dynamics seem familiar, this certainly isn't your average family. At least 3(and possibly 4) of the characters are addicted to either drugs or alcohol. Am I imagining this, or is Mary the least sympathetic person in the family? Is being a drug addict really any worse than being an alcoholic? The men folk sure seem to think it is. Ann
From: R Bavetta Date: Friday, September 10, 2004 11:55 PM Perhaps that's because alcohol had a bit of a "manly" reputation, whereas a poor weak woman hooked on Rx drugs... R There is nothing to do with a day except to live it. -----Richard Wilbur
From: Sherry Keller Date: Saturday, September 11, 2004 07:30 AM I'm going to watch the old movie version of this later today, the one with Katherine Hepburn. Does anyone know how faithful it is to the play? Sherry
From: Ann Davey Date: Saturday, September 11, 2004 10:00 AM Ruth, yes, for men at least, alcohol seems to be a socially acceptable drug. I also wonder sometimes if we aren't all harder on our mothers than our fathers. On the other hand, Mary has some very unpleasant facets to her personality. As Ian has already pointed out, she is all too willing to blame her problems on someone else. She's pretty much an expert at passive/aggressive behavior. After Edmund begs her to give up the drug, she blames her backslide on him, and then denies that she has done it. Right after I returned from the sanatorium, you began to be ill. The doctor there had warned me I must have peace at home with nothing to upset me, and all I've done is worry about you. But that's no excuse! I'm only trying to explain. It's not an excuse! Promise me dear, you won't believe I made you an excuse!" What else can he believe? She says that she is worried about Edmund, but she refuses to admit the seriousness of his illness. And she keeps telling her husband and children that she wishes she had become a nun. Hmm. Even without the drug addiction, she would have been hard to take. Or am I being too hard on her? Ann
From: Pres Lancaster Date: Saturday, September 11, 2004 12:22 PM In the Tyrone world, typical of many then and still, the MOTHER is supposed to be a VIRGIN and a SAINT. Falling from GRACE (she was given children), is an unforgivable sin, even if you repent. And the hell you live in is home. pres
From: Dottie Randall Date: Saturday, September 11, 2004 08:02 PM Remember the time of the reality of this tale -- the thinking was different then about drinking and about medicinal addictions and about psychological vs physical ailments. Put away your modern minds when you enter the world of LDJ -- it's a thing we need to remind ourselves to do with nearly every classic we approach. Putting ourselves into the time period saves a lot of wrong-headed analysis of the interactions among the characters though comparing the mores of the time with current ones can prove enlightening -- have we really come all that far do you think? I am not convinced of it, myself! Sigh -- I was planning to re-read this one but don't think I can handle it. Maybe I'll find a video and tackle it that way. And are we going to do some comparisons between this one and the next -- The Glass Menagerie? That was the intention I think when the nominations/votes were in progress. I do hope it is still on the agenda as it should be interesting. Dottie Someone told someone and someone told me....Don't do nothin' you hear.
From: Ann Davey Date: Sunday, September 12, 2004 12:24 AM Pres, Do you suppose it was the Catholic upbringing which created those unreasonable expectations? Dottie, you're right that we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that these people lived in a different era. Reading the classics, I am constantly reminded how lucky I am to live in these times. The Glass Menagerie is the October selection. Hang around. It should be an interesting discussion. Ann
From: Pres Lancaster Date: Sunday, September 12, 2004 02:27 PM Ann asks: Do you suppose it was the Catholic upbringing which created those unreasonable expectations? Yes and No. Not teachings specific to the Catholic church of the last two centuries, but a cultural nimbus arising in the Middle Ages when Catholicism was the religion of Europe. Begin with a pagan Mother Goddess, and follow with The Virgin, the Mother of God, who is also a Mother Goddess. The troubadours sing of the “unattainable” and “unblemished” beloved. Before 1940, the belief in Woman as the pure vessel of the culture could still be and was the background for stories of disGRACE and “fall”. Immigrant cultures, bound in poverty, borrowed, carried and embraced these ideas as the promise of transformation into a better world – here, and There. Long Day’s Night is wrapped in immigrant memories and there is much rending between the unexpressed bondage of the Old and the struggle for the New. Max Reinhardt produced a stage show, The Miracle, in America in 1924. It was about Faith, complete with Virgin, and it was a tremendous popular success. Yes and No. Note: Reinhardt, imaginative modern theatrical producer of the beginning of the nineteenth century, founder of the Salzburg festival, is best remembered for his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Hollywood Bowl, followed by the all star movie including Mickey Rooney as Puck. Those were the days. pres
From: Barbara Moors Date: Sunday, September 12, 2004 06:23 PM As I did research about O'Neill, I was absolutely amazed at how autobiographical this play is, right down to the last detail. Usually, there is some fictionalization, but this one looks like the O'Neill family history. Does it take the record for this as a play? Also, though I agree that alcohol was seen differently at this time, it was quite a scene when the Tyrone men, full of whiskey, stand and watch Mary in judgement. And, don't you think that Mary's passive aggressive personality was a common reaction by women to the restrictive cultural expectations of those times? It seemed to be the one way that they could have some power and still be acceptable. We still tell stories about the things in this vein that my stepmother used to do. It can make my skin crawl just remembering, but, with much effort, I can distance myself enough to understand why. Barb

Eugene O'Neill
Eugene O'Neill

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