“Long Day’s Journey into Night” is a personal play about a twentieth century family and the grueling realities they had to face. This play was written in a realistic mode by an American playwright Eugene O’Neil. O’Neil dedicated this emotional play to his wife, Carlotta Monterey on their twelfth wedding anniversary. Although O’Neil had completed “Long Day’s Journey into Night” in 1941, he was predetermined not to publish it after his twenty five years of death. This is because, according to the author, one of the characters in this play was still alive. At last, after three years of Eugene O’Neil’s death, the play was published with his wife’s permission. “Long Day’s Journey into Night” was one of O’Neil’s masterworks and it had earned him Pulitzer Prize for Drama in the year 1957. Overall O’Neil had won four Pulitzer Prizes in his life time.
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“Long Day’s Journey into Night” is a play about a dysfunctional family called the Tyrone’s who are bind to each other by hope, love, guilt, anger and their pasts. Therefore all four members of the family play an important part in this play and none dominate. The whole play starts at 8.30 A.M at the Tyrone’s summer house and concludes after midnight. There are important symbols within the play and the fog is one of them because; the Tyrone’s summer house is situated near a harbour. “The reference to fog always has a double meaning in this play, referring both to the atmosphere and to the family” (studyworld & 123helpme.com). Mary Tyrone in this play, often talks about the fog compared to the other Tyrone men. Even though the fog in reality is dark, misleading and isolating, Mary seems to love and finds comfort in it.
“MARY (dreamily). It wasn’t the fog I minded, Cathleen. I really love the fog” (O’Neill 84).
Mary loves the fog because; it helps her find a way to escape the realities and the troubles of her present life. The fog is similar to the opium Mary is consuming to free herself from worries. It helps to kill her pain and guilt as well. She uses her rheumatism as an excuse to purchase opium in a drugstore. The drug assist Mary to drift to her past where she felt safe and warm in the comforts of her home; where there is no alcoholic and stingy husband, whoring and alcoholic Jamie, sick Edmund and diseased Eugene.
“MARY. It hides you from the world and the world from you. You feel that everything has changed, and nothing is what it seemed to be. No one can find or touch you anymore” (O’Neill 84).
Besides trying to runaway from present dilemmas in her family, Mary retreats into the fog by taking opium to go back and dwell in her convent days. Mary’s dream and ambition was to be a nun or a great pianist. She frequently tells her family that she loved being in the convent and being pious. Mary even loved Mother Elizabeth more compared to her own mother. Furthermore, after consuming the opium, Mary pours out all of her heartaches and wishes. She even criticizes Tyrone for not providing her a good home, her fate and addiction. From the play we realized Mary regrets for not chasing after her dreams and so decides to live in her past by building a fog wall around her that will safeguard her precious memories. Therefore, being in a fog can be isolating for others, but for Mary it is like living her happy moments back again.
“MARY. How thick the fog is. I can’t see the road. All the people in the pass by and I would never know. I wish it was always that way” (O’Neill 88).
Even though Mary claims to be lonely in the summer house, she secretly felt relieved when Tyrone, Jamie and Edmund left the house. Their constant stare and arguments were like three fog horns, reminding her of her sufferings and guilt’s in life. So their departure to town enables her to dwell in her own made fog (illusion). “the hardest thing to take is the blank wall she builds around her. Or it’s more like a bank of fog in which she hides and loses herself” (O’Neill 120).
Besides Mary, Edmund also finds the fog as form of escapism from the problems he faces in his family and within himself. Edmund is not only heartbroken to discover that he has tuberculosis but also to learn that his mother has relapse to drugs again. By consuming alcohol, Edmund retreats himself into the fog of forgetfulness. He even stated that he felt peaceful to be nothing but a ghost within a ghost sea which is actually the fog” (O’Neill 113). In Act two, he even denied the fact that his mother could have gone back to taking drugs; when he knows exactly that she has. Living in self denial, is another way, Edmund retreats back to the fog which hinders him from the agony of hurt. In fact he too confesses that he loved the fog, just like Mary.
“EDMUND. I loved the fog. I was what I needed. (He sounds tipsy and looks it)” (O’Neill 112).
“EDMUND. The fog was where I wanted to be.” (O’Neill 112).
“EDMUND. Everything looked and sounded unreal. Nothing was what it is. That’s what I wanted-to be alone with myself in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide itself” (O’Neill 112).
Edmund knew that he should not drink liquor for it might worsen his health. Yet, he cannot seem to deny it since whiskey aids him to forget the present problems in his family. Throughout the day into night, Edmund needed not one but several glasses of “bonded Bourbon” (O’Neill 44) to break away from the feelings of guilt, hate, sorrow and pain.
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“EDMUND. Or be so drunk you can forget. ( he recites, and recites well, with bitter, ironical passion, the Symons’ translation of Baudelaire’s prose poems) “Be always drunken. Nothing else matters: that is the only question. If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weighing on your shoulders and crushing you to the earth, be drunken continually” (O’Neill 114).
Tyrone like Edmund uses alcohol to forget the pain in getting to know that his wife has once more, started taking drugs. Besides that Tyrone was despaired when he heard Doctor Hardy confirmed that Edmund has indeed contracted consumption. He drinks whiskey to stop thinking about the criticisms he faced for being stingy by his own family. Even though Tyrone never mentions loving the fog, he too does hide himself in it to escape the guilt for not looking after his wife well. Furthermore, he is disappointed that his son Jamie did not grow up responsible liked he dreamed of. “A waste! A wreck, a drunken hulk, done and finished!” (O’Neill 148).
Jamie, the eldest son of Tyrone escapes reality into his fog by getting himself drunk and spending money and time with whores. Tyrone and Mary might think Jamie’s act as immoral, but it is the only best way Jamie knows to get away from the painful reality. Jamie too realizes that his lifestyle is a wreck, but he cannot help it. He knows that he had disappointed his parents. Tyrone also accuses Jamie for influencing Edmund to drink alcohol and lead a decadent lifestyle. So in order to run away from accusations and family sorrows Jamie did not mind living, a life of immorality.
JAMIE. Fat Violet is agood kid. Glad I stayed with her. Christian act. Cured her blues. Hell of a good time. You should have stuck with me, kid. Taken your mind of your troubles. What’s the use coming home to get the blues over what can’t help. All over- finished now.” ( O’Neill 141).
In conclusion, all four Tyrones would rather flee than face the heart throbbing realities of their family. They prefer to hide within their walls of fog. They cannot seem to forget the mistakes done in the past. Edmund, Jamie, Tyrone and Mary also find it hard to forgive one another and so they drift into the fog to forget and kill their sorrow and guilty feelings. Therefore, it is evident that the Tyrones are indeed “fog people” (O’Neill 135) just like Edmund uttered in the last Act of the play “Long Day’s Journey into Night”.
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