Review: Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill

12083Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical play Long Day’s Journey into Night is regarded as his finest work. First published by Yale University Press in 1956, it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 and has since sold more than one million copies. This edition includes a new foreword by Harold Bloom.

The action covers a fateful, heart-rending day from around 8:30 am to midnight, in August 1912 at the seaside Connecticut home of the Tyrones – the semi-autobiographical representations of O’Neill himself, his older brother, and their parents at their home, Monte Cristo Cottage.

One theme of the play is addiction and the resulting dysfunction of the family. All three males are alcoholics and Mary is addicted to morphine. They all constantly conceal, blame, resent, regret, accuse and deny in an escalating cycle of conflict with occasional desperate and half-sincere attempts at affection, encouragement and consolation. (From: Goodreads)

***Actual rating: 4/5 Oh-This-Is-Life Stars***

”The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings.”

Long Day’s Journey into Night was a story about a family, James Tyrone (father), Mary (mother), Jamie (elder son), Edmund (younger son) and Cathlyn (second daughter), and their typical day. I’ve always thought it’d be hard to read a play but it turned out just the opposite! Well, at least for this one, Long Day’s Journey into Night is surprisingly easy to read and grasp its meaning. As short as the story is, I’m amazed by how well-written it is. There are four acts in the play, dividing one of the family’s ordinary days into four time sections. It begins with the family’s ordinary morning at 8:30 and then ends with the family’s approaching bedtime at roughly 23:30.

Before you read the following summary, I’d want to clarify that it’s my personal interpretation of the book so it may or may not be the original idea the author wanted to convey.

James Tyrone is a successful landlord who earns a great amount of money but is so stingy that he’d rather let his sick son, Edmund, go see a quack. Since James is rich and apparently, the family doesn’t seem to need another salary, Jamie doesn’t see the point to keep pursuing his actor career. Therefore, he stays at home in the daytime and goes on drinking spree at night. Obviously, having fun and flirting with girls are way more exciting than working hard.

Your father wasn’t finding fault with you. You don’t have to always take Jamie’s part. You’d think you were the one ten years older.
What’s all the fuss about? Let’s forget it.
Yes, forget! Forget everything and face nothing! It’s a convenient philosophy if you’re no ambition in life except to—
James, do be quiet.
She puts an arm around his shoulder—coaxingly.

As an American middle class, it’s almost intolerable for your kids to idle away their time when they’re supposed to get a job, make both ends meet and take good care of themselves as well as their parents. I can totally imagine the frustration James feels when seeing one of his sons fooling around and the other bedridden with deteriorating health.

We all know that misfortunes never come singly, thus, when Mary finds out she has arthritis, she can’t stop reminiscing about her once young and beautiful self, which bothers James even more. She can no longer stand the ugliness of her (still-prefect) hair, the wrinkles on her face and the severity of her paranoia. However, the negativity is all in her head! James never thinks less of Mary, but somehow she just can’t wrap her mind around his thoughtfulness.

Mary! For God’s sake, forget the past!
With strange objective calm.
Why? How can I? 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 most special part in this book is that there’s no twist in the story at all. Like I said earlier, this book depicts a very ordinary, run-of-the-mill American lifestyle back in the ‘40s/’50s so I believe it’s the relatability of the story that draws our attention from the first page. At the end of the book, the Tyrone Family appears to be exhausted due to the occasional argument about life, love, job, nothing and everything during the day, so I think James gives up lecturing on Jamie’s unpromising behavior, or further worrying about his paranoid wife. Perhaps he later realizes it’s so much easier to just join his son for a drink and simply “forget” everything.

Who knows? This doesn’t sound like a bad idea, does it?

”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.
Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you will. But be drunken.”

All in all, Long Day’s Journey into Night is a rather interesting read for me because what happens in the Tyrone Family may or may not occur in real life. Again, I’m fascinated by the super-ordinary-yet-original concept this play conveys and would like YOU to read it someday. I hope you’ll find it relatable the way I do and maybe, you’ll get inspired by the characters after reading this because, YOU NEVER KNOW!

2 thoughts on “Review: Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill

  1. So glad you enjoyed this, Jas! I have always loved that quote ”The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings.” I first saw it on The Fault in our Stars. Great review, Jas. 💖

    Liked by 1 person

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