As the fog descends around the Tyrone’s summer home, another fog falls on the family within. This fog is that of substance abuse, in which each of the four main characters of Eugene O’Neill’s play, Long Day’s Journey into Night face by the end of Act IV. Long Day's Journey into Night is a metaphoric representation of the path from normalcy to demise by showing the general effects of substance abuse on human psychology and family dysfunctions through the characters Mary, Jamie, Edmund and Tyrone.
Mary Tyrone makes the transition most clearly throughout the entire play. In Act I, her hands move restlessly, and she seems to be quite nervous. When she appears in Act II “one notices no change except that she appears to be less nervous, … but then one becomes aware that her eyes are brighter and there is a peculiar detachment in her voice and manner” (O’Neill 58). These subtle signs of her relapse back to chemical dependency continue until the final scene, where she is most obviously under the influences of a chemical substance. The morphine seems to make her reminiscent of the past. In Act III, she talked about her two childhood dreams of becoming a concert pianist or a nun. By Act IV, she has dragged her old wedding dress from the attic and attempted to play the piano again. This presents a psychological reasoning for her relapses. She considers herself to be growing old and ugly, and often refers to the how she was at one time young and beautiful. “To her, the ugliness of the hands is the ugliness of what she has become over the last twenty-five years, which is why she uses the pain of the rheumatism in them as her reason for the morphine” (Chabrowe 181). Thus, it can be correlated that at one time she used the morphine to escape pain, and when she realized that it made her feel youthful again she became addicted.
Her failure to desist is also connected with her interfamily relationships. When she was accused of relapsing she said, “It would serve all of you right if it was true” (O’Neill 47)! This suggests that she is seeking justification to continue her drug addiction by using her family’s suspicions as a reason to relapse (Bloom 163). Not only are her actions influenced by her family, but they also influence the men, namely Edmund. He is quite aware of his diminishing health, and suspects that he ...
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...with a sense of what the future holds for the Tyrone family, the book tends to be repetitive. Thus, one can assume that the play marks one day, one relapse for Mary, one trip for Jamie to the whorehouse, one more drink Edmund takes to forget the past, and one more drink that Tyrone takes to help himself cope. Yet, it will not be the first, or the last. It will be just one more. Night will journey into morning and it will all happen again. Such is tragedy.
American Lung Association. “Who Get’s It.” Tuberculosis (TB.) On-line. Internet. 1 March 2001. Available: <a href="http://www.lungusa.org/diseases/lungtb.html">http://www.lungusa.org/diseases/lungtb.html
Chabrowe, Leonard. “Rituals and Pathos: The Theatre of O’Neill.” Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism.
Bloom, Steven F. “Empty Bottles, Empty Dreams: O’Neill’s Use of Drinking and Alcoholism in Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Critical Essays on Eugene O’Neill. 1984 ed.
Collins, R. Lorraine, Kenneth E. Leonard, and John S. Searles. Alcohol and the Family. New York, London: The Guilford Press, 1974.
Hinden, Michael. Long Day’s Journey into Night: Native Eloquence. Boston: Twane Publishers, 1990.
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