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Long Day's Journey into Night

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Semi-autobiographical play by Eugene O'Neill, written in 1941, posthumously produced and published (1956).

Recently released from an institution as cured of her drug addiction, Mary Tyrone, a handsome, nervous woman, is, in August 1912, once again at her summer home with her husband James, an aging former matinee idol, and their sons, Jamie, at 33 a hard-drinking, cynical Broadway hanger-on, and Edmund, a sickly, morbid intellectual. Mary's appearance and detached conversations soon make clear that she is not cured, and as the men drink heavily to escape reality, she nostalgically revives past dreams of becoming a nun or a concert pianist, and seems an innocent girl again. But she also reveals her addiction began when her miserly husband chose a quack doctor who treated her with morphine after her sickness in giving birth to Edmund. Like his mother, Edmund wants to “be alone … in another world … where life can hide from itself.” Like her too, he shows both love and hate for his family as he confronts his limited future as a consumptive, realizing that his father will send him to the cheapest state sanitarium, since he is expected to die. A similar ambivalence is exhibited by the debauched Jamie, who drunkenly tells Edmund how much he loves him and yet how much he hates him as responsible for their mother's addiction. As James curses the sad spectacle, Mary appears, trailing her wedding gown, utterly immersed in the happier past. Realizing that she is forever lost to them and that their fates are intimately bound with hers, they impassively contemplate their own destruction.

Subjects: Literature

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Eugene O'Neill (1888—1953) American dramatist