Long Day's Journey into Night is one of Eugene O'Neill's later plays. He wrote it for his wife on the occasion of their 12th wedding anniversary in 1940. The play was written in part as a way for O'Neill to show the world what his family was like and in what sort of environment he was raised. O'Neill wanted to create a play that would lay forth his own background in a forgiving nature, which is why he strove not to bias the play against any one character. The drama is very similar to O'Neill's family situation as a young man, but more importantly, it has become a universal play representing the problems of a family that cannot live in the present, mired in the dark recesses of a bitter, troubled past. Because of its deeply personal nature, O'Neill requested that the play be published posthumously, which meant that the play was not revealed to the world until O'Neill's death in 1956.
To be sure, O'Neill has always been seen as one of the greatest American playwrights. He was the only American dramatist to be awarded the Nobel Prize, an honor not bestowed upon either Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams, two other great American playwrights. He won the Pulitzer Prize for four plays, including Long Day's Journey into Night. His other best known plays are The Iceman Cometh, Mourning Becomes Electra, Ah Wilderness!, Strange Interlude, and The Hairy Ape. O'Neill was a huge Broadway success during his own adult life.
For information on what his childhood was like, one does best to read Long Day's Journey into Night and examine the character of Edmund, who is partly autobiographical. O'Neill was the son of a Broadway actor and a mother who disliked Broadway. He suffered from tuberculosis, which caused him to have a nervous breakdown early in life. He was born in 1888, but he did not achieve success as a playwright until his 30th play, Beyond the Horizon, appeared in 1920. Around the same time, his father died, which devastated O'Neill, who had admired his father tremendously despite their differences.
After achieving success in 1920, O'Neill remained a dominant figure of American theater throughout his life. He had numerous personal problems, including failed marriage, but he was most captivated by his troubles and experiences growing up, before he found fame. The early part of his life is the subject of Long Day's Journey into Night, which will forever remain O'Neill's goodbye to the world--the play that showed America who O'Neill was and where he came from.