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Long Day's Journey into Night

Eugene O'Neill

Act II, Scene ii

Act II, Scene i

Act III

Summary

The scene begins half an hour after the previous scene. The family is returning from lunch in the dining room. Tyrone appears angry and aloof, while Edmund appears "heartsick." Mary and Tyrone argue briefly about the nature of the "home," although Mary seems somewhat aloof while she speaks because she is on morphine. The phone rings, and Tyrone answers it. He talks briefly with the caller and agrees on a meeting at four o'clock. He returns and tells the family that the caller was Doc Hardy, who wanted to see Edmund that afternoon. Edmund remarks that it doesn't sound like good tidings. Mary immediately discredits everything Doc Hardy has to say because she thinks he is a cheap quack whom Tyrone hired only because he is inexpensive. After a brief argument, she exits upstairs.

After she is gone, Jamie remarks that she has gone to get more morphine. Edmund and Tyrone explode at him, telling him not to think such bad thoughts about people. Jamie counters that Edmund and Tyrone need to face the truth; they are kidding themselves. Edmund tells Jamie that he is too pessimistic. Tyrone argues that both boys have forgotten Catholicism, the only belief that is not fraudulent. Jamie and Edmund both grow mad and begin to argue with Tyrone. Tyrone admits that he does not practice Catholicism strictly, but he claims that he prays each morning and each evening. Edmund is a believer in Nietzsche, who wrote that "God is dead" in ##Thus Spoke Zarathustra# He ends the argument, however, by resolving to speak with Mary about the drugs, and he exits upstairs.

After Edmund leaves, Tyrone tells Jamie that Doc Hardy say that Edmund has consumption, "no possible doubt." However, if Edmund goes to a sanatorium immediately, he will be cured in six to 12 months. Jamie demands that Tyrone send Edmund somewhere good, not somewhere cheap. Jamie says that Tyrone thinks consumption is necessarily fatal, and therefore it is not worth spending money on trying to cure Edmund since he is guaranteed to die anyway. Jamie correctly argues that consumption can be cured if treated properly. He decides to go with Tyrone and Edmund to the doctor that afternoon then exits.

Mary reenters as Jamie leaves, and she tells Tyrone that Jamie would be a good son if he had been raised in a "real" home as Mary envisions it. She tells Tyrone not to give Jamie any money because he will use it only to but liquor. Tyrone bitterly implies that Mary and her drug use is enough to make any man want to drink. Mary dodges his accusation with denials, but she asks Tyrone not to leave her alone that afternoon because she gets lonely. Tyrone responds that Mary is the one who "leaves," referring to her mental aloofness when she takes drugs. Tyrone suggests that Mary take a ride in the new car he bought her, which to Tyrone's resentment does not often get used (he sees it as another waste of money). Mary tells him that he should not have bought her a second-hand car. In any case, Mary argues that she has no one to visit in the car, since she has not had any friends since she got married. She alludes briefly to a scandal involving Tyrone and a mistress at the beginning of their marriage, and this event caused many of her friends to abandon her. Tyrone tells Mary not to dig up the past. Mary changes the subject and tells Tyrone that she needs to go to the drugstore.

Delving into the past, Mary tells Tyrone the story of getting addicted to morphine when Edmund was born. She implicitly blames Tyrone for her addiction because he would only pay for a cheap doctor who knew of no better way to cure her childbirth pain. Tyrone interrupts and tells her to forget the past, but Mary replies, "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." Mary blames herself for breaking her vow never to have another baby after Eugene, her second baby who died at two years old from measles he caught from Jamie after Jamie went into the baby's room. Tyrone tells Mary to let the dead baby rest in peace, but Mary only blames herself more for not staying with Eugene (her mother was babysitting when Jamie gave Eugene measles), and instead going on the road to keep Tyrone company as he traveled the country with his plays. Tyrone had later insisted that Mary have another baby to replace Eugene, and so Edmund was born. But Mary claimed that from the first day she could tell that Edmund was weak and fragile, as though God intended to punish her for what happened to Eugene.

Edmund reenters after Mary's speech, and he asks Tyrone for money, which Tyrone grudgingly produces. Edmund is genuinely thankful, but then he gets the idea that Tyrone may regret giving him money because Tyrone thinks that Edmund will die and the money will be wasted. Tyrone is greatly hurt by this accusation, and Edmund suddenly feels very guilty for what he said. He and his father make amends briefly before Mary furiously tells Edmund not to be so morbid and pessimistic. She begins to cry, and Tyrone exits to get ready to go to the doctor with Edmund. Mary again criticizes Doc Hardy and tells Edmund not to see him. Edmund replies that Mary needs to quit the morphine, which puts Mary on the defensive, denying that she still uses and then making excuses for herself. She admits that she lies to herself all the time, and she says that she can "no longer call my soul my own." She hopes for redemption one day through the Virgin. Jamie and Tyrone call Edmund, and he exits. Mary is left alone, glad that they are gone but feeling "so lonely."

Commentary

All the characters in this play try to muster an optimistic outlook at times. Tyrone always hopes that Jamie will one day make a success of himself. Mary still hopes that Edmund will get better and that her husband will finally make her a real home. In this scene, we see that Edmund, in keeping with his youthful romantic outlook, has hope for the whole family to make amends. At the time of his "heartsick" entrance, he appears truly troubled by the fighting occurring within the family. Notice that Edmund also has a tendency to avoid conflicts by laughing them away when they appear. He has his outbursts, but he is less responsive to baiting from his father than this brother is. Mary, in a similar vein, tries to hold the family together in part through imminent talking. She seems to dislike silences, because whenever she is onstage, she is usually making meaningless chit chat simply to create noise, such as at the beginning of this scene. Some of her talking constitutes an attempt to smooth over conflicts and also to change the subject away from conflict between the men.

The second scene of Act II reinforces the idea that in terms of structure, the play is built around meals. Act I is set just as the family returns from breakfast; Act II, Scene i occurs as the family prepares for lunch; Act II, Scene ii is set as the family returns from lunch; Act III is set as the family prepares for dinner; Act IV takes place late at night when the men are having their last drinks waiting to pass out. The structure of meals indicates the centrality of meals to the Tyrone family because meals bring all four people together in a traditional family setting. Nevertheless, we never actually see the Tyrones at one of these central meals. Thus, the play has a sense of waiting and recovering in each of the scenes. In the first part of Act II and in Act III, there is a constant sense of waiting for the main event, a meal, to happen. In Act I and the later part of Act II, the characters are all satisfied and search out activities to do until the next meal. This meal structure, like that structure of alcoholism, is very repetitive, and it further suggests the unchanging nature of life for the family.

In this section we begin to see more clearly that Edmund is an intellectual who reads extensively. He is well versed in the German philosopher Nietzsche, for example, and in Act IV we will see him quote extensively from famous French poets such as Baudelaire. Edmund's intellectualism is a source of conflict between him and Tyrone, who thinks that the writers Edmund reads are leading him astray and turning him into towards a cynical, morbid outlook. This is one of the ways in which we see the autobiographical side of the play emerge; O'Neill himself was the intellectual son in the family who went on to be a literary great. Interestingly, Tyrone himself also has an intellectual streak in his love of Shakespeare. He knows the fine details of every Shakespearean play, and he holds the Shakespearean canon up at the highest form of art. In his praise of Shakespeare and condemnation of almost all other authors whom Edmund enjoys, Tyrone with futility tries to assert his control over Edmund, who despite what he hoped does not respect his father as a model for intellectual thought. Tyrone, ever the actor, tries his best to play as many roles as he can.

Nevertheless, religion is particularly important to Tyrone as well as to Mary, as we see in this section for the first time. Although neither practice Catholicism, Tyrone and Mary both claim to pray on a daily basis, and they say that they fear God. The two sons, by contrast, are skeptics. We see then the breakdown of the Tyrone family values from one generation to the next. Whereas Tyrone was raised on Shakespeare, Irish writers and the Bible, his sons have spurned that same upbringing, turning towards a different type of literature and a lack of faith. The rejection of the old way by the second generation is something that Mary and Tyrone both have difficulty accepting, and it further reminds the reader that they are an aging couple being replaced by new Americans.

Finally, Mary's comments that she cannot forget the past because "the past is the present" further suggests the repetitive nature of life in the Tyrone family. The events of the past are continually repeated in the present, just as the events of each individual day are repeated in a cyclical fashion based on alcohol or morphine. Note that the title, Long Day's Journey into Night, suggests that the day is not really unique; it is just another day in the life of the family, not too much different from most other days except that it is the day that Edmund learns he has consumption.

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