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Long Day's Journey into Night

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Lights of Bohemia to Love in Livery

a play by Eugene O'Neill, produced and published posthumously in 1956, but written in 19401. The play takes place in the New England household of a retired actor, James Tyrone. His attractive wife, Mary, has recently been released from a home to cure her drug addiction. The day seems to begin cheerfully enough, with Tyrone and Mary teasing one another and their sons Jamie, aged 35, and Edmund, aged 25, laughing over the table, but in fact it is apparent at the outset that the banter masks deep tensions, which gradually emerge as the day progresses. Tyrone, a rich man who possibly could have been a great actor, is the victim of his own close-fistedness, attributable to a hard childhood in Ireland. He has made others suffer for it, though he is, in many respects, a wastrel, while Edmund has ruined his health in nervous dissipation, partly to emulate his loved older brother, partly to overcome the difficulties of home. Edmund learns that he has tuberculosis, and this releases pent-up feelings and sadness. Mary becomes nostalgic about past dreams of success but it also becomes apparent that her addiction began when a quack doctor, chosen by her mean husband, treated her with morphine following the birth of Edmund. Jamie drunkenly reveals his love for Edmund, and hate for his being responsible for their mother's drug addiction; Mary appears lost to the world dragging her wedding gown and dreaming of a brighter past. The play is the most autobiographical of O'Neill's works, drawing directly from his own family life as a young man and described by him as a ‘play of old sorrow, written in tears and blood’.

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