Long Day's Journey into Night | Study Guide

Eugene O'Neill

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Long Day's Journey into Night | Act 2, Scene 2 | Summary



It is just after lunch, and the bourbon is no longer onstage. Tyrone and Mary enter, followed by their sons. Unlike at breakfast, when Tyrone's arm was around Mary's waist, now he will not touch or even look at her. Mary chatters and fidgets, complaining about the servant problem and how their house is not a home. Tyrone says it will never be a home because of Mary's problem. She pretends not to know what he means. "In a real home one is never lonely," she says, and she talks about how her father's home was a "real" home.

The phone rings and Tyrone answers it. It is the doctor. Jamie, Edmund, and Mary all listen tensely to the phone call. While Tyrone strives to sound casual, he has clearly gotten bad news. After he gets off the phone, Mary bursts into a long speech directed at Tyrone about how the horrid doctor lectures on willpower "when you're in agony and half insane" and about how he is the same type of cheap doctor as the one "who first gave you the medicine—and you never knew what it was until too late!" She proclaims she hates doctors who will sell their souls "and you never know it till one day you find yourself in hell!" Edmund and Tyrone ask her to stop talking, and she announces she is going upstairs to fix her hair.

The three men know what Mary is going to do, and Jamie puts it bluntly: "Another shot in the arm!" Both Tyrone and Edmund snap at him. Jamie says he feels it just as much as they do, but Edmund resents his cynicism. Jamie asks if Edmund's "pet with the unpronounceable name" is more cheery. He is referring to the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), whom Edmund admires. Tyrone says they are both terrible and "rotten to the core" because they have rejected the Catholic faith. Jamie and Edmund point out that Tyrone does not go to church. Tyrone says he still prays and has prayed for Mary for years. Edmund responds by quoting Nietzsche's statement that "God is dead."

Tyrone says he will no longer hope, but Edmund is determined to keep doing so. He wants to talk to Mary. Jamie says there is no point because Mary will not listen: "She'll be here but she won't be here." Tyrone agrees: "That's the way the poison acts on her always." Edmund heads upstairs to change his clothes.

Once he is gone, Jamie asks his father what the doctor said. Tyrone confirms Edmund has consumption and must go to a sanatorium. Jamie demands to know where Edmund will be sent, and when Tyrone is evasive, he warns him not to pick a cheap place. He insists Tyrone is not broke, just cheap. Tyrone gets angry, but Jamie walks out, offering to go with Edmund to cheer him up after he hears the bad news. Mary wanders back in. Looking out the window, she tells Tyrone he was wrong about the weather. He agrees: "We're in for another night of fog, I'm afraid." Mary says she will not mind the fog, and he agrees she probably will not. She gives him a sharp glance.

When Tyrone begins to leave the room, she begs him not to go. Tyrone suggests she take a drive while the rest of them are out. He hugs her and pleads with her to stop. Confused, Mary asks what he means. She puts an arm around him, saying they have always loved each other and they should remember that. She speaks of "the things life has done" to them. Tyrone asks her again to try, and she says she will try to go for a drive in the car. She talks about how she lost many friends when she married Tyrone, particularly after his former mistress sued him. Tyrone asks why she dwells on the past. Defiantly, she announces she will use the car to get something from the drugstore. Tyrone angrily reminds her of a night when she ran out of the house in her nightgown and tried to kill herself. Mary begs him to not bring it up, and he apologizes. Then she says it never happened.

Mary says she got sick after Edmund was born and an "ignorant quack" of a doctor stopped her pain. Tyrone tells her to forget it, but she replies, "The past is the present, isn't it? It's the future, too." Mary says she should never have had another baby after Eugene died. She blames Jamie, who had the measles at age seven. Mary believes he infected Eugene on purpose out of jealousy. She will never forgive Jamie for Eugene's death, she claims. Mary blames herself because she was on the road with Tyrone rather than at home with Eugene. She should not have had Edmund. She is being punished, she says, for being a bad mother. Tyrone says Edmund might feel she did not want him, but she says she did want him even though he has been so sickly and unhappy. They hear Edmund. Tyrone asks Mary to behave normally until he leaves, but she cannot.

Tyrone begins to go upstairs, but Edmund asks him for money. Tyrone gives him $10, and Edmund is shocked. He asks if Tyrone thinks he is going to die. Tyrone is hurt, and Mary becomes furious over such a joke. She insists he is not really ill and is only seeking attention. When Edmund is offended, she tells him she is frightened for him. Tyrone suggests Edmund try to talk to Mary about her problem. He leaves them alone. Edmund tries, but Mary fusses over him instead. She tells him to skip the appointment and stay home. Edmund begs her to stop what she is doing, but she does not listen. She implies that she started using morphine again because she is worried about him, though she says that is no excuse. She accuses Edmund of not trusting her, then admits she does not trust herself. She says, "I never lied about anything once upon a time. Now I have to lie, especially to myself." She tells him she will find her soul again "when the Blessed Virgin Mary forgives me and gives me back the faith." Mary casually tells Edmund he may as well go to the doctor because she is off to the drugstore. He begs her not to go, but she ignores him. Jamie and Tyrone call Edmund, and Mary tells Edmund to go. Once they have gone, Mary complains of being lonely but then says she is lying to herself. She claims to be glad they are gone, freeing her from criticism, contempt, and suspicion. She laughs, then cries out, "Mother of God, why do I feel so lonely?"


If the audience has failed to catch the clues Eugene O'Neill provided, he now makes it abundantly clear through Jamie's blunt comment—Mary is injecting herself with a drug. She clearly has a serious problem that began after Edmund's birth over 20 years ago, and by Tyrone's account she has attempted suicide at least once when she did not have the drug. It is evidently a prescription medication, and her symptoms, combined with what is known about O'Neill's mother, make it obvious: she is addicted to morphine.

The image of fog comes up repeatedly throughout the play. In Act 1, Mary and Tyrone express relief that the previous night's fog is gone. Now, in Act 2, Mary tells Tyrone he was wrong and that the fog is back. Tyrone agrees he was mistaken. This is not just a weather report—the fog is a symbol of Mary's addiction. When she is under the influence of her medicine, she is in a fog that insulates her from emotions or interactions. Mary says she will not mind the foghorn in the night ahead, and Tyrone agrees she will not—she will be too far into her drugged stupor to notice it.

This is the first time religion, specifically Catholicism, comes up. The Irish people have a long history with the Catholic Church, so it is not surprising that Tyrone and Mary would be Catholic. It is also not surprising, given Tyrone's career and Mary's addiction, that they would have fallen away from actively practicing their faith. Their names—James and Mary—are both biblical names. James was the name of one of Jesus's disciples, and Mary, as she herself mentions, is the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Blessed Virgin Mary is deeply revered in the Catholic Church because she is believed to be born without sin. She remains a symbol of motherhood and motherly love throughout the New Testament. It would be quite common for young Catholic girls to pray to the Virgin Mary, as Mary Tyrone evidently did.

Jamie and Edmund are not Catholic, and some of Edmund's favorite authors are aggressively anti-religion. Friedrich Nietzsche, for example, was a philosopher who vehemently rejected the ideas of conventional religion, viewing it as a way to manipulate people by making them feel guilty.

Guilt is certainly prevalent in the Tyrone family. Mary blames Tyrone for losing their friends as a result of an affair he once had. She blames Jamie for giving their now-deceased middle son, Eugene, the measles and suggests Edmund is to blame for her addiction. While she rarely admits her own culpability, Mary does label herself a liar and speaks of feeling guilty. Tyrone encourages her not to dwell on the past, but she claims the past, the present, and the future are really all the same. This reflects her drug-addled thought process, but it also suggests the ways in which the past continues to inform all of their actions. In some ways, life for the Tyrone family stopped when Mary's addiction really took hold. Jamie and Edmund have gotten older, but they became emotionally stunted. Edmund acts like a little boy, and Jamie acts like a rebellious teenager.

Tyrone and Mary mention their deceased middle son in these pages, raising the question of all their sons' names. Jamie is named after his father. Tyrone is clearly disappointed in Jamie but doesn't realize they are alike in many ways. Even as a grown man he is referred to by the diminutive "Jamie," as if he were still a little boy. The deceased middle son is named after O'Neill, even though it is the youngest son, Edmund, who represents O'Neill in this autobiographical work.

Edmund's name is interesting. On a purely factual level, it was the name of a third O'Neill son, one that died in infancy before Eugene O'Neill was born. O'Neill simply flip-flopped the names. However, the name Edmund has symbolic overtones, particularly in this Shakespearean family. Edmund is the name of a villain in one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, King Lear (1605–06). In the play the titular King Lear questions the loyalty and love of his daughters. He mistakenly rejects the truest of his daughters and places his trust in the two greedy and selfish ones instead. It is undoubtedly a role Tyrone would love to play. In King Lear the two evil sisters compete for the love of Edmund, an illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester. This Edmund is also wicked, happy to overthrow his legitimate brother to obtain power and wealth for himself. While O'Neill may have simply transposed the names of the living and deceased O'Neill boys, he would certainly have been aware of the name's Shakespearean allusions. O'Neill may have viewed himself as acting in a traitorous or disloyal way to his family by writing this play. By the time he was writing Long Day's Journey into Night, he was also the only surviving member of his childhood family, so O'Neill may feel as if he is somehow not his parents' legitimate son since he survived.

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