Long Day's Journey into Night | Study Guide

Eugene O'Neill

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Long Day's Journey into Night | Quotes


You really must not watch me all the time, James ... it makes me self-conscious.

Mary, Act 1, Section 1

Mary says this or something like it repeatedly in Act 1. On the surface, it expresses her nervousness about her appearance, particularly her hair. On a deeper level, it reflects her family's distrust of her as they worry she will begin using drugs again. It also shows Mary's awareness of their distrust and some of the paranoia that will crop up again when she resumes her drug use.


The only way is to make yourself not care.

Mary, Act 2, Scene 1

This statement could be the Tyrone family's motto. Mary uses morphine to "not care" about her physical pain, about her marriage not working out as she had planned, about her eldest son's alcoholism, about her middle son's death at age two, and about her youngest son's illness. The three Tyrone men use other means—namely alcohol—to deaden their reactions to Mary's addiction.


I'm ... sick and tired of pretending this is a home ... You don't really want one!

Mary, Act 2, Scene 1

Why the Tyrones' home is so unhappy is one of the great ambiguities of the play. Mary blames it on her husband's life as an actor, full of traveling and "cheap hotels." Tyrone suggests their home could never have been happy because of Mary's addiction. Perhaps both are true.


James! I tried so hard! I tried so hard! Please believe—!

Mary, Act 2, Scene 1

Although Mary has insisted she is no longer using morphine, at this very moment she is honest. She has relapsed in spite of her best efforts. She knows her family will neither believe she tried nor accept her failure. Her husband's immediate reaction is to ask why she could not have kept trying. He has little sympathy left.


You never know it till one day you find yourself in hell!

Mary, Act 2, Scene 2

When the doctor calls with news about Edmund's illness, Mary unleashes a spiteful torrent about the ways doctors can make people suffer. Mary says this doctor is like the one who gave her morphine in the first place, and she never knew what was happening until it was too late.


The past is the present, isn't it? It's the future, too.

Mary, Act 2, Scene 2

At one point when Mary is reminiscing, Tyrone asks her to leave the past behind. This is her response. Her statement is certainly true in the Tyrone family. They continue reliving certain moments of their past over and over again, and they will undoubtedly continue to relive those moments for the rest of their lives in one way or another.


I never lied ... once upon a time. Now I have to lie, especially to myself.

Mary, Act 2, Scene 2

This statement partially reflects the way Mary whitewashes elements of her past. It is doubtful Mary "never" lied in her past. However, it is absolutely true that Mary lies frequently now because of her addiction, including lying to herself. Throughout the play, Mary alternates between denial and self-awareness—this is one of her moments of self-awareness.


When the Blessed Virgin Mary forgives me and gives me back the faith.

Mary, Act 2, Scene 2

Mary grieves over her lost faith and her relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the most important religious icons in the Catholic Church. Mary again paints herself as the victim. In this case, she must wait for a saint to forgive her and give her back her faith, rather than doing anything to earn forgiveness and regain her faith for herself.


Maybe I guessed there was a good reason not to laugh.

Edmund, Act 3, Section 2

Edmund describes how he felt that all of life was "rotten" when he learned about Mary's addiction. Between her relapse and his own serious diagnosis, he has reason to be depressed. It is also interesting to note that O'Neill's mother had a similar addiction problem, so Edmund's statement reflects O'Neill's personal experience as well.


I hope, sometimes, without meaning it, I will take an overdose.

Mary, Act 3, Section 2

Mary is talking about overdosing on morphine, but the phrasing can be read in two different ways. The conventional interpretation is that she would take an overdose without meaning to, but it could also be interpreted that she hopes, without meaning to hope, that she will overdose. O'Neill is very specific about stage directions but leaves this to the actress's interpretation.


Facts don't mean a thing ... What you want to believe, that's the only truth!

Edmund, Act 4, Section 1

Edmund says this to his father, but it could just as easily be said to anyone in the family. All four family members have certain things they want to believe, and they believe those things in spite of the facts. Tyrone wants to believe Mary is cured. Mary wants to believe that certain parts of her life were perfect. Edmund wants to believe he is not seriously ill. Jamie wants to believe he can block out the bad parts of his life with alcohol and prostitutes.


Alone ... in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself.

Edmund, Act 4, Section 1

Edmund describes how he felt out in the fog after his diagnosis. He wants to be in a place where the truth is not true because he does not want to face the truth about his own mortality. He wants to hide from life because his life—with his own illness and his mother's addiction—is painful. Edmund is expressing a desire for the sort of respite from reality that Mary seeks in her morphine.


You have to make allowances in this damned family or go nuts!

Edmund, Act 4, Section 2

Edmund voices his frustration with his family members and their foibles and limitations. This particularly honest explosion was probably close to O'Neill's heart since he is writing about his own family.


What the hell was it I wanted to buy ... that was worth—Well, no matter.

Tyrone, Act 4, Section 2

Tyrone tells Edmund about the mistakes he made in his career out of a desire to earn more money. Now, at the end of his life, he wonders what he earned the money for. It is a particularly poignant moment since Tyrone can almost never shake off his "miserly" attitude enough to value anything beyond money, including his family's health and sanity.


I fell in love with James Tyrone and was so happy for a time.

Mary, Act 4, Section 3

The final line of the play is heartbreaking. Mary has spent the entire play seeking happiness or trying to convince herself that at some point in her life she was very happy. Now, totally unaware of how her family is watching her hallucinate, she tells everyone that the happiest time in her life was years earlier, before she even had her children.

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