Eugene into Night opens on James and Mary

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Last updated: August 21, 2019

Eugene O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical 1956 masterpiece, Long Day’s Journey into Night opens on James and Mary Tyrone.

Drawing basis from his own parents, James is an alcoholic, Mary is heavily addicted to morphine, and they are both well into their sixties. O’Neill then introduces James Tyrone, Jr. (Jamie) and Edmund Tyrone, who represents himself. Through the brother’s conversations, the audience learns that both of them are also addicted to alcohol and that they are concerned about their father’s stinginess when it comes to money. James was a stage actor, but because he only ever played one role for so long, he lost his artistic versatility.

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The whole Tyrone family is worried about Edmund, who they can tell has some kind of disease, due to his pressing medical symptoms. Edmund, however is only concerned about his mother, who he suspects is returning to morphine. Jamie tells Edmund that the reason he succeeded in acting was because he drew influence on his father’s work in the field. Jamie yells at his brother for leaving the family to become a poet and shames him for his failures. Later in the play, it is discovered that Jamie is only being so hard on his brother, because he is jealous of the attention he has received. Jamie suspects that Edmund may tuberculosis.

Mary enters the room, concerned for Edmund’s health and the two brothers allude to the fact that they are concerned for Mary falling into her dangerous, old habits.Mary talks to Cathleen, who acts as the Tyrone family servant. It is quite clear that she has taken large amounts of morphine and has access to much more. James Sr. and Edmund return home, drunk and Edmund tells Mary that he has tuberculosis. Mary denies this and says that the doctor must have lied and cannot be trusted. Jamie is still out drinking and paying for prostitutes, and Mary begins to accuse James for causing Jamie’s bad habits.

James accuses Jamie of trying to break into his whiskey cellar and Edmund leaves the room to go to sleep, telling Mary how hard it is to have a drug addicted mother. Mary regrets ever giving birth to Edmund and claims that he is sure to die soon. She then tells James that she is going to sleep, but he knows that she just needs an excuse to do more morphine.What began as a beautiful summer day has quickly faded into a midnight encompassed by darkness and fog.

Edmund and James have a bitter, drunken conversation, in which James connects his miserliness to his childhood and Edmund reveals his aspirations to become a famous writer. Jamie comes home and James avoids him by leaving the room before he enters. Jamie explains to his brother that the cause of his animosity towards him came out of pure selfishness and jealousy and he confesses that Edmund would be far better off running away from the Tyrone home and saving himself from the torture. Tyrone reenters the room as Mary comes down the stairs, with her eyes glazed over, holding a wedding dress and reminiscing about her days in the convent, before she married James.

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