(As part of a summer semester spent at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, students from BNUZ, Beijing Normal University Zhuhai—located in Zhuhai city, Guangdong Province—studied O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. Two reactions follow.)


IT'S LIFE by Tiffany

At the beginning of Long Day's Journey into Night, the Tyrone family seems like just a normal family. We should not judge it from appearances, however. Each family has its own problems. That's the way life goes. We should be brave about our lives and try to face them with our own families.

The play is largely autobiographical, which reflects Eugene O'Neill's life in many aspects.  Like O'Neill's father, Tyrone is an Irish Catholic, an alcoholic, and a Broadway actor. Mary, O'Neill's mother, is a morphine addict; this is also true in life. She has a son who died in infancy. In Long Day's Journey into Night, Edmund has an older brother named Eugene who has the same story. The writer presents his family problems honestly and bravely.

The Tyrone family is not a unique family. It is easy to identify with many of the conflicts and characters. All their problems from the past cannot be forgotten. In terms of Mary, the most important issue that makes her upset is the dead baby. She cannot forget the past and all the dreams that she once had of being a nun or a pianist. Tyrone, too, has always had high hopes for Jamie, who has been a continual disappointment. The past also becomes a refuge, but not in a positive way. Mary uses an idealized recreation of her girlhood as escapist fantasy. As she sinks further and further into the fog of morphine, she relives her life. The past is used to escape dealing with the present.

This past, in fact, seems doomed to be relived day after day. We are left as an audience realizing that the family is not making progress toward betterment. If they forget these unpleasant things, they will have a happier life. Nevertheless, they continue sliding into despair, as they remain bound to a past that cannot be forgotten or forgiven.

The play also creates a world in which there is a lack of communication. One of the great conflicts in the play is that the characters don't connect despite their constant fighting. For instance, the men often argue amongst themselves over Mary's addiction, but no one confronts her directly. Instead, they allow her to lie to herself about the issue and about Edmund's illness. If they talk to each other and face the problems together, the story would change.

Nearly every family can see itself reflected in at least some parts of the work–perhaps, this is why the drama has achieved artistic and commercial success. The past is the past, which we cannot get back, however. We must be more courageous in meeting a bright future;  sometimes families can be our happy harbors. They let us know that we are not alone. When difficulties confront us, we can get through them together.


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