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Book Name: Long Day's Journey into Night

Author: Eugene O'Neill

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Overall Rating: (4.86/5) View all reviews (total 14 reviews)
Description

"By common consent, Long Day's Journey into Night is Eugene O'Neill's masterpiece. . . . The helplessness of family love to sustain, let alone heal, the wounds of marriage, of parenthood, and of sonship, have never been so remorselessly and so pathetically portrayed, and with a force of gesture too painful ever to be forgotten by any of us."—Harold Bloom, from the foreword "Only an artist of O'Neill's extraordinary skill and perception can draw the curtain on the secrets of his own family to make you peer into your own. Long Day's Journey into Night is the most remarkable achievement of one of the world's greatest dramatists."—Jose Quintero "The play is an invaluable key to its author's creative evolution. It serves as the Rosetta Stone of O'Neill's life and art."—Barbara Gelb "The definitive edition of a 'play of old sorrow, written in tears and blood,' as O'Neill described it in dedicating it to his wife, Carlotta."—Boston Globe

Reviews

NO EXIT

by Alfred Johnson
(4/5)

I have written reviews of some of Eugene O'Neill's other plays elsewhere in this space. I have noted there that Iceman Cometh is my favorite for a variety of reasons, some of them political. Journey, however, may be O'Neill best play and not only because it is somewhat autobiographical. The trials and tribulations of a dysfunctional family that is ultimately clueless about solutions to what ails each of the four characters (father, mother and two very unlike sons)is very much the stuff of modern drama. The intervention of the gods would seem out of place here.In O'Neill hands the tensions, misunderstandings and illusions presented are recognizable to today's audiences, even those who may themselves be troubled about finding solutions to some very disturbing problems. Althought this is a difficult play to read (and more difficult to watch performed)virtually everyone I know who has read and/or watch it has survived to the end. And was glad of it. That will tell as much as anything else that I could add that we are dealing with a master work of American literature. Enough said.


Great Play

by Amazon Customer
(5/5)

A great play written by a great writer. Although written more than 60 years ago, this play is still both powerful and relevant. The play is semi-autobiographical and contains brutal honesty about O'Neill and his family. I only wished it was performed more often. If you wish to read one America's greatest writers at the height of his powers, this monumental work is the play to start.


The light at the end of the tunnel...

by Bill R. Moore
(5/5)

...does not exist. That seems to be the message of this dark, depressing -- and yet, enthralling and mysteriously beautiful drama. As bleak as it is, its essential humanity has rendered an immortal classic. O'Neill, of course, was not just the first major figure in American drama: he practically made it, giving it a legitimacy and relevancy for the first time. As with many subsequent American plays -- think of Death of a Salesman or most of Tennessee William's better-known plays -- it centers on a family. In this particular case, the family happens to be a close reflection of O'Neill's own; the character of Edmund is his alter ego. In fact, the play was so autobiographical that O'Neill would not have it performed until after his death. It recounts a day in the life of the family by offering interactions between every possible combination of the four members of the family. The play is stunning and stark in its brutal depiction of the Tyrone family, a series of frightfully honest vignettes that destroys the hallowed ideal image of the close, contented American family. All members of the Tyrone family have their demons and their reasons for the inhumanity that they show toward each other. O'Neill does not judge them: he merely presents them as they are, without pretense or adornment. Hardly even a glimmer of light appears in the play, and the ending comes and goes without leaving even a single shred of hope. With subject matter like this, why, then, has the play remained popular for half a century, and why does it retain its power? For one thing, its sheer, unabated emotion touches a deep, almost primal, human chord. It speaks to us in the brutally honest way that a television sitcom never could. Most people probably see more of themselves in the Tyrone than they would like to admit, even to themselves. Their quarrels are probably not as striking and unfamiliar as most people would like to think. The play touches the heart even as it touches the soul, leaving the reader (or the viewer) drenched in an overwhelming sea of emotion at play's end. It is a stunning play that cuts straight to the core of a large part of the darker side of the American experience. Unlike many great plays, it also reads very well and very smoothly on the page. Anyone interested in classic drama or American literature will find a dark goldmine here.


As Good As It Gets

by David Schweizer "Almawood"
(5/5)

I had a friend once tell me that he had just read this play and had decided it was overrated. From that point on, I never considered anything he had to say very important. He had pretty much revealed his inner workings and I saw him for the ignoramus he is. I have read this play numerous times, seen play versions with Ralph Richardson and Jack Lemmon playing James Tyrone. It's a beautiful play, a funny play, a play that works one over, and leaves one feeling totally satisfied. If you never really understood the idea of catharsis, watch or read this play. I don't see the play as having flaws, although a well-known dramaturg once told me he thought the play needed cutting. Personally, I think the play needs nothing. Cutting would turn it into another play, not the magnificent work it is. The "fat," as for as I'm concerned, is as important to it as duck fat is to a delicious confit. Still, there must be those who could like to turn it into a two-act, so the audience can get home by 10:00 to watch reruns of "The Golden Girls." If it were cut, the play would not be able to work its magic of making one feel that one has been through a long evening with the characters. These idiot editors would trim a Haiku if you let them. This play is just about as good as it gets in the modern theater we are taught to love.


A chillingly typical day in the life of the young Eugene O'Neill

by D. Cloyce Smith
(5/5)

There's a good reason O'Neill insisted that Random House not publish this play until 25 years after his death, which would have prevented its production until 1978. The characters and the story are painfully drawn from O'Neill's own family life. Even though his immediate family members had all died, he surely was concerned about the hurt it could cause his surviving relatives and the impact of memories shared by his close friends. Random House ultimately honored the agreement but, fortunately for the history of drama, O'Neill's wife allowed the play to be published by Yale University Press and produced on Broadway in 1956, only three years after his death.The volume is labeled here as a "second edition" but in truth it's simply a corrected edition that fixes relatively minor errors that were introduced in the 1956 publication. (Due to a production error, the first printing dropped a single line. The 61st printing in 1989 restored four lines that were dropped by the typist who retyped O'Neill's edited manuscript. Otherwise, it's the same play that was originally published fifty years ago.)The play's power comes not from its plot; there is hardly any action at all. Instead, one sees O'Neill's family living out a single and typical day. James Tyrone, Sr., has spent his entire life playing one role in a nationally popular play, much like James O'Neill (Eugene's father), who starred in an adaptation of "The Count of Monte Cristo," appearing in some 4,000 performances between 1883 and 1912. Early in the play, Tyrone realizes that his wife, Mary, has suffered a relapse into her longtime morphine addiction. Similarly, just before he turned 13, Eugene O'Neill had learned of his own mother's morphine addiction (when she attempted to drown herself). The addiction, which lasted for more than a quarter of a century, resulted from the difficulties of Eugene's birth.The two sons are modeled on Eugene and his brother. The older Jamie is an amiable, shiftless loafer and an alcoholic in training. (The real Jamie entered a sanatorium after a bout of alcohol poisoning and died soon thereafter.) And the younger Edmund, of course, is Eugene himself, who worked as a seaman on various freighters, attempted to commit suicide in a Manhattan saloon soon after his return to the States, and returned home to learn he has tuberculosis.The play is set on a specific day in this family's life: the day Edmund finds out his diagnosis (which in Eugene's life would be in November 1912, only months before O'Neill began to write his first dramatic sketch). And it is certainly a long day's journey. O'Neill portrays his family brutally and lovingly: his mother is a ghost wandering the house in her dreamy universe; his father is a cheapskate concerned more about acquiring real estate than about spending a cent on his son's medical recovery; the brother begins drinking early in the morning and stumbles home nearly 24 hours later. Edmund is lost in his poetic musings.And all four of them manage constantly to get on each other's nerves with well-practiced rituals of selfishness, denial, argument, insult, and forgiveness. Their incessant banter and taxing squabbles don't always read well on the page; that professional performances of the play don't wear on the audience is a testimony to O'Neill's mastery of the dramatic form. It is, I think, O'Neill's best work.


Pain of Humanity: Perhaps the Best 20th Century Drama

by Gary F. Taylor "GFT"
(5/5)

The great bulk of Eugene O'Neill's work was done between about 1914 and 1933, a period which saw him win Pulitzer Prizes for Beyond The Horizon, Anna Christie, and Strange Interlude as well as create The Emperor Jones, The Hairy Ape, Desire Under the Elms, The Great God Brown, and Mourning Becomes Electra. But around 1933 O'Neill--who struggled against physical ailments, alcoholism, and a host of personal demons--fell silent.Although O'Neill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936, he would remain silent for some ten years, leaving most to believe he had written himself out, was burned out, that his career was over. But in spite of tremendous personal issues, O'Neill continued to write in private, and during this period he would generate a string of powerful plays, many of which would not be released for performance until after his death in 1953. The legendary Long Day's Journey Into Night, closely based on his own family life, was written in the early 1940s. It was first performed in 1956--some three years after his death--at which time it too won the Pulitzer Prize.The play presents the story of the Tyrone family. James Tyrone is a famous stage actor, now aging; his wife Mary is a delicately beautiful but sadly worn woman named Mary. Their two sons are studies in contrast: Jamie, in his late 30s, is wild--fond of wine, women, and song--and seen as a bad influence on younger Edmund, who is physically frail but intellectually sharp. The action takes place at their summer home, and begins in the morning; the family seems happy enough--but clearly there is something we do not know, something working under the surface that gives an unnatural quality to their interaction.Over the four acts and next four hours the morning passes into afternoon, the afternoon into night. And we will learn the truth: the history of money grubbing, the alcoholism, the drugs, the personal failures, the seemingly endless cycle of self-defeating, self-destructive behavior in which the four are locked beyond hope of redemption. And as it progresses the play gathers itself into an almost unendurable scream of agony, a scream of truly cosmic proportions.Why, you might ask, would someone wish to read--much less sit through--such a play? A work so painful that it often becomes difficult to continue reading or to look at the stage? I myself asked this question when I first encountered it. Over the years I have done quite a bit of theatre. In the early 1980s I played the role of Edmund; in the late 1990s I played the role of Jamie. On both occasions I found the play horrifically painful to perform. On both occasions I wondered if such a painful play could find an audience in small-town America. On both occasions Long Day's Journey Into Night sold out and not a person left the theatre before each performance ended.Because, I think, the play taps into something that is universal but which is extremely difficult to express in simple terms. As O'Neill might say himself, it has a touch of the poet--but of a failed poet. Somehow, in some unique way, it speaks to the self-knowledge we all have of the hidden dreams that never came true, the little accommodations, the big and small failures that have stung us and changed us and over time made us--for better or worse--the beings that we are. It has humanity. It makes us see our own humanity. It makes us acknowledge the humanity of those around us.Many, myself among them, regard this as O'Neill's finest play--and considering the great power that many of his works have, that is saying a great deal. It is also in some respects one of his most accessible plays: shorn of the experimentalism to which O'Neill was frequently drawn and beautifully simple, beautifully direct, even those unaccustomed to reading playscripts will find it a rapid and powerful read. For this reason it is really the only O'Neill script I recommend to casual readers. And I recommend it very, very strongly indeed. A great drama, both on the page and on the stage.GFT, Amazon Reviewer


None of us can help the things life has done to us

by H. Schneider
(5/5)

Eugene O'Neill's 4th Pulitzer for drama, awarded posthumously as the man had died before the play was produced in the US. He had actually wanted to block the book publication and stage production for 25 years after his death, due to its personal content. The play is presumed autobiographical, about his parents and brother and himself. Wife Carlotta overruled that time restriction. Maybe the man had verbally agreed. No matter now.This is one of his best. A family in dissolution. Father and two sons alcoholics, mother a junkie. Plus the youngest is consumptive. Facing truths is not everybody's cup of tea. Lies, suspicions and accusations damage a day. A good memory can be a burden.Deeply pessimistic, with a fatalism that might be typical for addicts who can't break the habit.The past is the present, isn't it? And the future?Who wants to see life as it is, if they can help it? It was a great mistake, my being born a man. I would have been much more successful as a sea gull or a fish.


The ultimate family portrait

by John E. Vidale "conventional Earth scientist"
(5/5)

If one is fortified for a dreary tale, this one is one of the best.On a nuts and bolts level, it has a credible cast of characters, the plot is self-consistent even as the past is revised by revelations, the story is more than engaging, and the general lessons on humanity can be applied to each of our lives.I found it not so overwhelmingly dreary. The characters have affection for each other, and express dreams and can recall successes as well as face their current, probably insurmountable problems.The addition of the background: having an autobiographical basis, published post-humously, from one of the leading American playwrights of his day, should make it required reading for a literate citizen. Frankly, I'm embarrassed I didn't read it until this year, when I'm nearly 50.


Prinsoners' Dilemma

by John Petralia
(5/5)

There are four of them. Father, Mother and two sons. This is just one day in their lives. Although there is no way of knowing for sure, you quickly get the impression that this day is not much different than yesterday or tomorrow. It's just another day of being a Tyrone. Trapped in their own mediocrity, the Tyrones do what most unhappy people do: Blame someone else. Mary blames her son Edmond for her addiction to morphine originally administered because of his difficult birth. Edmond and Jamie blame their career failures on their father's miserliness. Papa James sees his children as freeloaders and Mary as weak willed. Despite their angers and finger pointing, each views the family with a good deal of love and reverence. Mary says it best. "None of us can help the things life has done to us. They're done before you realize it, and once they're done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you'd like to be, and you've lost your true self forever." There you have it. Long Day's Journey into Night is a snapshot of how it is to be held prisoner in a house of mirrors. Each mirror, is flashed at you by someone to whom you are bound, someone you love, someone you hate. You can deny all you want. You can argue that mirrors distort, but there is always another mirror. You could escape. Cut the chains. But, then what? This is your family. You're stuck. Bound to them. Trapped. When you are a Tyrone, there's only one solution. Only one thing to do! You get even.


Intensity In Addiction

by Jon Linden
(5/5)

O'Neill's play "Long Day's Journey Into Night" is often considered his best work. The book is highly autobiographical and depicts a highly dysfunctional family where the men are all alcoholics and the mother is a morphine addict. The dialogue is truly intense and the stage direction is extremely relevant to the proper mood and attitude of the dialogue.The most interesting thing about the play is the stigma that is attached to the use of drugs, particularly in comparison to the use of alcohol. Alcohol use and alcoholism is `socially acceptable' whereas the use of narcotics is relegated to prostitutes and others of low social standing. The intensity of the dialogue rests in its ability to illustrate the torment of the family as it tries to deal with the drug addiction of the mother and the horror of the hold it has on her, while all the time, the alcoholism is just taken as routine. The father often comments about how he never "missed a performance" because of his alcohol use and therefore, it was not a problem. But in fact, it is a tremendous problem which they cannot shake, even though they are aware that it is consuming them.Perhaps most interesting of all is that the play was published posthumously. O'Neill seems to have been able to write it and face the terror of the dysfunctionality in 1940, but he would not allow publication of the play until he was no longer alive. While it was within his grasp to write about the situation, it was not within him to allow the world to see it within his time.The foreword by Harold Bloom is not surprisingly pedantic and overly academic. Bloom often takes the position that he knows what is appropriate, right and underlying about a written piece, but never assumes that any other person really properly understands what it is all about. He seems to see it as his job to inform others what they do not know; despite other people's potentially valid and illuminating interpretations. The reader may wish to completely skip the forward and go right to the words of O'Neill and make their own interpretation. Truly a marvel of a play, there is no person who would not gain from the reading of this brilliant work of the master playwright of his time.


Perfect Drama

by J. Smallridge
(5/5)

This probably is my favorite play ever written -- so brutally honest and so emotionally draining that it just forces attention throughout.


A Mother Done In By Addiction

by Kevin Killian
(5/5)

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT is a great play, but sitting through the acting of all the acts can be a very tough experience. It is a heartwrenching tale of a pair of brothers who are as different as night and day. When I was in high school a lack of girls required that I play the challenging part of Mary Tyrone, once a youthful beauty revelling in her ability to love and be loved, her body a wonderland as they say nowadays, but now only a shrivelled up hag, left on the shelf who finds solace in her needle full of morphine. Her husband, she thinks, doesn't understand her. The surprise in the play is that she finds out, oh yes he does understand her-only too well.She wears bedraggled clothes of the turn of the century period, which she has pathetically tried to keep clean, ironed and pressed, but which her morphine habit have caused to look wrinkled and generally dishevelled. She knows how she has fallen apart and it is part of her agony that she no longer looks very trig. Poor thing, she is always fussing with her hair (in my case, a long gray wig which my mother attempted to tie up in the middle like an old fashioned chignon. It kept falling out of its ribbon as I attempted to totter across the stage, imitating someone in the last throes of drug addiction, about which I knew very little. I imagined that I would always be seeing invisible people and monsters, like Ray Milland in Billy Wilder's LOST WEEKEND. And I would misplace things like my yarn and my spectacles, dropping them on what I thought was a book shelf but was actually thin air. I feel sorry for my fellow actors, three lovely guys totally upstaged by my antics, but I didn't know any better. The play lasted a considerably long time. We only had three performances though, and for the third we brought on two understudies for my two sons had quit the play and joined the basketball team instead, less stress.


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

by Mary Whipple
(5/5)

When Eugene O'Neill wrote this play in 1940, it was so autobiographical that O'Neill requested it not be published until twenty-five years after his death. When he died in 1953, all the other characters in the play had also died, however, and his wife allowed the play's publication in 1956. Despite O'Neill's three previous Pulitzer Prizes and his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936, it is this play (also a Pulitzer winner) that he regarded as his most important work, an assessment with which historians and theatre-goers universally agree. Many (and I am one) also believe it is the greatest American play ever written.Long Day's Journey Into Night is a complete theatrical experience, satisfying on every level. Recreating his own family and its interactions, O'Neill's emotional connection with the characters is obvious in the roundness of their characterizations: there are no villains or heroes here. James Tyrone, modeled on his father, is an actor who found the "perfect play," resulting in years of travel performing the same role. Permanently typecast and by now bored, James has earned a substantial salary but is considered a tightwad, unable to escape his memories of poverty. Mary Tyrone, his wife, to whom he is devoted, traveled with him when he performed, often leaving the children with family members. When her youngest child died in her absence, she blamed everyone for this accident. Edmund, modeled on O'Neill himself, was born after this, but Mary never recovered, and when an incompetent doctor prescribed drugs, she became blissfully addicted.The two sons, Jamie and Edmund, observe the interactions of their parents, their father losing himself in alcohol, their mother constantly re-addicting herself so she can live in a world without hurt, and they interact both with both parents and with each other. Jamie, considerably older than Edmund, regards himself as Edmund's protector, both from the outside world and from the sometimes hurtful relationships both have with their parents, who regard Jamie as a failure because of his drinking, and Edmund as a baby. Edmund, however, has traveled the world before returning home recently with a "bad summer cold," obviously the early stages of tuberculosis, a reality his mother refuses to recognize. As he awaits an official diagnosis from a cut-rate doctor, Edmund tries to channel his feelings and his fears into the poems he writes.Though many gifted dramatists can make one or two characters come alive in a play, O'Neill does it here for all four characters, each of whom rings completely true. Their actions and conflicts arise from within, and the viewer becomes completely caught up in the dialogue and events on stage because they are so natural, so life-like. Though the play is about three and a half hours long, these are hours that fly by, the intensity of the family's internal conflicts totally involving, as the love underlying these conflicts and the hidden resentments which ignite them emerge at odd moments and create poignant scenes. Ironic humor, much more obvious in the hands of outstanding stage actors than in the written script, provides relief from the powerful tensions and keeps the play from ever appearing sentimental or melodramatic. The most moving theatrical experience I have ever had, this play is breathtaking, heart-rending, and utterly overwhelming. n Mary WhippleA Touch of the Poet (Broadway Theatre Archive)Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh (Broadway Theatre Archive)Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra (Broadway Theatre Archive)Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten (Broadway Theatre Archive)Four Plays By Eugene O'Neill (Signet Classics)


Living death in the middle class

by Newton Ooi
(4/5)

Starting in the 1600s, America was known as the place to make it big, where one could make a decent and happy living if one just worked hard. Whether contrasted to the chaos of Revolutionary France, the abject urban poverty of Dickens' England, the abject rural poverty of Ireland, the militarization of German society or the civil strife of Russia; America was heaven on Earth, a place where one could live the life they wanted. This image gradually wore away by the early 1900's, and this disillusionment was captured in work after work of American literature. The Great Gatsby unveiled the decay of the super-rich, The Grapes of Wrath showed the pitfalls of the rural farmer, Sinclair's "The Jungle" revealed the horrors of industrialized society, and To Kill a Mockingbird forced us to confront the horror of Jim Crowe laws. But no work so fully and so subtly attacked the everyday failings and desperation of middle class America until this short classic by Eugene O'Neill. This story has no true protagonist or antagonist. Instead, it examines one middle-class family, the Tyrones, over the course of one day. The Tyrones live in their own house, and are financially independent. The parents are middle-aged. The husband is past his prime earning years, and his wife, Mary, is addicted to snuff. One son is an alcoholic womanizer, and the other is frail and probably a nervous wreck. Nobody is in danger of starvation or eviction, but the family as a whole has problems, with depression probably being universal. Everyone has personal failings that weigh on their souls, and each day is a struggle to get through without damaging relationships with each other. Hence the title of the book, a long day's journey into night. Night probably means death here, as noone in the family is going to die soon. The journey is the time they have to spend with each other and put up with each other. This fate, this tragedy probably afflicts more people around the world than any other, and that is to have to live with your failings and those of your loved ones. This book was published at the end of O'Neill's career, and is supposed to represent his family. Regardless of its intention, this is a great book, and of the few American classics that anyone around the world can understand.


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