In the early 20th century, America was moving up socially and economically because of the advancing technology. The standard of living was vastly improving, and people lived a much better condition; however, women were still trapped in the world of patriarchy during this time period. Patriarchy is a social system that “privileges men by promoting traditional gender roles” which casts men as “rational, strong, protective, and decisive” while woman as “emotional (irrational), weak, nurturing, and submissive” (Tyson 85). Because of such system, women are indoctrinated into the mentality that they are inferior to men. In the play, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Eugene O’Neill portrays Mary Tyrone, the female protagonist, was being oppressed socially and psychologically by her family. Her husband, James, and two sons, Jamie and Edmund, attempt to support her and keep her stable. However, their remedies not only backfire against them but causing her to become more unstable.
The play takes place on August 1912; it is a peaceful time before World War I. The time period reflects a time of prosperity for United State as Edmund says that Harker was “no slave Standard Oil could trample on” referring to the fast growing period of the industrial titans such as John D. Rockefeller (O'Neill 24). Everyone is overjoy with the economy and many would have a stable job. However, women had neither a good standing in socioeconomics nor had the right to vote; thus, they did not have a voice in the political arena. During that time, women were considered possessions of their husbands; for example, if the wife had some objects stolen, the husband would be labeled as victim of crime (Gender). When the girl marries into a family, she is part of that family and has to concede to her husband’s demands, regardless of the nature. The wives generally stayed home to do housework and nurture children while their husbands’ worked for the family. The reason that women were subordinate to men was because society believes women are physically weaker than men; so they are unsuitable for hard outdoor labor or heavy-duty work (Clive, Tim and Robert). Because of such tradition, these women became dependent to their husbands and did not have the same freedom that the men enjoyed.
In the play, Mary is a beautiful woman and lives the life like any other girls of her time; but she is emotionally attached to her sons and her family when she marries into the Tyrone family. She is also getting old, so she keeps going on her days worrying about her change of appearance. She suffers from a morphine addiction and she is psychologically wounded because of her past. She tries many times to break free but she could not stop as she spends time with her family. She has gone through many struggles but she cannot move on with her life. She keeps looking back into the past; and she regrets marrying into the family because of the dreams she had to sacrifice such as becoming a nun or a concert pianist.