Man’s Struggles of Fate by the Curse of Birth in Eugene O'Neill's A Long Day's Journey into Night
Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey into Night deals with tragedy and its attendant focus on character rather than plot. Another emphasis on the play is on the past that ceases to haunt his characters. O’Neill’s characters of A Long Day’s Journey into Night struggle with the past. These characters all seem to agree with Mary Tyrone who claims that a person “can’t help being what the past made him” (Baym 1313). The fact that a character can struggle with his or her past suggests that the past is something open to question, changeable, and perhaps even unknowable. Patricia Schroeder says “The past as it invades the present or as individual characters interpret it had little currency on the formally realistic stage” (Schroeder 30). O’Neill’s characters of A Long Day’s Journey into Night reveal the ongoing past gradually and continuously throughout the play. As one reads the play, he or she can see O’Neill deal with his own past through these characters.
For Eugene O’Neill, there is only one real subject for drama: The subject here is the same ancient one that always and always will be the one subject for drama, and that is man’s struggle with his own fate. The struggle used to be with the gods, but it is now with himself, his own past. Implicit in this statement are a number of O’Neill’s fundamental principles in this play and his own life. O’Neill embeds principles of Greek tragedy within a naturalistic play and so fully realizes his lifelong goal of dramatizing “man and this struggle with … himself, his own past” (Schroeder 30). In this play it is, indeed, the “struggle” to understand the formative past that shapes the present action. In O’Neill’s life, it is the play that helps him through his past. O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey into Night serves as therapeutic for the dramatist’s life and an explication of his family’s story. His last wife, Carlotta Monterey O’Neill describes his approach to writing the play about his own family’s tragedy. She says that his past haunted him and that he was bedeviled into writing it. She explains that he needed to get it out of his system and to forgive whatever it was that caused this tragedy between himself and his mother and father. “I think he felt freer when he got it out of his system. It was his way of making peace with his family—and himself”.
Eugene O’Neill can be best compared to the character of Edmund Tyrone. O’Neill along with Edmund grew up in hotels as his parents toured with the theater. He too used alcohol as an escape to reality and the past. After tuberculosis nearly killed him, he sobered up and decided to write plays. O’Neill brakes away from drama traditions and experimented by conveying emotions in his plays, opening a world of the mind, memories and fears. In A Long Day’s Journey into Night O’Neill dramatizes the complexity of family life. O’Neill writes...