The Ending to Eugene O'Neil's Long Day's Journey Into Night
It is understandable that so many people in our class did not find the last act of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night a satisfying one; there is no tidy ending, no goodbye kisses or murder confessions; none of the charaters leave the stage with flowers in their hands or with smiles on their faces and none of the characters give explanatory monologues after the curtain falls, as we've become accustomed to by reading so much Shakespeare. O'Neill, though, isn't Shakespeare and Long Days Journey Into Night is as different from, say, A Midsummer's Night Dream or Twelfth Night than a pint of stout ale is from a glass of light chardonney. It is because of the uniqueness of the play that the final act is so fitting a conclusion, and it is because of the essence of the play that there is closure in the final scene and it is because of hte nature of hte play that the final act carries upon its shoulders as powerful an impact as any other ending put upon an American stage.
The reason that many people did not find the end of hte play a real conclusion is because of the fact that Long Day's Jounrey Into Night is not a play of action, like almost all other plays are. It is set within a single room during the course of a single day, and it consists mainly of long monologue and bitter banter rather than movement or plot development, but there is a reason that O'Neill does this; his play is not one where characters move from place to place and experience various dilemnas and need to work their way out through the course of a beginning, middle and end. LDJIN is a play of introspection, a play of confession, understanding and ultimately, a play of understanding, and it is in the final act of the play that all of these elements are worked out.
The Tyrone family is, as Edmund describes them, a family of "fog people"; through the first three acts of hte play we see them hiding their true feelings and emotions from each other from not each other but from themselves through a stammering which has developed from many years of holding things back. Even Jamie, who is berated time and time again for his loose tongue, stammers, as he has things that he has left unsaid and that no one is really aware. In many ways, the first three acts of the play are little more than just this - four characters stammering, letting emotions build themselves up inside of them; the first three acts are a prelude to the drama that unfolds in the final act of the play. In the beginnings of the play we are given the extreme circumstances surrounding the family that day: Edmund is to be diagnosed with consumption, Mary is to fall deeper and deeper into an addiction from which she supposedly recovered, and each of the characters is to unravel under the strain that all the stammering has placed upon them. We are given the impression that the events of the fourth act has never happened before; for example, even...