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The Past In Long Day’s Journey Into Night And August: Osage County

2422 words - 10 pages

The past has a funny way of catching up with people. Sometimes, those individuals relish revisiting the olden days. For others, the past is something to be hidden away and never spoken of for fear of stirring up cruel memories and disturbing secrets. For the four members of the Tyrone family, the past is an escape, but also an inescapable prison. Each character in this play longs to return to a point in the past where they were happy, yet they are also haunted by their respective pasts. Some of the Westons of Osage County are also haunted by the events that transpired in the past. But unlike the Tyrones, the Westons do not welcome the past in their home at all. It forces itself into their lives and ruins what little happiness there is to be had. The Tyrones, on the other hand sedate themselves with those memories of happier times. The older generations in both families made decisions that haunted the future generations and condemned not only themselves, but also their progeny. Not one member of either family is able to escape from the events of the past unscathed.
The patriarchs and matriarchs of each family made decisions that set the tone of tragedy for the lives of their children. The events that occurred during this generation’s younger years were the precedents by which their offspring lived. Beverly Weston and James Tyrone both committed questionable acts in the past that affect the lives of everyone else in their families. All throughout Long Day’s Journey Tyrone is reproached for being cheap; his family believes that that stinginess is what led to Mary’s morphine addiction. This accusation plagues Tyrone and when he and his wife begin discussing it, he beseeches her, “Mary! For god’s sake, forget the past!” (O’Neill 90). Whether there is validity to this claim that Tyrone is the one responsible or not, it seems to bother him enough that he wishes everyone to forget about the event, himself included. As for Beverly Weston, his decision to have an extramarital affair with his wife’s sister resulted in dire consequences for his entire family. Violet, his betrayed wife is addicted to painkillers. Whether or not this is because of Beverly’s infidelity is unclear. In the prologue of August: Osage County, Beverly states, “As to whether she takes pills because I drink . . . I learned long ago not to speak for my wife” (Letts 11). It is clearly insinuated in both plays that the actions the men of the households took in the past have led to some kind of deterioration in the women they married.
In turn, the matriarchs are not innocent of blame in either play. Mary’s morphine addiction is the main stressor for the Tyrone family. Mary fears the past because of her own guilt over the death of her second child. She regrets having left the baby to travel with her husband on the road. She is haunted by her decisions in the past and believes that the past is the present and the future; she fears that she is doomed to relive the poor decisions she made in...

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