American Religion in Long Days Journey into Night
The modernist sentiments throughout Long Days Journey into Night, by Eugene O'Neill, are apparent in many different ways. Among the methods he used was the portrayal of America's withdrawal from traditional religion and modes of behavior. He used his immigrant Irish family, the Tyrones, as a pedestal for this idea by highlighting their departure from traditional Irish beliefs and their struggle to form new, uniquely American, ones. O'Neill did this by repeatedly evoking a drastic difference between his character's conduct and their Irish Catholic counterparts. He replaced the main tenets of the Catholic faith, communion and confession, with entirely new ones. While the Tyrone family was busy forging new American spirituality, the author was bringing about the birth of truly American drama.
The Tyrone family made the choice to renounce their old ties and form new ones, with differing amounts of success. This meant a severing from the Catholic faith community, leaving a social void that they tried to fill with drugs and money. James Tyrone, the father, sold himself out early on when he opted to act for money rather that for the sake of art. His sons Jamie and Edmond also turned away from the Church by shrouding their lives in alcohol and whores. Lastly, their mother Mary Tyrone had effectively excommunicated herself by marrying a disreputable actor and turning to morphine to solve her problems. I am not sure if in the end their gods matched up to their former one, except in the case of Edmond (the author Eugene), who lived to tell the tale.
Without a paternal Church to administer sacraments to them, the Tyrone family floundered in the uncharted territory they had chosen to travel. For instance, they were deeply alienated from each other and from the rest of the world. There was a total breakdown of communication between themselves and other humans, because no outside authority had given them communion. Rather than receiving the gift of communication from without, they had to search for it within themselves. This is contrasted to the Catholic faith, where a hierarchy decides who can communicate with whom. This concentration on individual faith is uniquely American in nature, because America focuses upon the individual rather than the whole. Individuality is a very good characteristic for people in America to have. Whereas in other cultures, respect to norms, conformity and obedience are valued much higher.