Long Day's Journey Into Night Introduction
In A Nutshell
Long Day's Journey Into Night is the story of one devastating day in the Tyrone family. The play depicts the family members' downward spiral into addiction, disease, and their own haunted pasts. It is generally regarded as Eugene O'Neill's masterpiece.
O'Neill (1888-1953) was a major figure in the international drama scene. Before he came along, the rest of the world didn't give a flip about American plays. In the rest of the world's defense, there really wasn't much going on in the way of American play writing. Our buddy Eugene wasn't having that. He busted up on the scene and became the first American playwright to gain a real and lasting international reputation. In 1936 he became the first and only American playwright to win the Nobel Prize for literature.
O'Neill also has the distinction of winning the Pulitzer Prize more times than any other playwright. He did so three times during his life – for Beyond the Horizon, 1920; Anna Christie, 1922; Strange Interlude, 1928. As if that wasn't enough, he went and won a fourth Pulitzer for Long Day's Journey Into Night in 1957. The thing is – he was already dead.
O'Neill's wife, Carlotta, published the play after his death. This went against his wishes. He gave instructions that the play not be published until 25 years after his death. Carlotta, for whatever reason, couldn't wait that long. At first she tried to get Random House to publish it, but they felt bad about going against O'Neill's wishes. Yale Press, however, didn't seem to mind and published the play in 1956. This was only three years after O'Neill's death.
Whether or not it was cool of Carlotta to go against O'Neill's wishes is up for debate. Whatever the case, the play premiered in Stockholm, Sweden, on February 2, 1956. The Swedes went nuts over it, and everybody else did too. The play went on to cement O'Neill's reputation. He is now considered to be one of the world's greatest dramatists.
Why Should I Care?
We're willing to bet that you don't have much trouble relating to the Tyrones. Don't believe us? Check out this list and see if anything sounds familiar:
- Do you ever get frustrated with your family?
- Does your family ever blame you for things you haven't done?
- If you are guilty of something, will your family keep reminding you of it?
- Has your family ever done you wrong? Did you perhaps do them wrong in turn?
- In spite of family issues, do you still find yourself wanting to forgive them? In spite of it all, do you still feel love?
Even if your family isn't plagued by the same troubles as the Tyrones, the broader themes of the play will most likely ring true. At its core, Long Day's Journey Into Night is about love and loneliness. We're willing to go out on a limb and say that most everybody has experienced these emotions at one time or another. The play's richly textured characters are no different. Each one is wracked by desperate love and aching loneliness.
O'Neill 's portrait of these fundamental human emotions is masterfully drawn. Perhaps this is why the four tormented Tyrones continue to find sympathy with audiences. Chances are there's a little emotional truth to be found in the play for every member of every family.