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Long Day's Journey Into Night

Long Day's Journey Into Night


by Eugene O'Neill

Long Day's Journey Into Night Act III, Scene One Summary

  • Once again we're in the living room; it is now at half past six.
  • The fog has rolled in, and a foghorn is sounding regularly, along with the bells of ships at anchor. The tray with whiskey is back.
  • Mary and Cathleen are talking. Cathleen has clearly been drinking, while Mary is even more zoned out than before. We are told that she's in the midst of a dream in which present reality can be dismissed or ignored. She seems youthful and happy, naïve and chatty. Mary's hair is now lopsided, and she's talking to Cathleen as if they were close old friends.
  • The foghorn sounds and Mary starts complaining about it. Cathleen agrees, but then Mary adds that she doesn't mind it tonight, though she normally does. The stage directions tell us that Mary's keeping Cathleen around just so that Mary can keep on talking.
  • Cathleen mentions that Smythe, the driver, keeps hitting on her, but Mary seems entirely ignoring her at this point.
  • Oblivious to Cathleen, Mary continues that she loves the fog, since it hides her from the world and the world from her. It's the foghorn, on the other hand, that she hates, since it keeps calling her back to dreary reality. Tonight, though, the foghorn reminds Mary of nothing except James's snores.
  • Meanwhile, Cathleen keeps talking about Smythe, but then says she ought to go help Bridget in the kitchen.
  • Mary asks her to stay, because she doesn't want to be alone. She tells Cathleen she can bring Bridget some whiskey later, which should calm her down, and then offers her another drink.
  • Cathleen is clearly tipsy, and for a second hesitates, but (like everyone else in this play) agrees to take another drink.
  • Mary suggests they play Jamie's trick, filling the whiskey bottle with water to make the level the same (at this point, is there any actual whiskey left in this bottle?).
  • Cathleen worries that James will notice the trick with the bottle, but Mary assures her he'll be too drunk.
  • Cathleen calls alcohol a "good man's failing," and mentions that James seems upset by Edmund's illness.
  • Mary responds that James is never concerned about anything other than money, and besides, Edmund isn't very sick at all.
  • Speaking of James, Cathleen asks Mary why she never went on stage, and Mary responds resentfully that she was brought up to be respectable, and that she was educated in a convent.
  • Cathleen notes that, for someone who wanted to be a nun, Mary doesn't go to church often.
  • Mary ignores Cathleen, talking instead about the theater. Mary never felt at home in the world of the theater, without friends. She stops abruptly, and mentions how thick the fog is.
  • Mary turns to Cathleen and thanks her for hanging out that afternoon.
  • Cathleen says she had fun in the car, but mentions that the druggist treated her like a thief when she handed him the prescription for morphine, until she mentioned Mary's name.
  • Mary dreamily claims that the morphine is medicine for her hands, which were once beautiful, musician's hands.
  • Mary falls into nostalgia for her convent days and for her dear father, who would have sent her to Europe to study piano if she hadn't married James.
  • As a child, Mary dreamed of becoming either a nun or a pianist, but she couldn't play the piano professionally while she was on the road with James. Her gnarled hands are another reminder of all that Mary's lost.
  • Yet, tonight, Mary insists, she's far away and the pain is gone.
  • Genius Cathleen finally notices that Mary's acting kind of weird, but Mary keeps on talking, looking more and more like the innocent convent girl she used to be.
  • Mary prattles about James when they first met – he was so handsome and so famous.
  • Her father took Mary to one of James's plays, and she got to meet him backstage. She could tell he liked her immediately, as she was very pretty back then. He was simple, kind, unassuming, and not stuck-up. She wanted so much to be his wife.
  • That was 36 years ago, Mary says, and they've loved each other ever since. In fact, there's never been a whisper of scandal about him with another woman, and that makes Mary very happy.
  • Cathleen asks to go to Bridget now, and Mary lets her leave – Mary doesn't need her anymore.
  • Mary orders Cathleen to tell Bridget to prepare dinner at the regular time, even though the boys won't be back in time. Even though Mary won't eat, she wants to get dinner over with.
  • Cathleen is distressed that Mary doesn't plan to eat and blames it on her medicine, but Mary responds mechanically: "What medicine?"
  • Cathleen exits, and Mary is left alone. The foghorn moans, followed by bells, but Mary doesn't seem to hear. All of a sudden, she frowns and shakes her head, losing the girlish quality that touched her during her reverie with Cathleen. She now appears aging and sad.
  • Mary calls herself a sentimental fool, since her real happiness came before she met James, when she was still in the convent.
  • Mary tries to say a prayer in an effort to retrieve her faith, but it comes out flat; she wonders whether the Virgin Mary can really be fooled by a drug addict. This thought drives Mary, perversely, to decide she hasn't taken enough morphine.
  • Mary springs to her feet, but, as she heads upstairs, she hears voices outside. At first she's upset, wanting to be alone with the morphine, but then she realizes she's been terribly lonely without her family.
  • James and Edmund enter. They've both been drinking, though without all that much visible effect. They can immediately tell Mary's been doping, but she greets them warmly.
  • Mary tells them she's so happy that they came, instead of staying at a cheerful bar with people to talk to. She really appreciates it, she assures them, especially since she knows Jamie won't come home until he's run out of money. Mary calls Jamie lost to the family and hopes that he won't drag Edmund down just like he killed Eugene.
  • James and Edmund beg her to stop this kind of talk, but James does agree that Edmund should be careful around Jamie.
  • Mary keeps on talking about babies, both Jamie and Eugene, and James wishes aloud that he hadn't come home.
  • Mary goes on, saying Edmund, unlike his brothers, was always upset and frightened as a baby.
  • Jamie, on the other hand, was so wonderful growing up, and got along so well with everyone, until he started drinking.
  • Mary turns on James, accusing him of making Jamie an alcoholic by remedying all of Jamie's childhood ailments with a spoonful of whiskey.
  • James angrily retorts that Mary casts blame whenever she's high, but Edmund backs his mother up on the whiskey question.
  • Mary says she doesn't blame James, since he stopped school at ten and came from an ignorant, impoverished Irish family. His folks really did think that whiskey was good medicine. James is on the verge of exploding, but Edmund tells him to chill out.
  • Mary finally notices exactly how much she's aggravated James and apologizes.
  • Mary confides in James that she was telling Cathleen about the night she and James met and fell in love.
  • Mary and James tell one another that they'll always love each other, but the moment soon subsides when Mary drifts away again, adding that she wouldn't have married James had she known how much he drank. According to Mary, on the couple's honeymoon, some bar friends had to leave a passed-out James outside of their hotel room.
  • James insists it isn't true, but Mary seems convinced; Mary keeps talking about how she had been waiting for him all night, worried he'd been in an accident – but she's gotten used to his drunkenness over the years.
  • James asks Mary if she'll ever forget about that, but Mary says she can forgive but can't forget, like she always does.
  • Mary then turns to happier memories, bringing up their wedding.
  • Mary's father had wanted her to get the nicest dress she could find, but her mother was jealous of her father's obvious affection for Mary.
  • Mary's mother wanted Mary to become a nun. She accused Mary's father of spoiling her, arguing that Mary would never make a good wife thanks to his cosseting (spoiling).
  • Mary asks James if her mother was right, if Mary is a bad wife. James, of course, tries to laugh it off and says he doesn't complain.
  • Mary is momentarily upset, saying she did her best – "under the circumstances."
  • Mary quickly falls back into happy girlish mode, and keeps talking about her wedding dress.
  • Mary was vain back then, and liked to check herself out in the mirror while trying on the dress.
  • Mary wonders where the gown could be now, since she meant to preserve it for her daughter if she ever had one – perhaps it's in the attic?
  • James then takes a drink of his whiskey. He immediately notices that the stuff has been completely diluted with water.
  • James thinks even Jamie wouldn't have gone this far, and angrily asks Mary if she's taken up drinking as well.
  • Edmund diffuses yet another brewing argument between his parents by claiming that Mary treated Cathleen and Bridget to a bit of a drink, since they work so hard, and since Cathleen filled Mary's morphine prescription for her.
  • Edmund thinks it's absurd to tell Cathleen about the morphine, but Mary angrily asks why it should be a secret that she needs medicine for her rheumatism. Increasingly infuriated, Mary rounds on Edmund, saying she never needed morphine before Edmund was born.
  • James is taken aback by this bitterly cruel comment, and tells Edmund not to mind Mary when she's this far-gone.
  • Mary asks if James will overcome his miserliness long enough to turn on the lights, since Edmund has proved that one bulb burning doesn't cost much.
  • James knows just one light isn't expensive, but they make the electric companies rich by leaving on many lights here and there. Begrudgingly, James turns on a lamp and goes to get another bottle of whiskey.
  • Once James is out of the room, Mary confides in Edmund about his father. Edmund shouldn't be angry that James is so tight-fisted, she explains.
  • James's father deserted his mother and six children a year after their family came to America; his father lamented his lost land of Ireland and returned there to die. It's because of this desertion that James had to start working when he was only ten. Even if Edmund's heard this story a thousand times, he would do well to remember it, Mary chastises.
  • Finally, Edmund asks his mother whether she even cares about what he found out at the doctor's office that afternoon.
  • Mary's hurt by Edmund's accusation; nonetheless, Edmund goes on, saying that what he has is serious.
  • Mary accuses Doctor Hardy of being an old, lying quack, but Edmund replies that Hardy has called in a specialist.
  • Mary ignores this response, telling Edmund that one of the doctors at the sanatorium (a facility for long-term health care) where she went for rehab told her that Hardy should be jailed for his choice to treat Mary with morphine – especially since it affected her so much that one time and tried to jump off a dock.
  • Edmund remembers the dock incident happening the night after he first heard about Mary's addiction. When Jamie told him, Edmund called him a liar and punched him. At heart, though, Edmund knew it was true and felt awful.
  • Mary asks Edmund to stop hurting her with these recollections, so he says sorry, even though she's the one who brought it up.
  • In any event, Edmund says, it's now his turn for the sanatorium.
  • This news dazes Mary, who refuses to let Edmund go.
  • Mary would be okay with Hardy treating Jamie, but not Edmund. She contends that Hardy has always been jealous of her babies, and that he was responsible for Eugene's death. (But what about the Bad Seed act Mary accuses Jamie of earlier, infecting Eugene intentionally with measles? Clearly there's some truth to James's accusation that Mary gets heavily into the blame game when she's under the influence.)
  • Edmund tells Mary to stop babbling like a lunatic and asks why she was never this upset when Edmund went traveling?
  • Mary responds that Edmund should know – after Edmund found out about her addiction, she was glad whenever he'd be willing to see her.
  • This revelation crushes Edmund, who takes Mary's hand.
  • Still, this moment between mother and son ends when Edmund drops Mary's hand and says bitterly that she talks a good game about loving him, but she doesn't care how sick Edmund really is.
  • Mary claims that she only ignores his illness because she's certain that Hardy is lying.
  • Mary accuses Edmund of being a drama queen like his father, always making big scenes out of nothing.
  • Edmund exclaims that he could die; after all Mary's father died of "it." Mary's hard-core in denial, though, riposting that her father had consumption, which is irrelevant to Edmund's case.
  • Edmund stands up angrily, bursting out that it's rough having a dope fiend for a mother.
  • Mary winces and Edmund caves, asking her to forgive him.
  • Mary walks to the windows. She wonders why the fog makes everything sound so melancholy and distant.
  • Edmund cries out that he can't stay any longer, and runs out through the front parlor.
  • Once Edmund's left the living room, Mary decides she needs another hit of morphine.
  • Mary muses that maybe, one fine day, she will accidentally overdose – she could never do it on purpose because the Blessed Virgin wouldn't forgive her.
  • James comes back with a new bottle of whiskey, super mad.
  • Why so serious? James can tell that Jamie has been trying to pick the whiskey cellar lock. The only thing that's been preventing Jamie is the fancy lock James installed.
  • James inquires after Edmund, and Mary tells him Edmund has gone out, probably to find Jamie.
  • Mary wonders why Edmund doesn't have any appetite, but then reminds herself – it's that pesky summer cold!
  • James shakes his head helplessly at Mary's obtuseness.
  • Mary suddenly breaks down, crying out that she knows Edmund's going to die.
  • James reassures Mary that, in six months, Edmund should be fine, but now Mary is convinced that James is lying.
  • Mary blames herself harshly for having given birth Edmund. If he'd never been born, after all, he would never have had to despise his drug addict of a mother.
  • James attempts to comfort his distraught wife: Edmund does love her and is proud of her.
  • Cathleen comes in, and James quickly changes his tune, telling Mary to stop crying.
  • Cathleen appears, clearly drunk, to announce dinner.
  • Cathleen then remembers that Mary had told her to tell Bridget not to prepare dinner for James since the men of the family wouldn't be home.
  • Cathleen tells James that Bridget will be mad. Seeing James's accusing look, Cathleen assures him that she only drank what she was offered by Mary.
  • Mary, zoning out yet once more, tells James she's in too much pain to eat. She wants to go upstairs and rest instead.
  • James remarks snidely that, at this rate, Mary will be a mad ghost by the time the night is through.
  • Firmly resisting James's charges, Mary accuses James of meanness when he's drunk as she walks away. He's as bad as Jamie or Edmund, adds Mary.
  • James wanders, broken, into the dining room.

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