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Long Day's Journey Into Night

Long Day's Journey Into Night

by Eugene O'Neill

Fate and Free Will Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

MARY
I'm not blaming you, dear. How can you help it? How can any one of us forget? That's what makes it so hard – for all of us. We can't forget. (1.1.228)

This is the first of Mary's many fatalistic conclusions. The argument is basically this: since things have happened in the past, we can't be blamed for expecting them to happen again. This makes sense in the abstract, but the problem is that it takes away a person's agency if the event actually can be prevented from happening again. Mary has taken away the possibility of human intervention from her equation. There's simply no way to forget the past, and so it must dictate the future.

Quote #2

MARY
Bitterly.
Because he's always sneering at someone else, always looking for the worst weakness in everyone.
Then, with a strange, abrupt change to a detached, impersonal tone.
But I suppose life has made him like that, and he can't help it. None of us can help the things life has done to us. They're done before you realize it, and once they're done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you'd like to be, and you've lost your true self forever. (2.1.76)

Once again, under the influence of morphine, Mary abandons the blame game and turns to fatalism. She recognizes that getting mad at Jamie logically leads to her blaming herself for poor decisions she made in her past (such as, perhaps, marrying James or getting pregnant with Edmund). That's why she says you lose your true self – she attributes the blame of her past actions to a self that wasn't actually her, but necessarily had to come about due to prior decisions.

Quote #3

EDMUND
Scornfully parodying his brother's cynicism.
They never come back! Everything's in the bag! It's all a frame-up! We're all fall guys and suckers and we can't beat the game!
Disdainfully.
Christ, if I felt the way you do--!
JAMIE
Stung for a momentthen shrugging his shoulders, dryly.
I thought you did. Your poetry isn't very cheery. Nor the stuff you read and claim you admire.
He indicates the small bookcase at rear.
Your pet with the unpronounceable name, for example.
EDMUND
Nietzsche. You don't know what you're talking about. You haven't read him.
JAMIE
Enough to know it's a lot of bunk!
TYRONE
Shut up, both of you! There's little choice between the philosophy you learned from Broadway loafers, and the one Edmund got from his books. They're both rotten to the core. (2.2.28-32)

Poor Nietzsche always gets a bad rap for encouraging apathy, when in reality his philosophies were all about encouraging people to take control of their own life and do something. Sounds like the opposite of apathy to us.

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