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Themes

The characters in Long Day's Journey are absolutely obsessed with thinking over the past and either feeling guilty about what they've done, or blaming someone else for all the problems they face. Once one of the children dies at a young age and the mother becomes addicted to morphine, everyone keeps worrying about whether they should have had another kid, who was responsible for the baby's death, why the mother became addicted to morphine, and generally how they or others have failed as good mothers, fathers, sons, and brothers.

Questions About Guilt and Blame

  1. Check out James's speech about his youth in Act IV (lines 135-141). Does he feel guilty? Who does he think he's wronged?
  2. What can the conversation between Jamie and James in Act I, Scene One (lines 164-170) tell us about how guilt and blame work for these two Tyrones? Do guilt and blame work in the same way for Mary?
  3. Do you get the sense that Edmund blames anyone for what's happening to the family? Why or why not? Does he feel guilty about anything?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

James is basically incapable of subordinating his own obsessions to the desires of others. He makes a show of sentimentality and compassion, but in the end he can't look far beyond Numero Uno.

James's and Jamie's thinking is dominated by a causal logic that always includes blame. No action can occur that isn't someone's fault.

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