Long Day's Journey Into Night
Memory and The Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
[Mary] has hidden deeper within herself and found refuge and release in a dream where present reality is but an appearance to be accepted and dismissed unfeelingly – even with a hard cynicism – or entirely ignored. There is at times an uncanny gay, free youthfulness in her manner, as if in spirit she were released to become again, simply and without self-consciousness, the naïve, happy, chattering schoolgirl of her convent days. (3.1.opening stage directions)
Morphine keeps working as a kind of time machine for Mary, a trope that reaches its peak in the play's conclusion. Her method of forgetting about her present pains isn't some sort of out-of-body experience, like Edmund's sailing epiphanies. Instead, she floats off regularly in substance-induced trances to simpler times, before she left her convent and married James.
It's the foghorn I hate. It won't let you alone. It keeps reminding you, and warning you, and calling you back.
She smiles strangely.
But it can't tonight. It's just an ugly sound. It doesn't remind me of anything. (3.1.9)
Here we have the clearest indication that Mary is attempting to escape from her present reality through morphine. The foghorn here can work as a symbol, just like Mary's hands, Edmund's sickness, or even conversations with James – all of these things remind Mary of all the suffering in her life, and morphine lets her drift back in time and forget about her worries.
Mary! Can't you forget--?
With detached pity.
No, dear. But I forgive. I always forgive you. So don't look so guilty. (3.1.73-74)
This is an unusual moment for James, who doesn't usually ask that the past be forgotten – though it makes sense considering what a jerk he was during their honeymoon. Even more interesting, though, is Mary's suggestion that she remembers everything bad James does, but always forgives them. Is this really true though? It seems to us that perhaps Mary can explain James's behavior, but she never really stops feeling resentful toward him, does she? Unless she's in her most abstract "nobody can change anything" philosophical mode, it seems like she does attribute guilt to him.