Study Guide

Long Day's Journey Into Night Suffering

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It makes is so much harder, living in this atmosphere of constant suspicion, knowing everyone is spying on me, and none of you believe in me, or trust me […] If there was only some place I could go to get away for a day, or even an afternoon, some woman friend I could talk to – not about anything serious, simply laugh and gossip and forget for a while – someone besides the servants – that stupid Cathleen! (1.1.207-209)

We can see here that, even without considering her own addiction or Edmund's illness, Mary's life in the house is intolerable. She has no one to talk to other than Cathleen, and she feels stifled and lonely. Her life consists entirely of waiting for the other Tyrones to come home and dealing with the servants. This boredom surely contributes to her drug habit.

That's what makes it so hard – for all of us. We can't forget. (1.1.228)

Here, Mary points to the main reason she suffers. We're clued in, for the first time really, that what upsets her most may not be crumbling family ties, Edmund's health, or her lack of social life. Rather, she is haunted by something in her past, including but not limited to: the death of Eugene and the losses of her religious life, innocence, reputation, sense of home, and/or virginity.

You're welcome to come up and watch me if you're so suspicious.
As if that could do any good! You'd only postpone it. And I'm not your jailor. This isn't a prison.
No. I know you can't help thinking it's a home. (2.2.21-23)

A revealing comment from James here. The sentiment is fair enough, but check out the order of operations – first, he explains that he would come up if he thought it might help, but then he adds that he's not a jailor and doesn't want Mary to feel imprisoned. The message here is conflicted, and it's obvious he would stop her if he thought he could do so permanently. More importantly, as Mary herself points out, he fails to recognize that this house is a prison for Mary. She sits around lonely all day, and even if he isn't actively in charge of her imprisonment, he is the one who originally locked her up.

I ought to go back in the kitchen. The damp is in Bridget's rheumatism and she's like a raging devil. She'll bite my head off. (3.1.10)

Unlike Cathleen, Bridget's never able to defend herself in person, on stage. Why feature Cathleen but not Bridget? Also, notice that Bridget, like Mary, has rheumatism. In Bridget's case, it seems normal that a fit of rheumatism would make her really upset. Why, then, doesn't anybody feel bad for Mary with her rheumatism? Nobody other than Mary ever mentions that the damp weather is exacerbating Mary's illness. It's easier to criticize Mary's lack of will power in returning to her morphine than it is to talk about possible causes.

I've never felt at home in the theater. Even though Mr. Tyrone has made me go with him on all his tours, I've had little to do with the people in his company, or with anyone on the stage. Not that I have anything against them. They have always been kind to me, and I to them. But I've never felt at home with them. Their life is not my life. (3.1.29)

Note the similarity here between this passage and Mary's comments about not feeling at home at their summer house. We get the feeling Mary might not do so well in any social environment that isn't a convent. It seems like she has real trouble making friends, even with people who are nice to her. Might her lonely suffering be as much her fault as James's?

We've loved each other ever since. And in all those thirty-six years, there has never been a breath of scandal about him. I mean, with any other woman. Never since he met me. That has made me very happy, Cathleen. It has made me forgive so many other things. (3.1.37)

It's interesting to note that Mary doesn't take for granted that she and her husband are monogamous. It's almost as if she has expected him to cheat on her, and commends him greatly for resisting the temptation.

[My mother] used to scold my father. She'd grumble, "You never tell me, never mind what it costs, when I buy anything! You've spoiled the girl so, I pity her husband if she ever marries. She'll expect him to give her the moon. She'll never make a good wife."
She laughs affectionately.
Poor mother!
She smiles at Tyrone with a strange, incongruous coquetry.
But she was mistaken, wasn't she James? I haven't been such a bad wife, have I? (3.1.74)

Well, that's the question – has she been a bad wife? It's clear James had some major flaws, but it also seems true that Mary is a bit spoiled. Her resentment throughout the play sometimes smacks of privilege, that she deserves better than she gets, and that others ought to be responsible for keeping her content.

Who wants to see life as it is, if they can help it? It's the three Gorgons in one. You look in their faces and turn to stone. Or it's Pan. You see him and you die – that is, inside you – and have to go on living as a ghost. […] We are such stuff as manure is made on, so let's drink up and forget it. (4.1.42-44)

On one level, this speech is just Edmund's finest description of how he sees reality as worthless. But note also that Edmund makes his case by use of mythology and literature (parodying Shakespeare). In other words, the only way to describe life's horrors is indirectly, through literary allusion. In a sense, then, this passage is a justification of the work as a whole – the only way for us to gaze at the horror of real life is elliptically, through the fictionalized portrayal of the Tyrone family.

I suppose I can't forgive her – yet. It meant so much. I'd begun to hope, if she'd beaten the game, I could, too. (4.1. 92)

This passage gives us an angle on Jamie's suffering that we really didn't have before. In addition to finding out that Jamie acknowledges an addiction he wants to beat, we also discover that he was really counting on his mother to be a role model, and she let him down. Jamie admits that he hadn't completely forsaken his family and the idea that his mother could be an inspiration to him. Now, though, it seems like all hope is lost.

Trying to control his sobs.
I've known about Mama so much longer than you. Never forget the first time I got wise. Caught her in the act with a hypo. Christ, I'd never dreamed before that any women but whores took dope!
He pauses.
And then this stuff of you getting consumption. It's got me licked. We've been more than brothers. You're the only pal I've ever had. I love your guts. I'd do anything for you. (4.1.194)

This passage isn't particularly tricky, but it complements quote nine well. In Act IV, the character we really learn the most about is Jamie, and here we see that literally everything in his life is teetering on the edge of destruction.

As we saw in quote nine, Jamie cares much more about his mother than the first three acts suggest, and here we realize, finally, that Edmund really is Jamie's only friend. He doesn't know anyone else and has no resources outside the family. He certainly can't go to James for support. The play's sympathy with Jamie seems a bit delayed, but, when it comes, it's intense.

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