Study Guide

Long Day's Journey Into Night Act II, Scene One

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Act II, Scene One

  • It's 12:45, and the day's starting to get a bit hazy.
  • Edmund's downstairs trying to read a book; really, though, he's listening for sounds from upstairs. He looks even sicker.
  • Cathleen, the maid, comes into what is clearly now the Living Room of Family Tragedy. Cathleen carries a bottle of bourbon, glasses, and ice water. She's well meaning and friendly, but not too sharp.
  • She asks Edmund if she should call in James and Jamie for lunch, or if he will.
  • Edmund tells her to, and Cathleen complains that James is always late. Then, she says that Edmund is asking her to call the men of the family so that he can sneak a drink while they're coming – and it's clear that she's right.
  • Edmund reminds Cathleen to call his mother, who's been napping, also, but Cathleen lets fall that Mary hadn't been asleep earlier. Mary has just been lying down on her bed, eyes wide open, complaining of a headache.
  • Edmund is clearly concerned, but that doesn't stop him from leaping for the bourbon bottle once Cathleen goes to call James and Jamie. He pours a drink but hears Jamie coming, and so he dives back into his chair.
  • Jamie, of course, knows exactly what was going on, and they share a chuckle over their mutual alcoholism.
  • Jamie goes to the bottle and pours himself a drink; then, to cover their tracks, he pours two glasses of water into the bottle and shakes it up. Jamie then tells Edmund he probably shouldn't be drinking with his illness, and that he should be prepared for bad news from the doctor.
  • Jamie suddenly notices that Mary isn't present, and Edmund tells him she has been napping.
  • This "nap" disturbs Jamie, who makes it clear that he thinks Mary's been doping again.
  • Edmund denies his accusations, but Jamie rounds on him, calling him a fool for leaving Mary alone.
  • Edmund answers that Mary 1) guilt-tripped him, and 2) promised that she wasn't doing that any more, but Jamie replies that he's been around long enough to know what this means.
  • Jamie hopes, as Edmund does, that he's wrong, but he was dealing with this stuff ten years before Edmund even knew there was something going on with Mary.
  • Mary comes downstairs, and she seems (suspiciously) less nervous, bright-eyed, and less talkative.
  • Edmund falls into a fit of coughing. Mary goes over, puts her arm around him, and tells him not to cough. Edmund looks doubtful, but her tenderness makes him forget that she's probably on drugs.
  • Jamie, on the other hand, knows immediately that he was right. His eyes fall, and he becomes withdrawn and embittered.
  • Mary asks Jamie if he's down because he's been working all morning, but Jamie won't answer.
  • Edmund agrees that Jamie shouldn't care what other people think (Jamie is always embarrassed about working on the hedges), and Mary agrees (oddly) that the only thing to do is forget about other people's opinions.
  • With a glance from Jamie, Mary quickly changes the subject to finding James.
  • Jamie looks out the window and notices Cathleen interrupting James's conversation with a neighbor. Jamie sneers that Cathleen ought to have more respect for "the famous Beautiful Voice."
  • Mary tells Jamie sharply to have more respect for his father, who has worked hard all his life so that Jamie hasn't had to do the same.
  • Jamie stares back, stung and angry, and Mary softens and asks him to consider that his father's getting old.
  • Edmund tries to calm both of them down, but Mary jumps on Jamie again, accusing him of always picking away at everyone else's weaknesses.
  • These brief signs of engagement with what's going on around her soon subside, and Mary goes back to her weird, detached mood. She waxes philosophical, reminding herself and her boys that they can't help what they've become. If Jamie is inconsiderate, it's because life has made him inconsiderate. There's nothing he can do about it because one eventually loses one's true self forever.
  • The boys look on, worried; Jamie moves to the safer topic of what James is doing making them all wait to eat lunch.
  • Mary picks up on the theme of James's inadequacies, complaining about her servants, terrible home, and miserly husband, whom she calls "peculiar."
  • Edmund asks why she's rambling, and she quickly snaps out of it, agreeing that she's being foolish.
  • Jamie suggests that they eat without James, but Mary assures him that James would be hurt; this provokes Edmund to call James inside from the porch.
  • As Edmund leaves the room, Jamie turns around and looks at Mary searchingly.
  • Mary asks Jamie why he's staring, and he responds, "You know." She goes into total denial, and he tells her to look at her eyes in a mirror.
  • Edmund comes in, asks what's going on, and Mary accuses Jamie of "insinuating."
  • Edmund curses Jamie out, but Jamie, frustrated, turns his back on his brother.
  • Mary reminds Edmund that Jamie can't help what the past has made him, just as the rest of the family can't.
  • Beside himself, Edmund begs his mother to tell him that Jamie's lying.
  • Mary dodges Edmund's glance, and asks what he's talking about. She's saved just in time by James's arrival; she seizes the opportunity to go back to the kitchen.
  • Edmund refuses to admit that Jamie is right and calls him a liar.
  • James apologizes for being late, and eyes the whiskey bottle.
  • Jamie points out that the level of bourbon is the same, but James clearly knows what Jamie's up to.
  • Edmund asks for a drink, but James isn't so sure – Doctor Hardy told him Edmund shouldn't have alcohol. It takes almost no convincing, though, to get James to agree that a drink can be a good tonic, in moderation (not that moderation is exactly the watchword of the Tyrone family…).
  • The boys pour their drinks, with James ribbing Jamie for his disregard for temperance and toasting to health and happiness.
  • Edmund gives a bitter laugh, but James doesn't get why.
  • James senses the tension in the room, and asks what's up, but Jamie just tells him he'll see for himself soon enough.
  • Mary enters, complains about James being late, and then escalates quickly to criticize James as a poor husband. She wishes he'd just stayed a bachelor – "Then nothing would ever have happened."
  • Now James has finally caught on to the situation. Edmund asks Mary to stop talking in an effort to protect her from herself, but James looks like a bitter, sad old man.
  • Mary agrees that she was inconsiderate, but quickly diverts her attention from her own flaws to Edmund's: she notices that Edmund has a whiskey glass in front of him.
  • Mary screams at James about her father, who didn't stop drinking when he was sick (and, we assume, died as a consequence).
  • Suddenly, Mary seems to lose her nerve, doubles back, and agrees that one small drink might be good for Edmund.
  • The boys exit, going to the dining room, averting their eyes from Mary.
  • Mary sticks around, hurt, but she feels James's eyes on her.
  • Mary goes through her standard "Is my hair messed up? Stop staring at me!" routine.
  • Her façade seems to crack for a moment, and she cries out: "James! You don't understand!"
  • James angrily retorts: he gets that he's been a "God-damned fool" to believe in her.
  • Mary has her own weapon to use in this fight: she pulls back away again and notes that James has been drinking more than usual today.
  • Mary exclaims that James will probably end up drunk tonight, for the "thousandth" time.
  • Again, the audience gets whiplash from Mary's shifting moods as she spontaneously bursts out with worry over Edmund's poor health.
  • James will hear no excuses for Mary's relapse, and she once again seems to slip away, only to cry out pitiably: "James! I tried so hard! I tried so hard!"
  • James is rather moved, and admits that Mary probably did try; he wishes out loud, though, that she'd had the strength to keep on fighting.
  • Yet once more, Mary disengages from the conversation, pretending not to know what James is talking about.
  • James gives up, and they go to have lunch.

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