Study Guide

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

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Act II, Scene Two

  • The scene, again, is the living room, about half an hour after lunch. The whiskey's gone, and the family's walking into the room.
  • Unlike in the opening act, James now noticeably avoids touching his wife.
  • Jamie comes in looking cynical and cool, while Edmund tries to copy him. Edmund can't quite manage it, though: he's too melancholic (plus, he's sick-looking).
  • Mary begins some kind of conversational sally as a matter of routine, but neither she nor her audience is actually listening to her.
  • Mary whales on Bridget, the cook (verbally, that is): Mary can't wait for the summer to end because she may have to live in "second-rate" hotels during the year, but at least she won't have to worry about the housekeeping any longer. Mary can't expect Cathleen or Bridget to treat the Tyrone family's summer house properly, since it never was, nor will it be, a real home.
  • James doesn't even look at her. He mutters that it can't be a home now, but it was before.
  • Mary cuts him off, launching yet again into a diatribe. Mary complains that the house doesn't feel like a home, that James always abandons her there, and that she left a great place with her dad in exchange for James's sorry excuse for a home.
  • After this rant, Mary turns to Edmund, asking him to eat more. Edmund mechanically agrees.
  • The phone rings, and James answers. It's Doctor Hardy, and whatever he says seems to worry James. James announces that Edmund needs to come in to Hardy's office later that day.
  • Edmund can tell that this is bad news bears.
  • Mary excitedly criticizes Doctor Hardy and James, accusing the former of ignorance and the latter of cheapness.
  • Mary reveals that Hardy was the one who initially gave her morphine; she goes on to accuse him of humiliating and exploiting her on purpose.
  • Edmund yells at her to stop, and James agrees.
  • Mary asks to be forgiven and then decides to go upstairs to fix her hair and find her glasses.
  • James pleadingly calls out her name, but she is mentally checked out. She smiles creepily and tells James that he can follow her upstairs if he's suspicious.
  • James 1) knows she'd just put off the injection, and 2) doesn't want her to feel like he's her jailor. Mary retreats upstairs and the boys fall silent.
  • Jamie breaks the silence by saying out loud what everyone is thinking: Mary went upstairs for morphine. Even though it's really, really obvious, both to the characters and to us, the readers, Edmund and James completely lose it and scream at Jamie.
  • Jamie feels offended, insisting that he knows how hard she's trying. He's just expressing his frustration that the cures are no good, and they'd been fools to hope for a recovery.
  • When Edmund parodies his brother's cynical attitude, Jamie retorts that Edmund's also pretty dark, based on his philosophical readings. James interrupts and accuses both of them of screwing up by abandoning the only sensible philosophy – Catholicism.
  • Edmund calls Catholicism a bunch of garbage, and Jamie notes that James isn't all that devout either. James counters that, even if he doesn't always go to church, he's a strong believer.
  • Edmund adds that, if James has indeed been praying for Mary, then Nietzsche was right: "God is dead."
  • Ignoring this, James blames Mary's failure on her lapsed faith. He then adds that he'll never believe in Mary again.
  • Edmund announces that he will try to save his mother, but Jamie's with James on this one: there's no talking to Mary anymore. She's too far gone.
  • Edmund gets upset and goes upstairs to change (noisily, to make sure Mary doesn't think he's sneaking up to catch her).
  • Once he's gone, Jamie asks James what Hardy said, and James acknowledges that Edmund has consumption.
  • Jamie asks his father to send Edmund to a good sanatorium. Jamie really lays it on thick, insisting that James shouldn't keep thinking, like an old Irishman, that consumption is fatal. James can't dismiss proper treatments for Edmund as a waste of cash.
  • James is super angry about the Ireland jab and says Jamie shouldn't be mocking Ireland since Jamie's so Irish himself. After taking one more cheap shot at Ireland (he isn't Irish once he washes his face, Jamie mocks), he and James decide that Jamie should go into town with Edmund to support him.
  • As Jamie's leaving, Mary enters the room, seeming even more detached and brighter-eyed than she had before.
  • Jamie leaves as Mary asks for her glasses.
  • She and James chat about the increasing fog, but James cuts short the conversation by telling her he has to go into town for an appointment at his club.
  • Mary reaches out to James and begs him not to go, since she doesn't want to be alone.
  • She accuses Jamie of drinking too much and, in turn, reproaches James himself for his alcoholism.
  • James gets bitter, insisting that he never gets drunk, and, even if he did, Mary is a good enough reason to do so.
  • He tries to leave again, but Mary repeats her demand that he stay. James comments sadly that it's she who is leaving him.
  • James suggests that Mary take a drive outside in the car, since, as she complains, she has nowhere to go and nothing to do. As he talks about the car, though, James starts getting angry, because he spent so much money on something Mary never uses.
  • Mary agrees that the car was a waste of money: James bought a junky, secondhand vehicle and hired a driver who'd never been a chauffeur before, so of course it wasn't worth it. Mary further charges that the driver's wages may be low, but he's making it up with kickbacks for repair bills. Still, she acknowledges, it was a touching gesture.
  • James pleads desperately with Mary, hugging her and asking her to stop now, for the whole family's sake.
  • After a moment's confusion, Mary denies her drug use again, and goes back into her "we can't help the things life has done to us" speech.
  • Mary can't stop now, talking about how she has no friends to go visit in their car because she married an actor (a big scandal in those days) and because said actor was sued by his former mistress.
  • These two scandals were enough to make all of her friends either abandon her or pity her – which just infuriates her.
  • Mary recalls that she'll be able to take that drive into town after all – she has to visit the drugstore! James realizes the obvious (that she's getting more morphine), and reminds her of the time she ran out and tried to jump off a dock.
  • Mary tries to ignore this, and then begs James not to remember that event or to mention it.
  • James senses he's gone too far and apologizes, but Mary's attention drifts to the past and she pretends the topic never came up.
  • Before Edmund's birth, Mary recalls, she was always healthy, even though traveling with James was grueling. Dirty rooms, bad food, dealing with her children in a series of hotels – still she was healthy.
  • After Edmund was born, though, she got really sick, and James hired Hardy. Hardy could only understand that Mary was in pain, which he knew how to soothe (with morphine).
  • James asks her to forget the past, but Mary can't and won't.
  • Mary blames herself for having another baby after her second son Eugene's death, which she had vowed not to do out of guilt.
  • Mary left both Eugene and Jamie with her mother so that she could join James (who had written, complaining of loneliness) on the road.
  • If she hadn't followed James, Mary reasons, she would have been there to stop young Jamie from going into Eugene's room while Jamie had the measles. In fact, she thinks Jamie infected Eugene on purpose because he was jealous of his younger brother. She is sure Jamie knew that he could kill the baby with his sickness.
  • James asks her to let the baby rest in peace, but Mary goes on: she should have stayed with Eugene instead of following James just because she loved him.
  • Since she did follow James, Mary continues, she shouldn't have listened when James insisted she replace Eugene with a new baby to forget the death. Mary claims that she knew that both children and mothers need proper homes to succeed in life. Eugene's death proved her poor parenting and she didn't deserve another baby.
  • James pleads with her to stop in case Edmund hears and thinks she never wanted him.
  • Mary cuts him off, insisting that she did want Edmund, very much, but she was responsible for his poor health and unhappiness. He was born nervous and too sensitive, which is all Mary's fault. Since Edmund's been sick, she hasn't been able to think of anything but the deaths of her father and Eugene.
  • Finally, Mary snaps out of her funk and insists that Edmund will get over his cold.
  • Edmund comes downstairs, dressed to go into town, and James begs Mary to act normal.
  • James makes to leave, but Edmund stops him, asking for carfare to get into town.
  • James begins to lecture Edmund automatically, but then realizes he ought to pity his son. He says he's proud of how hard Edmund was starting to work before he got sick, and gives his son a ten-dollar bill (way more than Edmund needs).
  • Edmund is shocked by his generosity, but then realizes it probably means Hardy told James bad news about Edmund's health.
  • When Edmund says this, James is hurt by the assumption that he wouldn't have been generous if Edmund's life weren't at stake, so Edmund (who seems particularly susceptible to guilt-tripping) gives him a hug and another thanks.
  • Suddenly, Mary turns around, frightened and angry, demanding that Edmund stop saying that he's going to die. She blames it on the books he reads and the poems he writes. She argues that he wants to die, and it's all just a pose from his books. She thinks he just wants attention, since he's still such a baby, but that he's taken it too far, which frightens his mother.
  • James figures this is his chance to exit, but suggests quietly to Edmund that he bring up the morphine with his mother now.
  • Mary gets Edmund to sit down, but, when he starts to speak, she cuts him off, asking him to stay home with her instead of going into town. Seeing Hardy would just be a waste of time and money because Hardy will probably lie.
  • Edmund dodges this line and tries to say what he planned to about her addiction – that she has just started using again and should try to stop.
  • Mary asks Edmund not to talk about things he doesn't understand, and he gives up.
  • Predictably, Mary goes into denial again and, then, strangely, begins to blame him for her return to morphine, since his sickness has upset her. She quickly asserts that she wasn't making excuses, but Edmund doesn't believe her.
  • Responding to this, Mary goes into another one of her detached monologues. She doesn't blame Edmund for not trusting her; after all, she doesn't believe herself. She has become a liar, but she believes that one day she will find her soul again, once Edmund recovers and the Virgin Mary reinstates her faith.
  • Mary concludes that Edmund should go to Doctor Hardy's with Jamie, because, even though she has to take a drive into town anyway, she knows that Edmund would be ashamed to go with her to the drugstore.
  • Edmund's composure breaks, but Mary goes on, begging him not to drink. She pleads with him, even though she's certain he'll give up half his money to Jamie, who will get drunk.
  • Jamie calls from the hall, and Edmund says good-bye.
  • Mary reminds Edmund not to be home late, and the boys leave.
  • Mary stares around the room, one hand drumming, the other fixing her hair.
  • Mary cries out that she is lonely, but then accuses herself of self-deception since she wanted to get rid of the boys, with their contempt and disgust. Mary closes the act by asking, "Mother of God, why do I feel so lonely?"

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