Significance of the Title

Topics: Alcoholism, Addiction, Drug addiction Pages: 6 (2657 words) Published: December 2, 2007
The significance of a title is not always easy to discover and the full significance of the title becomes apparent to the reader only gradually. In A Long Days Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill, the significance of the title is developed through the title's importance to each of O'Neill's characters. Tyrone, Mary, Jaime, and Edmund carry different meanings of the title. The words long and night play a major role in the importance of the title to each character. Both words can have multiple meanings. In addition to the long horrible journey each character suffers until day's end, each character also longs and desires to have their addictions fulfilled. The word night not only descries the character journey from dusk until dawn, but night also denotes the reality of the past and the present for each character. To Tyrone, the title represents his journey from a young Irish boy living in perpetual poverty to a rich, cheap, worn-out actor living a life of routine and monotony. The title represents Tyrone's longing to return to the days when he still had talent as an actor and the only way Tyrone can return to the past is by succumbing to his alcohol addiction. For Mary, the title stands for her longing to return to the time when she had choices in front of her and aspired to be things such as a nun or concert pianist. However, like her husband, Mary can only return to this time by giving in to her addiction to morphine. Mary must experience the reality that she cannot constantly live in the past and that her son, Edmund, is not three years old anymore and has consumption. The title also had a different meaning for Jamie. James longs to be an only child again and to be the writer that he had aspired to be. The night reveals that Jamie, like his father and brother, is an alcoholic. Jamie's addiction to alcohol prevents him from achieving his original goals in life. Lastly, the title also has a different meaning to Edmund. The title represents Edmund's longing to become something better than his family. Night for Edmund would be not only death from consumption, but also the fact that he may waste his life, just like his family. The significance of the title A Long Days Journey into Knight is developed gradually through each of the characters in the play.

The significance of the title to Tyrone represents both what he longs for and the night reality that night brings. Tyrone's journey from Ireland to America and his overcoming of poverty and eventually become a successful actor are described by the title of the play. Tyrone became a well-known actor but valued money more than anything else in his life did because of his great fear of living in poverty once again. However, although Tyrone was once of the greatest actors in America, he gave all of this up when he bought the rights to the play The Count of Monte Cristo; the one role that Tyrone would play for the rest of his life. "That God-damned play I bought for a song and made such a great success in- a great money success- it ruined me with its promise of an easy fortune. I didn't want to do anything else, and by the time I woke up to the fact I'd become a slave to the damned thing and did try other plays, it was too late." (149) Tyrone chose money over doing something he loved because of his great fear of living in poverty again. Tyrone longs to return to when he was still a fine actor and could play any role he wanted to. Tyrone remembers the time when he had the greatest potential of any actor, "In 1874 when Edwin Booth came to the theater in Chicago, where I was leading man, I played Cassius to his Brutus one night, Brutus to his Cassius the next, Othello to his Iago, and so on. The night I played Othello, he said to our manager, ‘That young man is playing Othello better than I ever did!'" (150) Tyrone's journey into night represents the reality that "night" brings to him. Tyrone always feared poverty and as a result, gave away his acting ability and passion. "What the...
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