A Look at a Long Day's Journey Into Night

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LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT
BY
EUGENE ONEILL
Act I, S 1
Summary:
8:30 AM in the living room of the Tyrone family's summer home, August, 1912. The room is adjacent to the kitchen and dining room, and there are stairs leading up to the upstairs bedrooms. The living room is handsome and full of books; the collection is impressive, and all the more so because the books have the look of having been read. The Tyrone family has just finished having breakfast, and Mary and James Tyrone Tyrone enter. Mary is fifty-four, striking, but with a worn look. Her hands are knotted from rheumatism, and she continuously wrings them nervously. James Tyrone is sixty-five but looks younger, handsome and healthy looking. He has a fine voice, a sign of his trade as an actor. Tyrone and Mary discuss the weight she's gained, although Tyrone thinks she could still stand to eat more. They end up talking about a friend of Tyrone's who helps him with real estate investments, and Mary and Tyrone have a light argument about his unwise investments. Their talk is interrupted by the sound of Edmund's cough in the kitchen. Mary is clearly concerned. Tyrone tells Mary that she needs to take care of herself, and that it's good to have her "old self again" since she "came back." Repeatedly throughout their conversation, we see that Mary teases Tyrone lightly and he does not take it well; we also see that he is convinced his sons don't respect him, as every time he hears them laughing in the kitchen he's sure they're making fun of him. Edmund and Jamie enter. Jamie is thirty-four, but he has not taken good care of himself. He is charming, but his face and body show signs of heavy drinking. Edmund is in very poor health. He is frail and sensitive looking. Both of the boys seem awkward around their mother: eager to compliment, and afraid they might offend. The conversation turns to teasing Tyrone about his snoring, and Tyrone becomes angry. He begins picking on Jamie's lack of direction in life, and Edmund leaps to his brother's defense. Edmund then goes into a story about Shaugnessy, one of Tyrone's tenants. A poor farmer named Shaugnessy got into a fight with his oil tycoon neighbor. Shaugnessy verbally humiliated the millionaire. Tyrone doesn't find the story amusing. He fears that Shaugnessy might get him involved in a lawsuit with the tycoon, and he accuses Edmund of exacerbating the situation. He also doesn't approve of Edmund's angle on the story, and he repeatedly tells the boy to keep his "anarchist" and "socialist" comments to himself. Sick of the abuse, Edmund goes upstairs in a fit of coughing. Jamie lets out that Edmund seems to be really sick. Mary insists that it's just a summer cold, and voices her distrust of doctors. Jamie looks at his mother, and his gaze causes her to be seized by a fit of nervousness. She thinks he's thinking about how she has faded. But Jamie and Tyrone shower her with compliments, and they are charming enough to lift her spirits. She exits to supervise Bridget, their servant. As soon as she is gone, Tyrone and Jamie begin to fight. Tyrone is furious that Jamie risked upsetting Mary, but Jamie stands fast. Edmund, he insists, has consumption. With no one else to moderate, the argument is unabashedly vicious. Jamie blames Tyrone's stinginess: he continues to send Edmund to the cheapest doctor around. The talk turns to Jamie's aimless lifestyle. Tyrone accuses him of being lazy and without ambition, dependent on his wealthy parents and an ingrate as well. Tyrone defends his use of Dr. Hardy: the man has treated Edmund since he was a child, so, cheap or not, he knows Edmund's constitution. And Tyrone blames Jamie for Edmund's sickness. Edmund is ten years younger and looks up to Jamie like a hero: ever since he left college, he's been trying to live a lifestyle as wild and self-destructive as his brother's. But he doesn't have Jamie's toughness, and his health is suffering. At several points, Tyrone compares the two...
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