By Eugene OíNeill
New Haven: Yale University Press, no publication date
From a 1955 publication
ISBN # 0-300-00176-2
176 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
April 2010

Reading this play was an experience of deep sadness and pain, and, at the same time, a recognition of OíNeillís profound insight into the suffering of his characters.

In a single day and evening, in this long dayís journey into the night, four characters, father, mother and two adult sons, punish and torture each other, inflicting enormous pain. This single day is only somewhat more exceptional than other days. We know from their conversation and acts that its all been done before, hundreds of times.

Itís even hard to center the pain producing behavior. Is it motherís years-long drug addiction, fatherís insensitivity and miserliness, the youngest sonís unfortunate illness or the older sonís utter failure to accept responsible adulthood? Is it their willingness to inflict the pain of their own misery on the others while constantly reminding them of their failures and weaknesses?

The play simply wore me out emotionally with the pain each inflicted on each others. Early on I was reminded of Edward Albeeís play of 25 years later: Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf. In that play the talk of the Walpurgis Nacht dominates, the act of purging oneís own pain by inflicting it onto others. Yet, as I got deeper into OíNeillís play I realized it was so much more tragic than Albeeís. George and Martha, Albeeís characters try to hurt one another in a sophisticated manner. In OíNeillís play there is a great deal of love among the four, and the great felt tragedy, at least for this reader, was the mixture of love and profound personal weakness which made me feel their pain so deeply.

I could easily dislike George and Martha, writing them off as selfish and despicable folks. But OíNeillís characters were so profoundly pathetic, seemingly helpless in their inability to control their own weaknesses, and their seeming necessity to hurt the others, as sort of a veil, avoiding facing their own inner misery and messed up lives by blaming the others.

I was just deeply moved by this play, and saddened at the convincing realism of his picture.

Normally I donít like to go outside the text of literature for any comments. However, in this case I was moved by Eugene OíNeillís dedication to his wife. It seems apparent from that note that his own family was much like the family of the play. His dedication to her indicates that theyíve found the incredible joys of a more respectful and loving relationship:

For Carlotta, on Our 12th Wedding Anniversary

Dearest: I give you the original script of this play of old sorrow, written in tears and blood. A sadly inappropriate gift, it would seem, for a day celebrating happiness. But you will understand. I mean it as a tribute to your love and tenderness which gave me the faith in love that enabled me to face my dead at last and write this play -- write it with deep pity and understanding and forgiveness for all the four haunted Tyrones.

These twelve years, Beloved One, have been a Journey into Light -- into love. You know my gratitude.

And my love!

Tao House
July 22, 1941.

Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu


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Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu