Wednesday, October 27, 2010
In Long Day’s Journey into Night O’Neill’s reliance on the expressive power of his dialogue is still greater than in The Iceman Cometh. He has only five characters in his cast; there is no chorus, nor are there any changes in the setting; there is a most effective return to the repetitive sound effect. In spite of these dissimilarities the dynamics of these two plays work in a similar manner. Instead of transferring from one group of characters to another, O’Neill now goes from one theme to another. There is more variety of theme, less of character; all the four Tyrones stand out as fully individualized human beings, bound together by a common fate, by an in-escapable love-hate relationship. This tragedy has four protagonists. When working his way toward the final revelations, toward four magnificent modified monologues, O’Neill employed in his dialogue several solutions we know from The Iceman Cometh.
There are, first of all, the masks. Mary Tyrone has two masks in act 1, those of relaxed self-confidence and of nervousness. She is back at home after a cure in a sanatorium for drug addicts; the three Tyrone men have confidence in her ability to resist the temptation this time. Her gradual return to the old habit is the decisive change in the family situation during this long day’s journey. It releases unexpected reactions in the others, in the famous actor James Tyrone, in his thirty-three-year-old actor son Jamie, a failure and an alcoholic, and in Edmund, journalist ten years younger than his brother who is about to be sent to a tuberculosis sanatorium.
In act 1 there is still hope: the inner struggle is still going on in Mary. Hence the masks, given in the initial description of Mary and in the stage directions between and within the speeches: “What strikes one immediately is her extreme nervousness. Her hands are never still.” Another fixing point for this mask is her hair: “(She stops abruptly, catching Jamie’s eyes regarding her with an uneasy, probing look. Her smile vanishes and her manner becomes self-conscious) Why are you staring, Jamie? (Her hands flutter up to her hair).” The mask is made visible through these means, and there is interaction with changes in the tone of voice, with facial expressions, with the gestures and groupings.
The opening act closes with a pantomime by Mary. She makes the apprehensive men leave her alone, and the tension between her two roles is shown: “Her first reaction is one of relief. She appears to relax. . . . But suddenly she grows terribly tense again. Her eyes open and she strains forward, seized by a fit of nervous panic. She begins a desperate battle with herself. Her long fingers, warped and knotted by rheumatism, drum on the arms of the chair, driven by an insistent life of their own, without her consent.”
The battle is lost. In the following acts Mary progresses deeper and deeper into the secluded world of a drug addict, swinging all the time between two roles, wearing alternately two masks. When she has her defenses up, no petitions from the others, no events on the stage, can reach her. She is as strangely detached as Deborah. And when she has not yet totally escaped, she feels guilty—of her irrational flight, of the death of one of her sons, called
in the play, of Edmund having been born at all, of life in general. She may confess her concern for Edmund or her fear of consumption, she may speak of her own guilt—only to turn abruptly away again: “Then, catching herself, with an instant change to stubborn denial.” It is foolish to worry; it is reassuring to cling to the pipe dream that Edmund has only a bad summer cold. Eugene
The further Mary recedes from the living room of the Tyrones, the clearer it becomes that her two roles are played behind the masks of her two different ages. “Her most appealing quality is the simple, unaffected charm of a shy convent-girl youthfulness she has never lost––an innate unworldly innocence.” When she has escaped, when she wears the mask of detachment, she lives in her convent days again, far from James Tyrone and the shabby hotel rooms that have-been her surroundings throughout her married life. This movement in the dimension of time resembles the dynamics in More Stately Mansions and The Iceman Cometh: Mary is a “one-time” convent girl. The masks written into the stage directions, are given three different functions in the case of Mary Tyrone; they show the conflict between temptation and resistance, between her drugged and normal states, and between her adolescence and old age.
Mary is the best example of the application made of the masks in Long Day’s Journey into Night, yet she is not, the only one. The continuous vacillation between attachment and repulsion has been observed by several critics. In fact, each of the characters wears two masks in his relations to the other members of the family: those of love and hatred. The play is a chain of small circles, all touching the areas of mutual sympathy and antagonism, all obeying the mechanics of defenses, accusations, and counter-accusations. On the stage the circles are drawn by the actors their positions gestures vocal and facial expressions.
Temporary harmonies are possible, even between Tyrone and Jamie, two archenemies: “His son looks at him, for the first time with an under-standing sympathy. It is as if suddenly a deep bond of common feeling existed between them in which their antagonisms could be forgotten.” Yet in the next moment the pendulum swings toward bitter enmity; another circle is started. A primary vehicle for this incessant movement, in addition to the sudden, paradoxical change of masks, is the clipped quality of the dialogue. When Hickey was coming close to dangerous areas, to the mine fields of The Iceman Cometh, he interrupted his sentences, giving his listeners only a hint, letting only an uneasy suspicion form in their minds. It is so also in Long Days Journey into Night.
We might speak of five different uses made of the interrupted sentences. Three of them are closely associated with the total dynamics of the play. (1) It is certainly not O’Neill’s invention that the adversaries interrupt one another in-emotionally tense scenes out of mere excitement; there are such cases in Long Day’s Journey. (2) Especially in act 1 the Tyrones guard one another, preventing the speakers from approaching dangerous subjects of discussion—Edmund’s illness, or Mary’s newly aroused inclination, revealed by her movements the previous night. It a family taboo even to suspect that Mary is not completely healed—and another that Edmund might be in real danger. Mary has barely hinted at her feeling that are keeping an eye on her when Edmund interrupts. “too vehemently”. “I didn’t think anything! “Or, Jamie has hardly interpreted a remark by Tyrone as an indication that the father is thinking of Edmund’s death when he is checked by Tyrone in a “guiltily explosive speech.
(3) They are checked not only by one another but also by themselves. Examples of sentences interrupted by the speaker himself are numerous: the Tyrones often stop themselves right on the threshold of a terrible accusation or self-accusation. They need another drink-or, shot in the arm to come out with the truth—as they finally do. Before they reach the stage of modified monologues, they exercise introspection by leaving something unsaid. “Please stop staring!” Mary exclaims. “One would think you were accusing me—” of having taken morphine again, she is about to say, but does not dare. Both this and the second usage have two functions: they add to the tension of the play by creating secrets, and they leave an impression that all of the characters know what is about to be revealed. This is not the first time these circles are run through. They are parts of an incessant discussion, parts of a relentless family fate, realized from year to year, from day to day—and into night.
(4) A modification of this, not as dynamic, is the interruption as a result of an overpowering feeling. There is nothing more to be added by the speaker; the sentence is complete in its context, even if deficient in its form. Tyrone speaks “shakenly” to Mary after one of her outpourings of accusations against doctors, in spite of Edmund’s presence and the delicacy of the theme of death: “Yes, Mary, it’s no time—”
(5) The last usage, again closely bound to the total dynamics, occurs when one of the four interrupts a speaker, not so much because these two were getting into an argument, as to give a helping hand to a third. ‘James, do be quiet,” Mary says to her husband who is reproaching Jamie. As in More Stately Mansions there is no end of new frontiers being formed. The boys react against, the parents against their sons all the men against Mary; the mother defends her sons, each of them at different times. The Iceman Cometh, with its massive dynamics, operated with a few emphatic frontiers: the chorus for or against Hickey. Long Day’s Journey into Night, with its fewer characters, is a more fluid and labile play.
If we start looking for the roots of this kind of dialogue, it is possible to go back as far as to the first fluctuating monologues in O’Neill. The small circles drawn by Yank in The Hairy Ape in his efforts to overcome the difficulties of communication have an affinity with the way the Tyrones proceed. The circles are now drawn by several characters in their attempts to understand. The last act of Welded, with its precarious harmony and violent accusations, Strange Interlude, with its vacillation, and all of the mask plays were important later developments. Essentially, this kind of dialogue has dramatic rather than literary merits: it speaks not with striking verbal images, but with its incessant movement. It has hardly been fully analyzed or appreciated by the literary critics of drama.
It is an abstraction to say that the small circles in Long Day’s Journey into Night are formed by alternating love and hatred. The concrete elements in a play are its themes: the circles are built out of bits of discussion, mostly reminiscences. Instead of groups of characters, this play has groups of speeches, each around a theme. The topics discussed include Mary’s hatred of doctors, her convent days, her intolerable life in shabby hotels; Tyrone’s stinginess, his hard childhood, his drinking habits; Jamie’s failure, in all its varied aspects; Edmund’s illness, his rebellious opinions on politics and literature, his experiences on the sea. None of these themes is given a conclusive treatment in the first three acts of the play: again, O’Neill is a careful builder of drama.
One theme is taken up and developed to an emotional climax, then there is a standstill until a new theme is picked up, to be treated in a similar way. This is a picture of O’Neill’s total development, too: he picked up a certain scenic means of expression, developed it (often to an overuse), and then began working with another. Near the end of his career, he drew his means of expression together—as he did the themes of Long Day’s Journey.
Even if the emphasis is on the dialogue, it is necessary to pay attention to the interaction of several scenic means of expression. The autobiographical character of the setting is of lesser interest to us than its functional aspects. One of the bookshelves may include most of the books young O’Neill read and admired; this is no however, of great significance because their names and authors can hardly be made visible to the audience. The relation between Mary and the setting is, on the other hand, interesting: the house is inescapable to her, more so than to the others. We never see Mary leave the house; we know that when she goes out it is only to fetch more morphine. As a contrast, the departures of the men are demonstrated on the stage. Tyrone and Jamie go out to cut the hedge; Edmund takes a walk in the fog, escaping into his poetic vision; all three go downtown, have company, and come home drunk. They do come home —to carry the burden of their family fate.
Mary is deserted by the men: this is the impression conveyed by leaving her alone on the stage at the end of two scenes. Act 1 is closed with Mary’s pantomime, quoted above. She is left even more emphatically alone at the close of act 2, scene 2, when Edmund leaves her in the living room, Tyrone and Jamie shout their “Goodbye, Mary” and “Goodbye, Mama” from the hall. She sighs of relief—only to go to the other extreme and give her curtain line: “Then Mother of God, why do I feel so lonely?” Whether to call this desertion symbolic or not is a pure conjecture; one might say that it is both completely realistic and deeply symbolic, at the same time. In fact, this is the way all scenic means of expression are employed in Long Day’s Journey into Night: they have a multiple motivation, both realistic and symbolic.
All the outer world means to Mary is a place from which she can obtain drugs. James is the only one of the four who has contacts with the “respectable” people in the town: he can go on talking with them, even forgetting his family and the waiting meal in doing so. The specific place of action, between back and front parlors, is interpreted by Doris V. Falk: “The family lives’ in that mid-region between the bright formality of the exterior front parlor—the mask—and the little-known dark of the rear-room.” In addition to these symbolic overtones belonging to the setting as a whole, there is a significance attached to the rooms upstairs, where Mary is known or suspected to be drugging herself. Her character is firmly established in the first three acts, where she leaves the stage only to go into the two parlors and through the front parlor upstairs—so firmly established, in fact, that it is more suggestive to keep her off-stage through most of act 4. All that reminds us of her are references in the dialogue and the noise of her steps. Mary lives in the imagination of the audience —to come and make her shocking entrance at the end of the play.
There is an interaction between the setting, the foghorn, and Mary’s modified monologue in act 3, in a scenic image that might be called a preliminary synthesis of Mary’s role. She is again alone, right in the focus of interest; she has reached the stage of frankly confessional monologues earlier than the men; and then the foghorn comes, with its gloomy message of hopelessness. She has used Cathleen, the “second girl,” as an excuse for her modified monologue, indicating how little choice she has in her search for human contacts. Now she is without company and relaxes, her fingers calm. Even the pause is recorded, as elsewhere in the play: “It is growing dark in the room. There is a pause of dead quiet. Then from the world outside comes the melancholy moan of the foghorn, followed by a chorus of bells, muffled by the fog, from the anchored craft in the harbor. Mary’s face gives no sign she has heard, but her hands jerk and the fingers automatically play for a moment on the air. . . . She suddenly loses all the girlish quality and is an aging, cynically sad, embittered woman.” Mary’s shift from one role to another is given an emphatic treatment here by using the movements of her fingers and reminding us, once again, of one of her dreams: to become a concert pianist. In her monologue she expresses her disillusionment: not even the Blessed Virgin, whose consolation is 1.e:-dearest pipe dream, cares to help a dope fiend. She has just decided to go and get some more morphine when the men come in, to end the scenic image, to relieve her from the joy and burden of loneliness, and to start the circular movement again.
The presence of the fog is conveyed to the audience through the foghorn and through references in the dialogue. Mary’s attitude is typically ambivalent: the fog is both a disguise from the world and a symbol of her guilty escape. “It hides you from the world and the world from you,” she explains to Cathleen. “You feel that everything has changed, and nothing is what it seemed to be. No one can find or touch you any more.... It’s the foghorn I hate. It won’t let you alone. It keeps reminding you, and warning you, and calling you back.” Edmund has experienced the same fascination of escape during his walk in the fog: “Everything looked and sounded unreal. Nothing was what it is. That’s what I wanted—to be alone with myself in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself. ... Who wants to see life as it is, if they can help it?” Yet Edmund comes back from the fog to describe his experience, to give it a verbal form, to turn it into art.
O’Neill specifies the use of the foghorn, with its connotations of fascination and dread, of fate and unreality, at three phases during the play. One of them is discussed above; one is an introductory usage at the beginning of act 3; the third will be discussed in this paragraph. Elsewhere, the foghorn is utilized as a kind of repetitive sound coulisse, to be resorted to according to the judgment of the stage director. In a scene between Mary and Edmund we have a beautiful example of O’Neill’s sense of drama, in his transference from human expression into the foghorn. Edmund has voiced his, bitterest accusation (It’s pretty hard to take at times, having a dope fiend for a mother!”), and immediately asks for forgiveness after seeing his mother’s reaction—all life seems “to drain from her face, leaving it with the appearance of a plaster cast.” There is a standstill, the emotion cannot be developed further; and this is where the foghorn is employed: “(There is a pause in which the foghorn and the ships’ bells are heard.) mary (goes slowly to the windows at right like an automaton—looking out, a blank far-off quality in her voice). Just listen to that awful foghorn. And the bells. Why is it fog makes every-thing sound so sad and lost, I wonder?” Another familiar scenic unit employed is the automaton effect, also met occasionally in Long Day’s Journey into Night. As to this scenic image as a whole, we might speak of the old principle of “pars pro toto”: O’Neill needed a sense of the total tragedy between mother and son, and evoked it by giving a concrete part of it—the noise of the foghorn.
The theme of the fog is given even a comic treatment in Jamie’s homecoming. “The fron [sic] steps tried to trample on me,” he complains in the beginning of his drunken and grotesquely comic appearance. “Took advantage of fog to waylay me. Ought to be a lighthouse out there.” It is worth emphasizing that Long Day’s Journey into Night is not void of comedy. One of the functions of Cathleen is to provide comic relief. She also plays confidante to Mary and has a choral function: “He’s a fine gentleman,” she says of Tyrone, “and you’re a lucky woman.” This is how the Tyrones must look in the eyes of outsiders; yet the opinion has an ironical effect in its context. So has her innocent remark somewhat earlier in the scene: “You’ve taken some of the medicine? It made you act funny, Ma’am.” One of the excuses, here, as well as in The Iceman Cometh, is an unconvincing effort to be jocular—afterwards. Insults are “only teasing” or “only kidding.”
Tyrone and Edmund begin to play cards early in act 4. But the compulsions to confess, to find sympathy, are stronger than the merely mechanical act of handling the cards. Tyrone begins to speak about the play he bought, and how he guaranteed his economic success and artistic failure with it: no one wanted to see him in any other role. Then he “glances vaguely at his cards” and asks: “My play, isn’t it?” The intention is bitterly ironic: this is what is left of Tyrone’s play, of his life—a handful of cards.
Stage action and groupings also interact with dialogue elsewhere. When Mary has taken her first dose of drug, everyone avoids looking at her. She herself goes behind Edmund, the most innocent and least suspicious of her men, to save him from the observation as long as possible. Two situations are repeated with variation, to show how Mary’s position is changed by her fall. Tyrone, the closest person to her, enters together with her in act 1—and follows behind her in act 2, scene 2, in a similar entrance after —a meal. He- keeps beside Mary in their exit at the end of act 2, scene 1––and remains on the stage in act 3 after her exit as if not knowing what to do. He is a sad bewildered broken old man. He walks wearily off.” These changes occur in emphatic phases of the play; they are important indications of development in the relations between the characters. So is the scattered grouping at the beginning of act 2, scene 2. Tyrone and Jamie look out of the door and the window; Edmund sits so that he does not have to watch his mother. The family is falling apart.
A special feature in Long Day’s Journey into Night is its plentiful quotations, most of which appear in act 4. They prepare the way for the confessions, they accentuate the tragic feeling created by the modified monologues. Leech is worried about O’Neill’s taste when choosing the poems: “it appears they are quoted con amore, with the implication that they represent what poetry exclusively is” [Clifford Leech, Eugene O’Neill (1963)]. On the other hand, they are quoted both seriously and parodically. O’Neill is on his guard against sentimentality in this late play: before he reaches pathos, he turns around by using a sudden ironic twist. And there is no doubt that the quotations fulfill their basic function, described by Sigvard Martensson: they make it possible for the playwright to “express the elevated emotion, the strong tension otherwise not easily articulated by therealistic dialogue. The technique is employed with distinction and never breaks the frame” [Eugene O’Neill’s dramatik]. It is quite natural to quote poetry in a family of two actors and a would-be author.
The central problem of guilt is touched on once by employing a Shakespearean quotation. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings,” James Tyrone sighs—not, however, recognizing his own fault. His quotations are ridiculed by his sons; as
has remarked, in O’Neill’s last plays we “are asked to take nothing on faith.” Tyrone’s confidential disclosure of his failure is accepted as truth by Edmund and by the audience; yet its impact is lessened by the sneering Jamie a few minutes later: “He’s been putting on the old sob act for you, eh?” And the ultimate question of guilt is left unsolved in this relativistic play: “Nothing is to blame except everybody.” Fate, fog, life itself, all of us may be guilty—yet finding a scapegoat does not change at all our unredeemable situation. Raleigh
Act 4 in Long Day’s Journey into Night is magnificent; and the quotations help to make it so. Each of the four Tyrones is driven to his final confession in a modified monologue. Everything said or done in the play contributes to these revelation scenes, following one another in a series of scenic images. The first of these is analyzed [elsewhere]. Tyrone speaks of the ambitions of a young Shakespearean actor; and we realize, as Waith has acutely observed, “that his longing for his youth is no less poignant than his wife’s.” If ever the life of a human being has been weighed on the stage, in a manner both honest and warm, if ever deep tragedy is in the next moment followed by tragicomedy, this is the case [Eugene M. Waith, “Eugene O’Neill: An Exercise in Unmasking,” Educational Theatre Journal 13 (October 1961): 182-91].
Edmund describes his experience of freedom and belonging on the sea. The passage is written in the same vein as the vision of Stephen Daedalus at the end of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. “For a second you see—and seeing the secret, are the secret. For a second there is meaning!” —is not this what so many creative artists have experienced? The epiphany is presented as momentary, it is a part of a tragedy that certainly does not sing in rapture for the ecstasy of living; and it is followed, as many of Edmund’s and Jamie’s speeches are, by a self-ironic afterthought. “It was a great mistake,” Edmund grins wryly, “my being born a man, I would have been much more successful as a sea gull or a fish.” And he agrees with his father that he has perhaps only the makings of a poet: “I just stammered. That’s the best I’ll ever do. I mean, if I live. Well, it will be faithful realism, at least. Stammering is the native eloquence of us fog people.”
This is only the second climax in the act: Jamie is still to be revealed, and the final synthesis of the family situation is still to be achieved by letting Mary join the others. So is a focusing synthesis of several scenic means of expression to come. Behind the mask of the brother and best friend who has “put Edmund wise” on women and the world in general there has been jealousy and resentment in Jamie: he hates and loves his brother—and. his mother. His “love” meeting with Fat Violet in the town brothel is a grotesque revenge on Mary; he brought Violet upstairs—where Mary is in the Tyrone house. When remembering Mary’s first fall, he identifies his mother with the whores: “Christ, I’d never dreamed before that any women but whores took dope!” Jamie is partly dead—he is destructive and poisonous—while Edmund feels that he belongs to Life itself. This time there is a contrast, not an equation, as between Mary and Tyrone: Edmund is called by Waith a “creator.” Yet there is also love, of a helpless and moving kind, in Jamie: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he saveth his brother from himself.”
The long day’s journey into four monologues is completed, and every-thing is revealed, when Mary comes down and plays the piano “with a forgetful, stiff-fingered groping, as if an awkward schoolgirl were practicing . . . for the first time.” Then she enters the final scenic image in the play, likewise described [elsewhere]. It looks for a while as if Edmund may break through her defenses; but only for a while. She soon returns into her fog, listens but does not hear Jamie quoting Swinburne (perfectly appropriately in this context), and says her curtain line from far away in her past.
According to certain formulas of critical thought, Long Day’s Journey into Night should be a poor play. It is “undoubtedly too long—one long scene seems almost irrelevant; there is too much quoting of classic poetry; and the deliberate formlessness of it all is enervating. Still, it is a dramatic achievement of the first order,” “a masterpiece.” A euphemistic way of putting it is to say that the play is great “in spite of”—and then let the merits remain largely unanalyzed.
If a play is a masterpiece “in spite of” several critical presuppositions, it is high time to start asking whether there is anything wrong––with the presuppositions. If we have not given up the hope of finding rational explanations to art, we should be busy looking for reasons why Long Day’s Journey into Night is a masterpiece—instead of weighing down the other end of the scale with our inapplicable criteria. One thing is certain: emotional power does not come through on the stage without some kind of technique; only physical power might. And Long Day’s Journey into Night does not shout; it speaks through its form.
Admitting that the play is void of outer action, there is good reason to emphasize that it is full of inner action. It is within the speeches that a major part of the drama is acted; it is within the utterances that the masks are changed. O’Neill let himself be bound by the tradition of realism because he knew that he could utilize the amount of freedom granted to him by the shortish chain of this style. He was convinced of his ability to dance in these chains. He knew that he could write in a style infiltrated by the results of his experimental period; he knew how to achieve porousness by making every detail both realistic and symbolic. “His contrapuntal arrangement of events that are seen in the theatre and reported events, which become real in the theatre of the mind only, makes his realism a free and spacious style,” Stamm writes, recognizing clearly an important aspect of O’Neill’s dynamic realism. Yet the reminiscent speeches of Long Day’s Journey into Night would be static if O’Neill had not employed his small circles, drawn to touch love and hatred, sympathy and antagonism, guilt and accusations. O’Neill does not only move backwards in time, he also makes the past present. The past is an actual phenomenon, not asking but demanding reactions from the agonized characters. The wild fluctuation in the mind of Caligula or Ponce de Leon was attached only to the stage situation; now O’Neill has also the rich orchestra of human memories to play with.
“The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future, too. We all try to lie out of that but life won’t let us,” Mary complains in one of her most lucid moments. If the first sentence could be taken as the motto for O’Neill’s technique, the second reveals the core of his tragic vision. In fact, this is a statement in which O’Neill’s method of constructing his play and his vision meet one another. The circle had been his favorite structural formula ever since his early efforts: yet as late as in this confessional play we see how deeply it was rooted in his personal attitude toward life. Fate is in the circles, in the inescapable repetitions, in the power of the past over the present and over the future. It may shout with the foghorn, too—but the sound has a meaning only to those who are living through the long chain of small, inescapable circles. This is O’Neill’s modern artistic approximation to Fate, more personal than his psychological one in Mourning Becomes Electra.
The basic motivation for the numerous repetitions in Long Day’s Journey into Night is given above. Facing the paradox of length once again, we might formulate a question: how many links can one take out of a chain and still make it reach? The more links that are added to a chain, the longer and weightier it becomes; and to those who prefer chains of a smaller calibre, all that can be said is that these are the shackles given to his characters by a tragedian. Some of the repetitions are further motivated by an urge to render ironically conflicting versions of familiar stories at different points of the action and by different characters: Tyrone’s picture of Mary’s father deviates from that cherished by Mary herself; Mary speaks of her falling in love in contrasting ways. If after these considerations there is still a temptation to abridge, let it happen in small bits, mostly somewhere en the first three acts. It certainly will not do to say in an offhand manner that “there is too much quoting of classic poetry” or that a whole scene is irrelevant.
Long Day’s Journey into Night is seen by Mottram as a synthesis of O’Neill’s playwriting career. His “earliest one-acters melt into Edmund’s sea-voyaging region of dream reality”; there is material from the saloons, utilized even in a group of other plays; The Straw is represented by Edmund’s tuberculosis; “the Strindbergian elemental family is at last achieved without bogus classicism or pop-Freudianism”; and “the calm of The Iceman Cometh comes through again in this last harbour.” It is possible to speak of a synthesis from another point of view as well: O’Neill applies here several scenic means of expression he knows thoroughly from previous usages. There is the idea of the fog, expressed mainly through a repetitive sound effect; there are modified monologues, again as the climaxes of the play; there is a continuous circular movement in the dialogue; symbolic significance gradually gathers around one portion of the setting; there are quotations rendering an additional layer of meaning. In a way, the quotations are still another modification of masks: by reciting a poem it is possible for the characters to express feelings not otherwise revealed.
All these means of expression are used in a purposeful way and executed flawlessly within the limits of the style chosen by the playwright: dynamic realism. Even in a play with little or no plot there can be quite a lot of interaction between the scenic images. Besides, Long Day’s Journey into Night has a plot of an unconventional kind: its action proceeds through the fog into the monologues. Agreeing with Gassner in that “a continuing tension between naturalism and a variety of alternatives of dramatic stylization has characterized the, century’s theatre” [Theatre at the Crossroads], we might call Long Day’s Journey into Night one of O’Neill’s major answers to the challenge created by this tension. It is more than a major answer: it is a masterful one.