PARALLELISM AND DIVERGENCE: THE CASE OF SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER AND LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT
It is surprising that significant parallels should exist between plays as dissimilar as She Stoops to Conquer and Long Day's Journey Into Night--the one a "laughing" as opposed to "tearful" or sentimental comedy, the other an American tragedy. The most obvious parallel involves the "cook-maid" in the two works. She is called Bridget in both, does not appear on stage in either, and has an all-around function in each household. In Goldsmith's play Bridget is the "cook-maid" for the Hardcastles, who live in the country and do not have so much money that they can hire a servant for each chore or one so skilled that he or she should perform only one task. (After Marlow asks that the cook be called, Hardcastle describes Bridget as the cook-maid, implying that her duties go beyond the preparation of food.) In O'Neill's play Bridget is the "first girl," a combination cook and maid, for the Tyrones. James Tyrone, the father, is cheap, so he naturally does not hire a servant for each chore: he hires Bridget and Cathleen, her assistant or the "second girl," to perform all the tasks around the house.
The parallels between the two cook-maids go beyond name and function: these two Bridgets have similar characters. In She Stoops to Conquer Hardcastle says to Marlow, who wants the cook called so that he can order a special supper: "Our Bridget, the cook-maid, is not very communicative upon these occasions. Should we send for her, she might scold us all out of the house" (Stoops 36). What Hardcastle implies is that his Bridget, being lazy, becomes cantankerous when the family has guests and she must work harder. (She will become even more cantankerous when she learns that Marlow does not want to eat what she is cooking for everyone else.) Bridget in Long Day's Journey is herself lazy and cantankerous. Mary Tyrone says of her at one point, "I must see the cook about dinner and the day's marketing. Bridget is so lazy" (Journey 29). At another point Mary calls her cook-maid a "stupid, lazy greenhorn" (61). Because Bridget is lazy, she becomes irate when she has cooked a meal and James Tyrone is late to eat it, as is his habit, or when Cathleen isn't in the kitchen to help her prepare the food. To Edmund, the younger son, Cathleen says of Bridget, "It's a wonder your father wouldn't look at his watch once in a while. He's a divil for making the meals late, and then Bridget curses me as if I was to blame" (51). Mary speaks similarly of the "first girl" to Tyrone: "I've had to calm down Bridget. She's in a tantrum over your being late again, and I don't blame her" (66). After the lonely Mary has fed Cathleen drinks for a long time in Act III, in order to have someone to talk to, the "second girl" asks, "Can I take a drink to Bridget, Ma'am? It must be near dinner-time and I ought to be in the kitchen helping her. If she don't get something to quiet her temper, she'll be after me with the cleaver" (106). Mary, who herself does not drink, plies Cathleen and Bridget with liquor, just as Marlow, who is a teetotaler, plies his servants with it in She Stoops to Conquer.
Bridget in Long Day's Journey is talkative; Mary says, "She begins telling me about her relatives so I can't get a word in edgeways and scold her [for neglecting her work]" (29). Hardcastle tells his servant, "You must not be so talkative, Diggory. You must be all attention to the guests. You must hear us talk, and not think of talking" (27). Hardcastle thus admonishes Diggory, not only because the latter is a servant, but also because the master himself likes to do all the talking whether he is in the company of his servants or his peers. He can expatiate on any subject, but he especially likes to tall war stories: "Your talking of a retreat, Mr. Marlow, puts me in mind of the Duke of Marlborough, when we went to besiege Denain..." (33). Hardcastle shares the trait of garrulousness with James Tyrone. Jamie reveals that his father loves "listening to himself talk" (54); and Cathleen confirms this when she reports to Mary, "I went down to Mister Tyrone, like you ordered, and he said he'd come right away, but he kept on talking to that man [Captain Turner], telling him of the time when--" (62).
Hardcastle shares additional traits with James Tyrone. The former seems to be cheap, and he like the isolation of the country. Mrs. Hardcastle complains to him, "Here we live in an old rumbling mansion, that looks for all the world like an inn, but that we never see company" (10-11). Mary Tyrone makes similar complaints about her husband: "It's just as well we haven't any friends here [she describes their home as "this shabby place" (61); Edmund calls it "this summer dump" (141)]. I'd be ashamed to have them step in the door. But he's never wanted family friends. He hates calling on people, or receiving them" (44).
Like Hardcastle, Tyrone prefers old things, as much because he is contemptuous of the modern and nostalgic for the past (when he still had the chance to be an actor of artistic stature instead of a mere matinee idol playing the same role over and over again) as because he is cheap. Tyrone's clothing at the start of the play "is commonplace shabby. He believes in wearing his clothes to the limit of usefulness, is dressed now for gardening" (13). He buys a secondhand car, claiming "it's better than any of the new ones!" (84) His books "have the look of having been read and reread" (11), and contain the following "old" titles among them: Hume's History of England, Thiers' History of the Consulate and Empire, Smollett's History of England, Gibbon's Roman Empire, and three sets of Shakespeare. His sons' library, by contrast. contains "new" volumes (the play takes place in 1912): works, for example, by Ibsen, Shaw, Strindberg, Wilde, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx, and Engels. Not only does Hardcastle, for his part, love his "old rumbling mansion"; he also loves "every thing that's old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine" (11).
James Tyrone is a New York actor as well as a touring one who retires to New London, Connecticut (then considered the country), every summer to play the squire. He has ten-ants who farm his land and he buys as much property as he can afford, claiming, like a landed aristocrat, that "banks fail, and your money's gone, but you ... can keep land beneath your feet" (146). Like an affable country gentleman, Tyrone stops his gardening in front of the house to bow to passersby and chat with friends. Hardcastle is a squire, and is dedicated to his family. Unlike Tyrone, he is not, as his stepson Tony Lumpkin describes him, "a Gentleman ... [who is] for giving [others] his company ..." (26); he gives Marlow his company only because the latter is to become his son-in-law. Tyrone, unlike Hardcastle, does not give his company to his family easily, just as Mary, Edmund, and Jamie do not easily give theirs to him or to one another.
It is difficult to say with certainty whether O'Neill wrote Long Day's Journey with elements of She Stoops to Conquer consciously in mind. After all, "Bridget" was the first name of his maternal grandmother as well as of the cook-maid in Goldsmith's play. Parallels between the two plays do exist, however, and I am interested more in the different uses to which the two playwrights put the same elements than in arguing the question of influence.
Bridget, for example, has a different function in Long Day's Journey than she has in She Stoops to Conquer. In the O'Neill play, Bridget can be seen as another Mary, as Egil Törnqvist has pointed out:
Bridget reinforces the tragedy of the play, then. Bridget in She Stoops to Conquer reinforces the play's comedy; she does this through contrast rather than analogy, the device employed in Long Day's Journey. She is not very communicative when she has to cook and clean for guests as well as for the family; her master, Hardcastle, is so talkative in part because he has little to do. Because he likes to talk so much and doesn't listen properly to Marlow and his friend Hastings, he never realizes that they speak to him as if he were an innkeeper instead of Kate's father: thus does this comedy of disguise take wing. Tyrone, by comparison, because he loves to hear himself talk, does not really talk to his family and thereby helps to precipitate his and their tragedy; his garrulousness derives from self-absorption more than from a need to substitute talk for work (although Tyrone, the would-be squire, shares this need to some extent with Hardcastle), whereas the reverse is true for Hardcastle, for whom talk is a way to occupy himself, almost to forget himself. One could say that, in her isolation and the garrulousness that results from it, Bridget is another Tyrone as well as another Mary--indeed, could be seen as the double of any member of the Tyrone family.
If the two Bridgets reinforce the tragedy and the comedy of their respective plays. then Mary and Marlow, in their reasons for dispensing alcohol so freely, do the same. Tragically isolated, Mary bribes Cathleen with her husband's liquor so that she will have an audience while she talks at length about her past. Mary then supplies Bridget with drink so she will not mind slaving in the kitchen while her helper sits idle and captive in the living room. Mary will cover up her theft of Tyrone's liquor by playing ".Jamie's trick.... Just measure a few drinks of water and pour them in" (100). Marlow, who is to be comically reconciled with the Hardcastle family eventually, orders his servants "not to spare [Hardcastle's] cellar.... My positive directions were, that as I did not drink myself, they should make up for my deficiencies below" (73). Marlow, mistaking Hardcastle's home for an inn and in a merry mood over his anticipated conquest of the barmaid (really Kate Hardcastle in disguise), openly orders his servants away from him, to drink their fill and be happy. When Hardcastle confronts him with his servants' drunkenness, Marlow freely admits his responsibility for it.
Finally, what is true
of Mary's and Marlow's dispensing of drink is equally true of
Tyrone's and Hardcastle's love of the old. Tyrone's is in part a
love of the cheap, as l have noted, and is as responsible for his
family's tragedy as anything else. For instance, his engaging the
cheaper hotel doctor rather than a private physician to attend to
his wife after Edmund's birth led to her morphine addiction since
this "ignorant quack" (Mary's words, p. 87) was happier to prescribe
strong drugs for Mary's pain and be done with her than to discover
the cause of her suffering and treat it. Jamie tells his father that
Edmund might never have got consumption "if you'd sent him to a real
doctor when he first got sick" (30),
instead of to Hardy, "a cheap old quack" (30). Hardcastle's love of
the old is itself in part a love of the cheap, and is responsible
for the second mistaken identity in this comedy, which is subtitled
The Mistakes of a Night. The first
mistaken identity occurs when Marlow and Hastings take Tony Lumpkin
for a bumpkin after meeting him at an alehouse, instead of
recognizing him as a squire. They follow his directions to
Hardcastle's house, which they mistake for the inn that Tony
The disguises in She Stoops to Conquer are worn inadvertently, as in the case of the house "disguised" as an inn or of Hardcastle himself (Tony fools Marlow and Hastings into thinking that his stepfather is an innkeeper, and they assume from his appearance that he is one); or they are worn intentionally but in everyone's best interests, as in the example of Kate, who poses first as a barmaid, then as a "poor relation" of the Hardcastles, in order to test Marlow's suitability for marriage. The disguises worn and gradually stripped away in Long Day's Journey--Mary's disguise of her drug problem and of the reasons for it, most obviously; and Tyrone's disguise of his cheapness as mere sensible thrift, whereas it is actually excessive fear of the poverty he knew as a boy--are in each instance self-imposed, may be unconsciously worn (as in Tyrone's case), and, though designed to be self-protective, they have destroyed the self and with it the family. The physical disguise of comedy is a means to an end. and is easily removed to the reconciliation and happiness of everyone. The spiritual disguise of tragedy is an end in itself--it is a way of being--and is arduously removed to the recognition and misery of all.
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