Menu Bar

Motifs in Long Dayís Journey Into Night


BY Michael Manheim
FROM Eugene OíNeillís New Language of Kinship, Syracuse University Press, 1982

The most recognizable motifs associated with the present life of James Tyrone, Sr., are the following:

His bitter disappointment over his wifeís condition
His controlled alcoholism
His use of alcohol to help him communicate with his sons
His daily desertions of his wife to seek companionship
His aristocratic affectations
His Irish and Roman Catholic pride
His boisterous manner
His pride in his health and physique
His resentment at his sonsí ďingratitudeĒ
His fear of attack by his sons
His supposed miserliness
His fear of poverty
His distrust of new ideas and recent writing
His resentment of the role which made him rich and famous
His near-deification of Shakespeare

Those associated with James Tyrone, Sr.ís memories of the past are the following:

His early poverty and sense of social humiliation
His long-suffering mother
His hatred of manual labor
His familyís desertion by his father and the rumors of that fatherís suicide in Ireland
His romantic courtship of Mary Cavan
His need for Maryís company after their marriage
His nightly desertions of Mary
His drink and social success
His philandering
His becoming a matinee idol
His promise as a Shakespearean actor
His "selling outĒ in search of financial security

The most recognizable motifs associated with the present life of Mary Tyrone are the following:

Her social pretensions
Her propriety and at times Puritanical attitudes
Her envy of neighbors
Her hysteria concerning her younger sonís health
Her fear of her elder son
Her narcotic withdrawals
Her use of the upstairs spare room as location for taking drugs
Her dilated pupils when under the influence of morphine
Her fear concerning the appearance of her hair
Her use of the arthritis in her hands as front for her addiction
Her persistent denials of the reality of her condition
Her contempt for doctors
Her desire for and fear of Roman Catholic confession
Her fear of the fog

Those associated with Mary Tyroneís memories of the past are the following:

Her fatherís consumption and alcoholism
Her proper upbringing
Her love of her girlsí boarding school
Her desire to be a nun
Her desire to be a concert pianist
Her infatuation with the matinee idol
Her wedding gown
Her enforced accompanying of her husband and desertion of her first child
Her loneliness in hotel rooms
Her jealousy of her husbandís admirers
Her resentment of her husbandís drinking and social life
Her loss of a second child
Her blaming first child for death of second
Her conceiving a third child as replacement for second
Her difficult childbirth
Her dependency on strange doctors
Her use of morphine to alleviate pain
Her addiction and its discovery by first child, then second
Her pride in her first child

The most recognizable motifs associated with the present life of Jamie Tyrone are the following:

His bitterness and cynicism
His brilliant wit
His contempt for and mockery of his father
His quick recognition of his motherís renewed addiction
His ability to articulate his feelings through poetic quotations
His ďBroadwayĒ diction
His dependency on brother and father
His jealousy of his brother
His support for his brother
His emotional honesty

Those associated with Jamieís memories of the past are the following:

His early disillusionment with his mother
His early successes at school
His dismissal from colleges
His drinking, whoring, and gambling
His ability to give others pleasure
His elegance in dress
His failure as an actor

The details of his motherís death and his responses to it as described in A Moon for the Misbegotten:

The trip to California
His motherís sudden illness
The deathwatch
His false lamentation
His resentment of his motherís death
His drinking on the train
The blonde whore on the train
His being too drunk to go to his motherís funeral

The most recognizable motifs associated with the present life of Edmund Tyrone are the following:

His persistent hope that his mother has reformed
His repeated disillusionments
His anger at his mother
His guilt at his anger at his mother
His dependency on his brother
His imitation of his brother in drink and wit
His shock at his brotherís cynicism
His radical opinions
His developing admiration for his father
His consumption
His love and recitation of recent poetry
His ambition to be a writer
His high-strung, nervous personality
His love of the fog
His fear that he might be like his mother

Those associated with Edmundís memories of the past are the following:

His shock at learning of his motherís addiction from his brother
His early emulation of his brother
His sense of an ideal past before his motherís ďfallĒ
His running away to sea
His love of the sea
His prodigal return

The following motifs are associated with the family group:

Laughter over an anecdote involving the humiliation of the proud (Shaughnessyís pigs)
Father indignant at sons
Sons taunt father
Mother defends father against son
Mother joins sons against father
Father and reluctant sons flatter mother
Father and sons plead with mother
Father and sons observe mother in withdrawal

The following are associated with exchanges between James and Mary:

Father commends mother on her renewed health (by observing her increase in weight)
Mother resentful of fatherís land speculations
Mother resentful of fatherís drink
Mother pleads for understanding
Mother resentful of fatherís miserliness
Father accuses mother
Mother attacks doctors
Father late for meals

The following are associated with exchanges between James and Jamie:

Father castigates son for his failures
Father castigates son for his dissolute behavior
Father castigates son for his innuendos about mother
Mutual accusations about causes of motherís condition
Son castigates father for his miserliness
Son attacks brother to father
Son defends brother to father
Father fears sonís cynicism
Son financially dependent on father
Inevitable directness between father and son

The following are associated with the rare exchanges between Mary and Jamie:

Son recognizes the ďsignsĒ of his motherís addiction (eyes)
Son savagely cynical toward mother
Son reveals slight hysteria at motherís condition
Communication between mother and son long gone
Mother fears sonís reactions

The following are associated with interchanges between James and Edmund:

Son attacks fatherís miserliness
Father attacks sonís opinions
Father proud of sonís literary achievements
Father fears sonís demise
Son hurt by fatherís fears
Father reveals past to son
Son begins to understand father
Mutual fears and hopes about mother
Mutual dependency upon alcohol

The following are associated with interchanges between Mary and Edmund:

Mother hysterically anxious about sonís health
Mother critical of sonís behavior
Son states his belief in mother
Son indirect in his suspicions
Mother hurt by suspicions
Sonís disillusionment rooted in motherís condition
Son hurt by motherís denials
Son accuses mother of being a ďdope addictĒ
Mother accuses son for having been born
Communication between mother and son breaks down

The following are associated with interchanges between Edmund and Jamie:

Brothers jest about drink, whores, fatherís eccentricities
Elder brother cynical about mother
Younger brother defends mother, attacks elder brother
Elder brother lords it over younger brother
Elder brother confesses feelings toward younger brother
Elder brother declares his love for younger brother


© Copyright 1999-2007