I’ve just finished my final O’Neill reading assignment for my American Drama class, and I’m very happy to say my professor saved the best for last. Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a true American tragedy, written in the same vein as another American great, Death of a Salesman. Possibly the most haunting aspect of this play is that it’s almost entirely autobiographical. O’Neill bares his soul and his family’s secrets in this play, leaving no painful memory alone. If you’ve got any family history of alcoholism, depression, or substance abuse, you’ll probably feel a connection to this work.
One thing I really loved about this play was that, even though O’Neill wrote it in the 1940s (though it wasn’t performed until several years later, after O’Neill’s death), there are very few aspects of the play that seem dated. The only real story line that probably wouldn’t land the same way is the son Edmund’s (this is Eugene O’Neill’s version of himself) sickness, for which he’s being sent to a sanatorium. This seems less realistic to readers in 2014, but otherwise, it’s a very modern play. It’s quite long by drama standards, but it’s worth the time, and most of it moves quickly. I’m very anxious to watch the film adaptation in class this week, and even more excited to be moving onto to playwrights. On to the next one!