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The Edusites Guide to Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’

Richard Gent | Tuesday April 30, 2024

Categories: Drama, Long Day’s Journey into Night

Synopsis and Overview

O’Neill was born in 1888 and died in 1953 aged 65. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936 for his cycle of ‘Sea Plays’. He wrote ‘Long Day’s Journey’ in 1940 but decreed that it should never be published or performed for a long time after his death. Thanks to the efforts of his third wife, it was published and performed in 1956 first in Sweden and then in New York to universal acclaim and established its status as the grand culmination of his life’s work.

His concerns were about the extremely autobiographical nature of the play’s characters and events. His presentation of the Tyrone family in 1912 is a picture of his own family when he was 23 years of age at that time.

In addressing a very wide range of contemporary issues which many Americans would rather not have confronted, using a highly recognisable family, speaking in the vernacular and with a broad and intense cultural awareness and knowledge, he moved drama in the US on from Vaudeville and Melodrama (as represented by James Tyrone’s thespian career) to the natural realism of Chekhov, Ibsen and Strindberg, the European masters of the genre. He paved the way, therefore for Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and other great American realists of the mid C20th.

Many observers comment on the essentially literary nature of the play: he saw, it is argued, his work as intensely theatrical (which given its series of violent confrontations few would dispute) and as a literary medium: a vehicle for the discussion of serious ideas, for example the debate between Shakespeare and modern writers as favoured…

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Kind regards, Richard Gent
Edusites Ltd

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