Places: Long Day’s Journey into Night

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1956

First produced: 1956, at the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm, Sweden

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: August, 1912

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*New London

*New Long Day’s Journey into NightLondon. Connecticut town that was both the boyhood and young-adult home of Eugene O’Neill, who employs it as the setting of this markedly autobiographical drama. The family’s summer home is modestly furnished with items of lesser value than one would expect for a wealthy, successful actor. His modest rooms are also dimly lit in the night scenes, because Mr. Tyrone wishes to save money on the electric bill.

One feature of this house that plays a prominent, almost haunting role in each scene is the spare room upstairs. There it is that Mrs. Tyrone withdraws from the rest of the family to give herself shots of morphine, to which she is addicted. An eerie aura also surrounds this house because of the dense fog, which rolls in from Long Island Sound and enshrouds it.

Another aspect of New London and the Tyrone family’s interaction with its citizens is important to the meaning of the play. The family is not the social equal of the prominent families in this ocean-side city. Mr. Tyrone has made his fortune by acting, a profession of some disrepute in his day. The addictions which afflict his wife and two sons (morphine, alcohol, and dissolute lifestyles) further isolate the Tyrones from the more substantial and well-respected residents of New London. The social isolation of the Tyrones is mirrored symbolically in their fog-enshrouded house.

*Broadway

*Broadway. Great theater district of New York City in which Mr. Tyrone makes his fortune. It is also referred to disparagingly throughout the play as a place of frivolous adult playtime. It is a place where Jamie Tyrone, a reprobate in his father’s eyes, idles away his time drinking and womanizing.

*Hilltown Sanatorium

*Hilltown Sanatorium. Mentioned in the last act of the play as Edmund’s destination, where he goes for six months to cure his tuberculosis. It is a climactic point in the drama when it is revealed that Edmund’s father is sending him to a state-run facility usually reserved for charity cases. Mr. Tyrone, ever fearful of poverty, will even sacrifice his young son to possible death at an ill-equipped sanatorium rather than pay for a more expensive, private facility.

While Hilltown is a fictitious name, it was based on an actual Connecticut public sanatorium. This real place was a wood-frame farmhouse in an isolated, hilly town about ten miles west of New Haven, in which terminal tubercular patients were housed. The sanatorium itself was named “Laurel Heights.” O’Neill actually stayed there for less than forty-eight hours, while the physician in charge contacted the playwright’s father and forced him to transfer O’Neill to a more appropriate, private sanatorium.

BibliographyBarlow, Judith E. Final Acts: The Creation of Three Late O’Neill Plays. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985.Bloom, Harold, ed. Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. A collection of ten essays by O’Neill’s major critics arranged in the chronological order of their publication, examining such topics as the monologues, the characters, the form, and the language. A helpful guide to the play.Carpenter, Frederic. Eugene O’Neill. Boston: Twayne, 1979.Gassner, John, ed. O’Neill: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964.Gelb, Arthur, and Barbara Gelb. O’Neill. Enlarged ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. A monumental one-volume biography. Invaluable to the serious student of the playwright and his work.Hinden, Michael. “Long Day’s Journey into Night”: Native Eloquence. Boston: Twayne, 1990. An excellent introduction to the play and its history. Two admirable chapters are devoted to a close analysis of the major characters and their motivations. Extensive bibliography.Manheim, Michael. Eugene O’Neill’s New Language of Kinship. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1982. Argues that the early plays contain the same autobiographical characters and situations as Long Day’s Journey into Night. An interesting list of motifs for each character in the play is included.Porter, Laurin. The Banished Prince: Time, Memory, and Ritual in the Late Plays of Eugene O’Neill. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Research Press, 1988. Analyzes the futile attempts of characters in the last plays, including Long Day’s Journey into Night, to reclaim the past through memory and the ritual of confession.
Categories: Places