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The Tyrone Anthology: Authority in the Last Act of Long Day's Journey into Night


Lawrence Dugan


Act IV of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night is filled with quotations from poets whom the Tyrone family have read. They are a family of artists and O’Neill’s stage directions include a lengthy description of the contents of their parlor book shelf. The two sons quote from Baudelaire, Swinburne, Rossetti, Wilde and other nineteenth century poets in an aggressive manner that seems to challenge their father’s conventional wisdom and his occasional quotations from Shakespeare. The reason for the quotation in act IV is that the play has reached a conclusion at the end of act III, when Tyrone confronts Mary Tyrone with her return to drug use and we come to understand her destructive effect on the family. He and his wife, both Irish-American Catholics, are tormented by their lapsed Catholicism and argue with themselves and their sons about religion, but ineffectively, because their disbelief has left them with little to say in defense of the belief they espouse. The sons take their own apostasy for granted; and use quotation as a generational weapon in the grim family battle.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.