Long Day's Journey was performed in Stockholm even before the published play appeared on the American market. O'Neill had left it, evidently, as "a deathbed legacy to a nation which he felt had been more loyal to him than his own" ( Newsweek, International Edition, February 20, 1956). Its reception was immediately enthusiastic. One Swedish critic, quoted in Newsweek, described the play as "one of the most powerful realistic dramas of the century. It's Ibsen's dramatic technique, but without his . . . symbolical overemphasis."The critic hit home. Long Day's Journey is excruciatingly powerful because it is so painfully and consistently realistic. T ...view middle of the document...
"I just stammered. That's the best I'll ever do.... Well, it will be faithful realism at least. Stammering is the native eloquence of us fog people." And in Long Day's Journey the inarticulate child of fog speaks with his native eloquence.
For all its realism the play is full of symbols. The fog was O'Neill's first and last symbol of man's inability to know himself, or other men, or his destiny. In act 1 of Long Day's Journey the sun is shining; in act 2 the haze gathers; in act 3 a wall of fog stands thick against the windowpanes. Through the fog at intervals a foghorn moans, followed by a warning chorus of ship's bellsthe leitmotif of the family fate, sounding whenever that fate asserts itself.
The interior set has its symbolic value too. The curtain rises on "the living room of James Tyrone's summer house in a morning in August, 1912. At rear are two double doorways with portieres. The one at the right leads into a front parlor with the formally arranged, set appearance of a room rarely occupied. The other opens on a dark, windowless back parlor, never used except as a passageway from living room to dining room." All the visible action takes place before these doorways, in a shabby, cheaply furnished living room lined with well-used books, the titles of which are largely those of O'Neill's acknowledged influences. The family "lives" in that mid-region between the bright formality of the exterior front parlor the maskand the little-known dark of the rear room.
BIOGRAPHY:ONEILL EUGENE. LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT.JONATHAN CAPE: LONDON 1999.