The purpose of this study is to examine how the sense of alienation of the Tyrones is dealt with and how the family’s self recognition is achieved in O’Neill’s play, Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
O’Neill is very interested in the subject of human alienation in the modern society. There are usually two types of alienation described in his works : one is caused by money and materialism in the capitalistic society, and the other is caused by man’s loss of the true-self between reality and dream.
The Tyrones try to seek the true selves hidden behind the physical appearances. They are fatally isolated in time and space, and conflict with the inner part and outer world. They desperately attempt to search for their existential selves veiled by psychological actions, resulting from various emotional conflicts.
In this play O’neill describes the sense of alienation of the Tyrones, and suggests the self-recognition for overcoming it. Tyrone’s external and material desire destroys the physical and the spiritual world of his family and himself. Especially his wife Mary, feels a sense of homelessness. Modern critics insist that the rootlessness of modern man is the American tragedy.
Another sense of alienation is due to a reaction shown in the individual Tyrone, who feels himself imperfect. That causes the Tyrones’ endless self-contempt, self-pity and self deception.
The play shows human isolation through Mary, and human kinship through father and two sons. So the existential attitude of the same, or different quality are seen through their devided relations. In addition, true affection which can make them arouse sympathy for one another is hidden inside the incompatible, contrastive conflict.
Only Edmund of Tyrones can discover and recognize a true self. This is revealed by his overcoming of a tragic life in his journey into Light, love and understanding of the others.
In conclusion, O’Neill’s search for self is one of the impelling forces of life in the play. It means a continuous record of his soul-searching, giving a meaning for life.