Positive Aspects of the Families in Long Day's Journey into Night and Death of Salesman
Dramatic plays of American writers Eugene O'Neill such as Long Day's Journey into Night and Arthur Miller’s Death of Salesman are considered by most critics as brilliant stories about the destruction of family’s relations and social drama. For instance, Patrick Diggins in his review argues that O’Neill’s play was critical of America. He points out the fact that America is slowly losing itself and its members leading a life of desperation (Diggins 2). The author focuses on negative aspects such as alcoholism, depression and drug addiction, which he argues that they are attempts to free from the sudden change that the society was experiencing. This is also the same case with Miller’s Death of Salesman, which is so similar to O’Neill’s work in the negative view of the American family. However, amidst these negatives is love, which is explained as a factor that as that which binds the American family.
In his critic of O’Neill’s In Long Day's Journey into Night, Diggins argue that there is still some positives in this story. The only problem in O’Neill’s kind of family is the change that surrounds the them and the empty feelings that has resulted from the outside changes. However, in this is love, which has the capability of defeating everything (Diggins 139). A look at O’Neill’s, In The Long Journey into Night shows that Diggins’ statement is true. The family comprises the husband, wife, and two adult sons, who live together in a house near the sea. Apparently, each of them has some problems. The father James Tyrone regrets losing the chance to develop his acting talent, while his wife Mary is sorry that she failed in her attempts to become a piano player. The elder son Jamie, who has big ambitions, is too lazy to make his dreams true, and a younger son Edmund suffers from a dangerous illness and wants to find harmony in his life. However, despite numerous accusations, quarrels and misunderstandings, they love each other. Despite their numerous problems, they do not lose the ability of seeing other family members' problems and always try to help each other. Sometimes, this love is expressed in sincerity, but in some other cases, they express their feelings in a rude way. Still, they try to be sensitive to each other so that all of them can remain happy.
As the head of the family, James Tyrone is reasonable and in this state his love for his family is very noticeable. Although he has some regrets about his failed actor’s career and some negative habits such as drinking in a bar, he loves his family. When he was young, he abandoned Ireland and settled in America because the new country promised new possibilities to everybody who was able to work hard and believe in their success. James had ambitions to become an outstanding actor. The reason is that once a famous person in the sphere of art told him that he could have great success on stage. His words impressed James so much that he wrote them on paper. After some time, James Tyrone marries and needs to choose between career and family. Due to the fact that he needs money, he decides to travel around the country with a theater troop and his family playing just one role. Therefore, he saves some money, is able to buy a house, and becomes a property owner. Although James is a bit thrifty and always tries to save money, his family is not content that he saves on doctors for his wife and son. However, it is unreasonable to judge him since he was born in a poor family and unconsciously developed the habit of saving. Like many actors, sometimes he goes to a bar to drink, and his wife always criticizes him for that. However, James Tyrone never betrayed his family. While talking with her son, Mary admits that his father is always faithful and never goes with other women because he loves her very much. Therefore, it is possible to state that James Tyrone did the best he could for his family, and the blames of his family are unwarranted. He tries to escape a feeling of guilt by preserving his dream about a successful career. However, with time, this dream begins to seem an illusion.
James’ wife Mary is an Irish Catholic from a rich family. Her father loved and spoiled her. She studied in the most prestigious monastery school. The nuns saw her as a successful piano player, and she thought about going to Europe. Nevertheless, she fell in love with James Tyrone and married him and everything seemed perfect. She remembers her expensive wedding dress which her father bought, and she wished one day to give this dress to her daughter. While touring with an actor’s troop, Mary lived the life of her husband. Apparently, cheap hotels and the process of moving from one place to another was a usual thing for her. Thus, her three sons were born on the road; however, unfortunately, one of them died. It was a difficult period in her life. Although she has few friends, she feels lonely. In order to forget loneliness and heartache, she starts to take morphine. However, she loves her sons and her husband. Regardless of all the problems and temptations, the spouses have some positive moments in their life and want to save the family. She tries to be kind to children and husband, although she is depressed. From her conversation with a maid, it is possible to understand that all her life she is looking for something or somebody who will give her self-confidence. However, being a religious person, instead of a successful career of a piano player, she chooses a happy life with a loving husband. Undoubtedly, Mary is a bright personality, and a role of a housekeeper and her husband's supporter is not enough for her. Thus, even the maid notices that a nun's dress is not her style and that she should try to play in the theater.
The same love seen in the father is evident in the elder son whose name is Jamie. Like his father, he is an ambitious man, plays in the theater and is a promising actor. He also has enough no willpower to develop and has faced many disappointments. For example, since he broke up with his girlfriend, he has become a big cynic and an alcoholic. But still in this state, he loves his brother and considers him as his best friend with whom he can share any secret.
The same applies to the most sincere person among family members, who is 23-year-old Edmund. He does not have ambitions like the others, but he searches for harmony in his life and that of his family. Apparently, he finds such harmony working as a simple sailor. On the ship, he looks at the stars and feels far away from all his troubles. As he told, “I was the ghost belonging to the fog, and the fog was the ghost of the sea. It felt damned peaceful to be nothing more than a ghost within a ghost” (O’Neill 36). Unfortunately, during his voyage, Edmund catches a serious disease. The loving family regrets his illness and tries to help him. Edmund is honest with himself since he has a strong personality and to help his mom, he accepts his illness and tries to help his mother stop thinking of this.
The most optimistic person of this play is the housekeeper Cathleen. Although Mary considers her a naive person due to her simple life, she is able to perceive the family in a positive way. She convinces Mary not to judge James by saying that every average man drinks a bit. In fact, she also likes to drink a bit of expensive wine or to take a ride in the car sometimes. Furthermore, she is not under the influence of the idea of the American Dream and is satisfied with her simple life. Probably, the biggest achievement of this family is that they love each other. James and his son support their addicted wife and mother, regardless of all problems. Thus, sweet memories conceal general sadness and depression.
Arthur Miller in Death of Salesman described a story of the American family of the late 1940s and love still is the binding factor in this family. When explaining Miller’s writing, Abbotson notes that Miller writings are mostly on the negatives such as betrayal and failure. But at the core of these writings is the story of love (Abbotson 1). A look at Miller’s story shows the truth of this statement. Like James Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night, the main character and head of the family Willy is a hard worker and this is done out of love for his family. However, While James is a creative person who likes his job of an actor, Willy completely focuses on his work because it brings good income. He is also a reasonable person, and this can be seen from his conversation with his boss when he tells the story of a salesman who continued working until his 80's. He is sure that this prestigious job would give him a decent income until the end of his life. His ideal is his brother who became rich after he had explored the jungle. From time to time, he imagines a conversation with his lucky brother and asks him to tell the formula for his success.
He works all his life and is quite successful in his business. Although it is not enough for him, he is able to buy a house in New York. At that time, Willy is a smart and sociable person who believes in the possibilities of his country and trusts people. Having given his sons good education, he is especially proud of his oldest son Biff, who is a good football player in a university team. Willy always encouraged him by saying, “Remember you are my son. You should be the best. You have great potential” (Miller 10). Like every father, he wants to see his children happy and successful. According to him, happiness is dependent only on wellbeing. However, his mistake was his immense focus on money. By trying to have more orders from clients, he forgets about developing his career so that until the end of his life, Willy continues being a salesman. In contrast, his friends and his son are able to create their own business and successfully manage it.
Nevertheless, Willy is able to see beauty, and sometimes, his sub-consciousness returns him to nature. He tells his wife how he watches the beauty of nature while driving the car. His wife Linda is a quiet and kind woman. In contrast to emotional and extraordinary Mary from Long Day's Journey into Night, she requires nothing for herself and always trusts and supports her husband even when he does not deserve it. As Angela M. Metzger notes, Linda can be happy with simple things like watching her sons at home and smelling their shaving lotion. Moreover, Linda is a woman who offers aspirin to a man who told her that his mind is out of control.
Their sons admire their mom, and Happy says that these kinds of women do not exist anymore. Furthermore, Linda is a diligent housekeeper. Apparently, one can see it when she asks Willy to give money for different home needs. Although Willy is very greedy, he treats her with respect and trusts her so that she can convince him to buy one or another thing.
It is worth noting that Linda is unpretentious. She repairs her stockings because she does not want her husband to spend money on her. Linda tries to keep a good relationship between Willy and their sons. She tells Biff and Happy how bad their situation is now and asks them to support Willy. The woman is wise enough to see the tragedy of Willy’s situation. However, unfortunately, it is too late. When Willy dies, she says at his funeral that by working hard and trying to satisfy his family needs, Willy missed his own life. Moreover, she says that she paid the last debt for a house that week, but there is nobody to live there. Until the end, she loved him and implicitly trusted him. Apparently, Willy transfers his dream about the rich life to his sons. The older son admires his father until the moment he saw him with another woman. As a result, he realizes that his father is not so powerful and sincere as he thought before. It completely changes his view of life values. From this moment, he understands that the dream of a successful life is not worth the struggle. Thus, all he dreams about is having a Ran??ho where he can do whatever he wants (Abbotson).
In contrast to Linda, he demonstrates harsh criticism. Biff asks Willy to abandon his obsession with money. However, at the end of the play, he shows that he loves his father and forgives him for everything. Hence, Biff holds his father shoulders and says that his crazy idea is not worth his life. Moreover, he agrees to start a new business. Thus, Willy is happy because his son’s forgiveness is essential for him.
Biff seems not as wise as his brother, but he is a rationalist and has a successful career. His dream is “to get rid of the orders that he takes from the common, petty sons-of-bitches and be a merchandise manager”. Thus, he buys a flat and a car. Moreover, he has many friends and girls. Compared to his brother, he demonstrates flexibility that is significant in the business world. Apparently, he accepts his father’s idea, and at the end of the story at father’s funeral, he promises to make his dream come true (Abbotson).
In conclusion, dramatic plays as Eugene O'Neill’s Long Day's Journey into Night and Arthur Miller’s Death of Salesman demonstrate problematic part of most America families. However, these plays still display some positive aspect of the American family, which is love. Most of the family members seem engulfed in their own problems to an extent that it is almost impossible not see any positives in them. However, in sickness, in hard work or when buried in their own problems, love as a binding factor is seen clearly.