Long Day Essay, Research Paper
Symbolism This essay will put Eugene O’Neill’s, Long Day’s Journey into Night, and Tennessee William’s, A Streetcar Named Desire into perspective with the symbols that are used. The significance of the title Long Day’s Journey into Night presents the universal symbols of day and night or light and dark. The story starts out in the morning, there does not seem to be very much turmoil within the family. As the day progresses it seems that darkness is taking over, which can symbolize chaos, evil or ignorance. This applies to the characters in the play as it unfolds. The arguments towards the end show their bitterness towards each other and the final scene, when it becomes the darkest, seems to be the “final blow”. The fog in the play presents a gray area in the characters lives. Which represents a degree of self-pity toward themselves, or failure. James believes he is a failure because he betrayed his own talent of acting for money. Edmund wants to be a poet or a writer, but he sees himself doing what his parents want him to do. Jamie looks in the mirror when he has been drinking and sees an ugly, failure. He could not care if his brother, Edmund dies or fails. This would bring Jamie more money and make him look better.The fog can also imply a distinction between reality and unreality. This is true within Mary’s character. In her conversation with Cathleen she says how she loves watching the fog, it may remind her of an unreachable world that is admirable. A dream world where there is no fighting, no death but freedom. She says she wishes the fog were so thick that it would be impossible to see a person walking by. Mary wants this because she always feels like her family is spying on her and does not trust her. This way no one would be able to see the true “dope fiend” in her. This also applies to her love for night too. Mary then goes on to explain that she hates the foghorn. It keeps reminding her, and keeps coming back. This symbolizes her jump back into reality, she starts too fall off into another world but the loud horn brings her back to her life of loneliness, drugs and fighting. The use of alcohol and substance abuse seems to be the symbol for all the tension between the family members. In the last scene when Jamie is arguing with Edmund, he blames his words on the “booze”. Mary says regrettable things to James about the death of Eugene, and how she should not have born Edmund. She seems to only say these things when the morphine is apparent. The alcohol and drugs bring out the unconscious thoughts of each character, which would not be brought out if they were sober. The bottle of whiskey on the table becomes emptier as the day progresses, as each character reveals they’re personal tragedies the liqour bottle becomes less full. This represents how each character turns to the bottle, which may be there only escape. The bottle symbolizes an escape from reality. When Mary puts water in the bottle to hide the liqour she gave to Cathleen this represents the lack of trust and respect within the family. Another symbol in the play is Mary’s glasses. She can never find them. Her glasses may symbolize a mask to cover her eyes. When she asks James if he has seen them, she does not look him in the eyes. Mary may need the glasses to cover her eyes, which are probably dilated from the morphine. Glasses also represent intellect, reason and knowledge. Mary’s lost glasses are her mask to make her look intelligent and not just a drug addict. By losing her glasses she has lost her reason and intellect that she once had before she became an addict. In the last scene Mary presents a few symbols. She comes down in her wedding dress. This symbolizes her marriage to Tyrone. Her dreams of becoming a nun were put off because of her marriage. She loves Tyrone but does not like what they have all become. Mary says she was happy for a time but she believes she has taken the wrong path. When she prays, she does not think that the Holy Mother would listen to a drug addict. She also plays the piano during this seen. It is not the piano that is symbolic, but the song that O’Neill chooses for Mary to play. She plays one of Chopin’s waltzes. This is very symbolic of the family. Chopin’s wife felt imprisoned, as does Mary. Another significant part of the use of Chopin is that he too died of “consumption” like Mary’s father. This may also imply that Mary may now realize that Edmund may indeed die from the disease. She does not play it well because of her hands, which brings upon another symbol. The hands are one of the most symbolic parts of the body, you show emotion, joy, sorrow, hesitation among other body language. Mary’s hand troubles symbolize the apparent loss of all these expressions.
In William’s A Streetcar Named Desire, the title also portrays a strong symbol.In the first scene Blanche describes her voyage from her home. She says “They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields”. This symbolizes her journey. She admits that after the death of her husband sex with other men was all she had to fill her empty heart. She would have sex with anyone who agreed to it. This is her first step to “desire”. She felt death was inevitable so she had these relations because desire is opposite of death. However she could not hide from death for long, when she has sex with a student she is fired and her image is ruined. She cannot stay there anymore so has to leave, this is the symbol of cemeteries. Her final destination is the “Elysian Fields”. It is a place for the living dead in Greek mythology. This brings about a comparison with Dionysus who was the god of wine and alcohol, in which alcohol and drugs play a huge role in Long Days Journey into Night and proves to be the cause of the apparent “death” of their family. Another symbol is the unborn baby of Stanley and Stella. This can relate to the birth of Edmund. Mary says that she wishes she had not born him because of the world that he was born too, mainly because of the “consumption”. In A Streetcar Named Desire, the unborn baby will also be born to a non-idealistic world of rape and ape like behaviour. It gives us the clue that Stella will stay with Stanley for her kids, which may be the reason that Mary stays with James. The light/dark symbol is important in this play too. Like Mary, Blanche does not like light. It represents the truth, in which both characters try to cloak. Mary tries to hide her drug addiction and Blanche with her sex addiction. The gunshot in Blanche’s head is a symbol of her husband’s death. It is parallel to the foghorn in A Long Days Journey into Night. It brings Blanche back to reality when she wants to be part of an idealistic world that the people around her have no use for. The Mexican woman who sells the tin flowers to Blanche is another symbol for death within her. She also represents the blindness that Blanche has within her morals because in fact the Mexican woman is blind. Silver promotes a strong symbol too. The silver cigarette case that was given to Mitch from a woman that was in love with him represents the communication between life and death. She has passed away but he still carries the case. Silver is a symbol for purity and virginity. The case is a parallel to the silver mirror, which represents woman’s love for her face. Another symbol of purity is the fact that Blanche is always bathing. She is trying to wash away her sins and her past. The poker game in the play always has Stanley winning his hands. This is a symbol for his victory over Blanche. She cannot get Stanley in trouble for what he has done because of her past and the fact that she is going to an asylum. Both of these authors use symbols in a very important manner that compliments the plot of each story. As this essay shows some symbols used by each author can be a parallel to the symbols used by the other. The main characters Mary in Long Days Journey into Night and Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire have many similarities between them which can be proved through the use of symbolism.