The Miser Monopoly and the Downfall of the Tyrone Family: An Analysis of Disability in Long Day's Journey into Night

Author: Kelley A Pasmanick
Published: 2021/08/15 - Updated: 2024/02/15
Publication Type: Literature / Review
Contents: Summary - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: Kelley A Pasmanick presents her literary analysis of Disability in Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill. Pasmanick is a repeat contributor to The Handy, Uncapped Pen and Disabled World. Her work has also been reprinted in Queen Mob's Teahouse.


The Miser Monopoly and the Downfall of the Tyrone Family: An Analysis of Disability in Long Day's Journey into Night

Main Digest

"O'Neill created a family whose members reinforce each other's addictions..." (1). Such an observation in the essay, "A Family Disease," by Gloria Dibble Pond stresses that in the play Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill, the Tyrone family, as a whole, is disabled. The following paper, therefore, will be ripe with terms synonymous with disability. Based on the definitions in the ADA Basic Building Blocks course, disability will be defined as those conditions marked by a health-related or psychological disorder. The designation of a disabled person will be defined as an individual who has an impairment which substantially limits one or more major activities of daily living, or who has a history of one, or who is understood to have one. Additionally, this paper will consider the term of disability synonymous with impairment, handicap, limitation, and ailment.

In the play, the eldest son, Jamie, and his father, James, are both alcoholics. Both consistently blame others for their drinking, including the family's matriarch, Mary Tyrone, and the youngest son Edmund. While Edmund also drinks heavily, it is difficult to deem him an alcoholic since he does not have an initial proclivity toward liquor. Edmund, however, does seem to be on a path where he will soon mirror the habit of his father and brother. Edmund's overall health, though, is unique due to being impaired with consumption. The combination of the debilitating disease and his possible alcoholism gives one a strong impression regarding the state of Edmund's health. The final family member, Mary, is captive to a morphine addiction, for which she and her sons blame James due to his reluctance to spend money. He epitomizes the term miser, falling far short in providing a satisfactory home and effective medical care to help Mary reach sobriety.

Many of the family's struggles are perpetuated by James's stinginess. For James, miserliness becomes a figurative handicap, which is displayed throughout the play, causing him to dismiss not only his own alcoholism, but also the problems of his entire family. The Tyrones' various ailments are never fully treated—in the case of Jamie, for example, his alcoholism goes completely untreated. On some level, the decision not to treat his family's limitations is a conscious choice, since it can be assumed that treatments for all of the characters' ailments exist. While the treatments of 1912 would have been far more basic than today's, their core principles would have been to stop the individual from using the addictive substance, and in the special case of Edmund, to clear his lungs. In addition, it is now known that addiction itself is not altogether correctable: once a person becomes an addict, they are always an addict. The question is whether or not they are using. By not spending the appropriate funds, James controls the addictions and handicaps of his family. He simply does not allow anyone to reach sobriety. In truth, James Tyrone sabotages his family, furthering the extent of their challenges by leading them into the same state of denial and helplessness which grips him.

Like each addict in the play, James Tyrone, a successful theater actor, continually professes his innocence in reference to his sobriety:

TYRONE. I won't. I never (emphasis mine) get drunk.

MARY. Oh, I'm sure you'll hold it well. You always have.

TYRONE. I've never (emphasis mine) missed a performance in my life. That's the proof!


He purposely leaves himself no room for error. With the use of never, James removes himself from his questionable and problematic behavior. With the second use of the word never, though, the meaning is altered. In the former example, the term never suggests his self-proclaimed inexperience with alcohol. In the latter instance, never signifies that he is reliable; it does not lead one to believe, however, that he has always remained sober. James never missing a performance is not synonymous with or indicative of sobriety. In a sense, all he "proves" is that he can "hold" his lines as well as his liquor. Stephen F. Bloom, in his essay "Empty Bottles, Empty Dreams: O'Neill's Use of Drinking and Alcoholism in Long Day's Journey into Night further asserts that James, boasting of his dependability onstage, "sounds very much like the typical attempt by the alcoholic to convince others that he has no drinking problem" (167). He denies his alcoholism through the use of definitive language, but ultimately, this same language incriminates him and leads him to inadvertently admit that he is dependent on alcohol. Furthermore, continuing his discussion with Mary, James remarks, "If I did get drunk it is not you who should blame me. No man has ever had a better reason" (1641). With the use of this conditional statement, James continues to maintain his innocence. His language, while less definitive than earlier in the discussion, once again reinforces Bloom's argument. James continues to deny Mary's accusation, but in the process only further confirms he is an alcoholic.

In act 4, after James has been drinking quite heavily, Edmund returns home from an evening in town and sits down at the table with his father: "The whiskey bottle on the tray is three-quarters empty. There is a fresh full bottle on the there will be an ample reserve on hand. [James] is drunk...[b]ut despite all the whiskey in him, he has not escaped, and looks...a sad, defeated old man, possessed by hopeless resignation" (1660). James is unable to elude his disappointments, even after consuming copious amounts of alcohol. While under the influence, he instead tells Edmund about those mistakes and how far they have reached:

That God-damned play I bought for a song and made such... a great money success—it ruined me with its promise of an easy fortune. I didn't want to do anything else (emphasis mine), and by the time I woke up to the fact I'd become a slave (emphasis mine) to the damn was too late...I'd lost the great talent I once had through years of easy repetition (emphasis mine), never learning a new part, never really working hard. Thirty-five to forty thousand dollars net profit a season..." (1672)

James's description of reaching easy street in the theater is interestingly reminiscent of the patterns of behavior associated with alcoholics. As Bloom explains, "The life of an very much defined by repetitious behavioral patterns..." (159). Repetition defines James's theater career. He comments that he loses his talent by easy repetition and never want[ing] to do anything else, and becom[ing] a slave to the one particular play that makes him famous; he typecasts himself. James becomes addicted to the role and loses focus, just as if actually intoxicated. In his quest for easy money, he compromises his craft and career: "[B]efore I bought the damned thing I was considered one of the three or four young actors with the greatest artistic promise in America...I'd be willing to have no home but the poorhouse in my old age if I could look back now on having been the fine artist I might have been" (1672, 1673). His epiphany comes too late. He is destroyed by the same routine year after year; because while he gains large amounts of money, this is all he gains.

Memory becomes James's enemy. While reminiscing, he says to Edmund, "What the hell was it I wanted to buy, I wonder, that was worth—Well, no matter. It's a late day for regrets" (1672). This internal dialogue provides a clue into his past reasoning; James cannot remember why he needed so much money. It is the prospect of the money that actually interests him—not what he can do with it. His motivation is simply the fact that he is able to make "[a] fortune in those days—or even in these" (1672). One finally learns the origins of his miserliness. James does not grow up in comfort, or anything similar to what he has provided his sons. At the age of ten, he starts working, saying to Edmund, "And what do you think I got for it? Fifty cents a week...We never had clothes enough to wear, nor enough food to eat...[Mother's] one fear was she'd get old and sick and have to die in the poorhouse. It was in those days I learned to be a miser. A dollar was worth so much then. And once you've learned a lesson, it's hard to unlearn it" (1671). It can easily be inferred that James's mother's constant fear of avoiding "the poorhouse," transfers to him; it becomes his obsession. In effect, this preoccupation with fiscal discipline results in him learning an even more difficult lesson: loss. At a time when he is improving his station in society, he neglects to reflect upon the possibility that there might be something more important than money. By being cast in only one role, James loses his love for performing because he loses the challenge which different roles bring him. He also, ultimately, loses the ability to spend the money he has worked so hard to amass.

Throughout the play, however, the question of the James's family's actual net worth is constantly in limbo. One certainly never gets a true sense of whether James is actually financially stable. On the one hand, the theatrical production James purchases has several years where it makes "thirty-five to forty thousand net profit a season!" (1672). The large amount of money compounded with his miserly attitude points to the fact that his fortune may be huge. Conversely, James habitually invests money in property that does not seem to be sound:

JAMIE. You're one of the biggest property owners around here.

TYRONE. That doesn't mean I'm rich. It's all mortgaged—

JAMIE. Because you always buy more instead of paying off the mortgages. (1619)

The fact that James may actually be in debt simply illustrates an important truth about him: he may not actually be a miser, except when dealing with his family.

By the conclusion of the play, Mary Tyrone can be seen as the most severely addicted character. Mary, who is addicted to morphine, becomes so after the trauma of her second son, Eugene's premature death and Edmund's difficult pregnancy:

I swore after Eugene died I would never have another baby. I was to blame for his death. If I hadn't left him with my mother...Jamie would never have been allowed, when he still had the measles, to go into the baby's room. I always believed Jamie did it on purpose...Above all, I shouldn't have let you insist I have another baby to take Eugene's place. (1643)

In this speech, reserved for James, she blames a total of three people for what she considers to be her most painful mistake. Although she assigns the blame immediately to herself, illustrating the tremendous amount of guilt she feels over the death of her son, she quickly recants, voiding her admission of fault. She unfairly blames Jamie: "I know [he] was only seven..." (1643). He is still a child at the time of Eugene's death, who is unaware of the consequences of visiting his brother while ill. Mary, then, extends the fault to James, after he convinces her to join him while he tours the country. She regrets falling victim to persuasion, being caught between her husband and her children. Therefore, in an attempt to show her devotion to James, she travels without her children, leaving them with her mother. On her mother's watch, Eugene dies.

In act 2, when Eugene's fate and Mary's addiction is revealed, she is under intense suspicion for continuing to use morphine. This suspicion, which stigmatizes her, plays a major role in informing her behavior. According to the article, "Stigma: An Enigma Demystified," by Lerita M. Coleman, "Some stigmatized people become dependent, passive, helpless, and childlike because that is what is expected of them" (147). Because severe addicts must rely upon a particular substance, the only thing about which they can be responsible is making sure they are not without their substance of choice; in matters of daily life then, addicts are absent and not directly responsible for anything, similar to children. With Mary's comments about Jamie, one realizes that she has reverted to such a state. Ronald Granofsky expounds upon this idea inThe Trauma Novel: Contemporary Symbolic Depictions of Collective Disaster : "In the trauma novel, unassimilable reality throws the individual character back upon his or her elemental nature. With identity under severe stress, the character regresses to seek the security necessary to survive" (19). Once again, Mary's addiction causes her to digress to an earlier stage of development—where she is not a wife, not a mother, nor required to take care of herself, let alone anyone else—a state indicative of selfishness. Blaming Jamie allows her to relinquish any and all responsibility for someone who is hers: her infant son.

In addition to wrongfully accusing Jamie for Eugene's death, Mary blames James for persuading her to have a third child. According to Mary, Edmund is conceived to lessen the impact of the baby's death. While this may be true, to what degree the birth of Edmund lessened Mary's pain is questionable. Her morphine addiction may, in fact, be seen as a direct consequence of her newly developed fear of motherhood: "I was afraid all the time I carried Edmund. I knew something terrible would happen. I knew I'd proved by the way I'd left Eugene that I wasn't worthy to have another baby, and that God would punish me if I did. I never should have borne Edmund" (1643). Mary relives the trauma of Eugene's death while carrying Edmund, making her ill-prepared to mentally and physically handle her youngest son's birth. In "Toward a Feminist Theory of Disability," Susan Wendell states, "Feminists have already challenged this line [between the biological and the social] in part by showing how processes such as childbirth...may be presented, treated, and therefore experienced as illnesses or disabilities..." (247). In Mary's situation, childbirth, which is already mentally and physically taxing becomes more so since her attention is diverted; it is split between Eugene and Edmund, the past and the present. A traumatic death begets a traumatic birth, which prompts the doctor, who delivers Edmund, to give her morphine as a coping mechanism (1667). Since she is so nervous during Edmund's pregnancy and then sick immediately following it, one gleans that the morphine is used more to cure Mary's psychological complications than the physical pain of childbirth. More damning to James, however, is his pathetic choice in a doctor. One learns that Mary is the first victim of James's miserliness: "If you'd spent money for a decent doctor when she was so sick after [Edmund] was born, she'd never had known morphine existed" (1667). The two actions: the push for a third child and the poor choice in medical care, place the blame squarely on James's shoulders.

Mary's morphine addiction is of particular interest since it is far more disabling than even James's alcoholism. Evidence for such a theory is apparent when Mary says to the servant Cathleen after returning from the drugstore with the morphine prescription: "It's a special kind of medicine. I have to take it because there is no other that can stop the pain— all the pain—I mean, in my hands" (1650). A significant detail is already included in this poignant statement: "all" has been purposely italicized. This stylistic detail illuminates the pervasive effects of the opiate, capable of ameliorating discomfort in the mind and the body. Intriguing still, is the instantaneous shift from general to narrow, from all to her hands. This shift further highlights a secondary impairment—the rheumatism in her hands: "Her hands are never still. They were once beautiful hands, with long, tapering fingers, but rheumatism has knotted the joints and warped the fingers, so that now they have an ugly crippled look" (1611). Rheumatism, or arthritis, is considered a disability because it limits motor function, and by extension, activities of daily living. The ceaselessness of her hands, however, may not be indicative of rheumatism at all (1614). Bloom asserts that according to The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III), Mary's fidgety hands are in fact a symptom of "opioid withdrawal" which "include restlessness, irritability, depression, tremor, weakness, nausea, vomiting, and muscle and joint pains" (164). The "crippled look" of her knotted joints is suggestive of the permanent effects of prolonged morphine use and not rheumatism. In essence, rheumatism is a misdiagnosis and not a separate limitation; sadly, it is only a side effect.

Along with forcing Mary to carry Edmund to term, James plays a crucial role in his wife's relapse after she returns from the sanatorium: "Oh, I'm so sick and tired of pretending this is a home! You won't help me! You won't put yourself out the least bit!..You don't really want one!...Then nothing would ever have happened" (1634). After saying this in act 2, Mary reassures the family that she has, in fact, resumed using morphine. In this instance, however, Mary is correct; James's inclination not to spend money is not helping his wife, but causing further harm to her. Their home is not a conducive environment for healing: "In a real home one is never lonely. You forget I know from experience what a home is like. I gave up one to marry you—my father's home" (1637). Coleman attests to the fact that since Mary is stigmatized, she experiences "social rejection [and] social isolation" (147). Her home is not a happy one. James puts Mary in a summer home, an abode that is seen as temporary, but which he makes permanent; although he is able to adjust to this idea, she cannot. Granofsky explains based on the work of Bruno Bettelheim, "In intervening periods of stress and scarcity, the individual seeks for comfort again in the ‘childish' notion that he and his place of abode are the center of the universe" (108). In her circumstances, Mary does not even have the advantage of a stable home environment to assist her in convalescing and the detoxification process. Alternatively, her home seems to have the opposite effect—it contributes more quickly to her relapse; she has no center of the universe to grasp in times of trial. Forced to make a temporary situation permanent, James's frugality hurls her into an even more unbearable state of trauma.

Furthermore, following her homecoming from treatment, Mary is immediately alarmed by Edmund's health, so much so that she even warns her family that she needs more support from them in order to get well. She tells Edmund, "The doctor there [in the sanatorium] had warned me I must have peace at home with nothing to upset me, and all I've done is worry about you" (1646). The knowledge of her family's tribulations adds to her stress, hindering her recovery and ultimately hampering it completely. She is solely dependent on her family, especially James: "I have no friends...If there was a friend's house where I could drop in and laugh and gossip awhile. But, of course, there isn't" (1641, 1642). She has no friends because her home life with James does not allow them. One should then expect her attempts at recovery to fail, particularly when James can in no way overcome his penuriousness even in the most desperate and deserving of circumstances. The realization that Mary is doomed comes not through a lack of her own efforts, but because of the fact she cannot recover without help from others.

Hence, at the conclusion of the play, Mary's last remarks are a testament to her reality: "Then in spring something happened to me...I fell in love with James Tyrone and was so happy for a time" (1685). Through the past tense, it is evident that Mary is no longer happy. By ending with James, her husband is cast in the most permanently unforgiving light: "Viewing the perpetrators of a traumatic event as totally evil, for instance, and using this as a casual explanation for the event itself, will be temporarily consoling, but will freeze the individual...within the regressive stage of development" (Granofsky 110). Mary frames James as the end all be all of her addiction, the source of undoing who is single-handedly responsible for her complete disablement.

While Mary's circumstances are unique—primarily due to their severity—the Tyrones' two adult children are captive to their own vices. Like James, alcohol is the culprit; and like Mary, James is primarily responsible for his children leading addictive lifestyles. There are several lessons Jamie and Edmund learn about alcohol from James; he starts them drinking. Mary explains to James what effect he has on Jamie, "You brought him up to be a boozer. Since he first opened his eyes, he's seen you drinking. Always a bottle on the bureau in the cheap hotel rooms! And if he had a nightmare when he was little, or a stomach-ache, your remedy was to give him a teaspoonful of whiskey to quiet him" (1653-1654). James uses alcohol medicinally for his children, similarly as a painkiller. This use of alcohol as a remedy becomes a behavior practiced again with Edmund:

EDMUND. You did the same thing with me. I can remember that teaspoonful of booze every time I woke up with a nightmare.

MARY. [James] didn't know any better...His people were the most ignorant kind of poverty-stricken Irish. I'm sure they honestly believed whiskey is the healthiest medicine for a child who is sick or frightened. (1654)

It is interesting to distinguish how alcohol is perceived by different family members. When Mary assigns fault to James for doling out alcohol to induce sleep, she construes the substance to be destructive. The children, however, do not view alcohol as a threat. In fact, due to it being administered medicinally, the alcohol appears safer and is more accessible. For Edmund especially, who finds himself sick as an adult, alcohol is used as an anesthetic—not to cure the disease, but to numb his emotions to the upsetting truth that he has consumption: "What I've got is serious, Mama. Doc Hardy knows for sure now...He called in a specialist to examine me, so he'd be absolutely sure" (1657). Interestingly, a sober Edmund tries to tell Mary the truth about his disease, but she fails to truly hear him due to the daze the morphine induces. Exasperated with his mother and his fate, he leaves the house to go drinking with Jamie (1659). For Edmund, alcohol also has a second use. He drinks liquor to sedate himself when interacting with his mother. In the scene presented above, where Mary directly incriminates James in starting the children on alcohol, Edmund becomes so flustered that he cannot help himself to a drink fast enough:

EDMUND. Papa! Are we going to have this drink, or aren't we?

TYRONE. You're right. I'm a fool to take notice. Drink hearty, lad. [ Edmund drinks... ].


Edmund literally drowns out Mary's accusation—that James makes his children alcoholics—with the same medium. Thus, while James uses alcohol years before to quiet and calm his children, Edmund is now using the same tactic, indirectly, with Mary. Instead of giving her alcohol to stop from talking, he drinks to keep from listening.

Edmund's reliance upon alcohol is further complicated by the news that he is impaired with consumption. He is one of the only characters in the play who can be considered to have two actual disabilities. The tuberculosis affects his appearance: "He is plainly in bad health. Much thinner than he should be, his eyes appear feverish and his cheeks are sunken. His skin, in spite of being sunburned a deep brown, has a parched sallowness" (1614). The consumption has already become visible when the play begins; he is emaciated, suggesting that his immune system has already been severely compromised. This is further shown by Edmund's ensuing respiratory troubles: "As he nears the bottom [ of the stairs ] he has a fit of coughing" (1624). As the play progresses, so does his condition. While the consumption itself is certainly not James's fault, he holds the blame for many of its side effects. Early in act 1, one discovers that James falters in finding any adequate medical attention near the beginning of his son's illness. Once again, money is the issue:

JAMIE. It might never had happened if you'd sent [Edmund] to a real doctor when he first got sick.

TYRONE. What's the matter with Hardy? He's always been our doctor up here.

JAMIE. Everything's the matter with him! Even in this hick burg he's rated third class! He's a cheap old quack...Hardy only charges a dollar...That's what makes you think he's a fine doctor. (1619)

It takes James too much time to realize the severity of Edmund's disease. In the meanwhile, his stingy attitude only furthers the effects of the detrimental illness.

In addition to the actual ailment of consumption, the household uses the disease as an impetus for Edmund to stave off alcohol. Jamie tries to prohibit Edmund from drinking because he believes it will further complicate his brother's already failing health: "I'll have a drink. Not you. Got to take care of you" (1679). The knowledge of Edmund's consumption gives Jamie a reason to be protective of him. Erving Goffman in, "Selections from Stigma, "theorizes that" [b]y definition, of course, we believe that a person with a stigma is not quite human...We construct a stigma-theory, an ideology to explain his inferiority and account for the danger he represents..." (132). Restricting Edmund's intake of alcohol is one way that Jamie dehumanizes him, however honorable his intentions may be. What was before considered an acceptable activity, even encouraged, is no longer. Jamie surmises that mixing consumption with alcohol is a combination which is sure to aggravate Edmund's woes; it could even be a deadly one.

The stigma derived from Edmund's consumption goes even further. According to Coleman, stigma "remove[s] the usual disguises of mortality. Such stigmas can act as a symbolic reminder of everyone's inevitable death" (149). Jamie feels that with the ailment, Edmund's death is looming. Goffman argues that "the danger [Edmund] represents" is death, and a premature one at that (132). Thus, in Jamie taking these measures in order to sustain his brother's health, Edmund becomes a symbol of death. Jamie's efforts are thwarted, however, when it becomes apparent that Edmund's fate is directly tied with James's finances:

TYRONE. I'll send him wherever Hardy thinks is best!

JAMIE. Well, don't give Hardy your old over-the-hills-to-the-poorhouse song about taxes and mortgages.

TYRONE. I'm no millionaire who can throw money away! Why shouldn't I tell Hardy the truth?

JAMIE. Because he'll think you want him to pick a cheap dump, and because he'll know it isn't the truth...What I'm afraid of'll figure it would be a waste of money to spend any more than you can help.

TYRONE. You liar!

JAMIE. All right. Prove I'm a liar. That's what I want. That's why I brought it up. (1640)

Jamie, highly aware of how his father functions, is concerned about the parameters James will place on Edmund's treatment. James wants to help his son; through his miserliness, he establishes standards, limiting the quality and degree of assistance expected. Even when Edmund becomes irate over the limits his father places on his treatment, does James balk at the idea of spending more money on a sanatorium. James tells Edmund, "You can go anywhere you like. I don't give a damn what it costs. All I care about is to have you get well. Don't call me a stinking miser...Any place I can afford. Any place you like—within reason" (1670, 1671). In one breath James says price does not matter, and in another, he adds that the cost of the treatment must be reasonable. By attaching this stipulation of reasonableness, he shows that he cannot reconcile his desire to save money with saving his son. As a result, the play concludes without definitively knowing where Edmund will be treated and what the quality of his treatment will be. In the end, money triumphs, and Edmund remains no closer to improving his health than at the beginning of the play.

While the stigma of his consumption is belittling to Edmund, Jamie is reproached for his alcoholism. As Goffman explains, "[D]ifferent types of stigmas may be mentioned [including] blemishes of individual character perceived as weak will, domineering, or unnatural passions, treacherous and rigid beliefs, and dishonesty, these being inferred from a known record of... addiction [and] alcoholism..." (132). With regard to Jamie, a good example of this type of stigma can be seen early in the play. In act 1, James, livid at his son for insinuating that he falls short in his role as the provider, tells Jamie, "That's enough! You're not drunk now! There's no excuse" (1619). The fact that James considers his sober son's words as equal to that of an intoxicated man illustrates two important facts: one is James's ineptitude of the truth; the second, is the continued stigmatization of Jamie. Jamie is an alcoholic—this is undeniable. Jamie, however, is not inebriated in this scene. What he is insinuating about his father is true and is spoken in an attempt to influence James's future decisions. By not taking Jamie seriously, James only furthers the effects of his son's addiction.

While the relationship between father and son initially may seem contentious, James and Jamie's actual rapport is far more complicated:

You've never saved a dollar in your life...You've thrown away your salary each week on whores and whiskey!...If you weren't my son, there isn't a manager in the business who would give you a part...You made no effort to find anything else to do...You never wanted to do anything except loaf in barrooms!...After all the money I'd wasted on your education, and all you did was get fired in disgrace from every college you went to. (1619)

One is able to reason that the deep regret James suffers from, in particular, watching his eldest son—a child with such promise—go unfulfilled leads James to remain passive concerning the root of his son's undoing: alcohol. James's passivity does not come without further reason. Unlike every other family member, James admits to financing Jamie's education. Even more compelling, it is evident that James pays for more than one university. With Jamie, there is a reversal in James's pattern of behavior. He is extremely financially generous with his eldest child. There are several possible reasons for this blatant shift in attitude: perhaps it is because Jamie is the eldest, or maybe because James sees a great deal of himself in him. Whatever the reason, Jamie takes obvious advantage of the situation—something James will not let happen again.

The effects of Jamie's actions are ruinous. He proves to his father that his weariness, and by extension, his thriftiness, is advantageous to him. The only time one sees James being truly beneficent without restriction, he is disappointed by his son; worse yet, for all of his kindness, there exists no equally positive outcome. When James is frugal, there is no chance of him being exploited. Hence, he recognizes safety in parsimony because he will not have his heart broken. One, therefore, only views James as a character completely neglectful of himself and the rest of his family.

Thus, with his miserliness now extended to Jamie, one finds James again reinforcing his whole family's disabilities. James certainly knows that Jamie has a problem with alcohol, but is unconcerned and turns a blind eye to it. He is not willing to invest in Jamie a second time for fear of the consequences; as a result, his eldest son is skipped over entirely as a recipient of any treatment. There is also a direct corollary between Jamie's past behavior toward his father's assistance, and the type of care Edmund and Mary are given. They receive treatment for their ailments, but conditionally because the amount of money he spends is once again a factor in judgment. Partiality is demonstrated by James; he is willing to help his family by seeking treatment, but is only extending a certain level of help to certain members.

One can tell from the dredging up of past blunders that perhaps the only thing Jamie has finished in his life is an alcoholic beverage; his dedication extends only to the alcohol itself. The sense of devotion he has to liquor does not transcend to any other facet of his life, a fact that James never fails to repeat to his son. James's unearthing of Jamie's errors prohibits an emotional distance, what Granofsky characterizes as Jamie's "removal from unpleasant actuality by the use of distance and selection" (6). Jamie is not able to separate himself from his mistakes of the past because a list of those mistakes is continually selected and repeated by his father. Granofsky continues, "Selection is achieved in the mind by the very nature of the faculty of memory, which is capable of expunging painful experiences from consciousness" (6). Thus, whether or not Jamie has forgotten about these moments is irrelevant because as soon as James recalls them, Jamie remembers them on a subconscious level. James is a trigger to Jamie's memories and therefore, perpetuates his addiction.

Ostensibly, the alcohol functions for Jamie as a way to forget his failures; but instead as Bloom discusses, the alcohol "has reinforced the sense that it is impossible to forget, and that intoxication exacerbates the problem" (171). Jamie drinks to numb himself, but it is during these times of intoxication that Jamie broaches the subject of his failures and the ulterior motives he has for treating his brother Edmund as he does: "I've been rotten bad influence. And worst of it is, I did it on make a bum of you...Never wanted you to succeed and make me look worse by comparison. Wanted you to fail. Always jealous of you" (1680). Drunk, Jamie actually tells the truth. He purposely tries to lead Edmund down the same path he has taken in order to relieve some of the familial pressure placed on him. Jamie says, "[Y]ou'd better be on your guard. Because I'll do my damnedest to make you fail. Can't help it. I hate myself (emphasis mine). Got to take revenge. On everyone else. Especially you" (1680). What is written as a drunken rant is hardly that. The root of Jamie's problem is exposed: he hates himself. He hates himself, perhaps because he remembers those same mistakes his father mentions earlier. He cannot move beyond them, and he cannot undo them. Once again, James is at the root of Jamie's limitation. Instead of seeking help for Jamie, he simply reminds his son why he is an alcoholic. Remembrance is the reason Jamie feels that he must take revenge on others. As a result, he makes "getting drunk romantic" for Edmund so his younger brother may join him in a state of utter misery (1680). If Edmund follows suit, then Jamie will be able to regain some agency and pride that he has lost. Sadly, it does seem that it will be impossible for Jamie to be completely cured, simply because there are too many memories and too many opportunities for people to remind him of his defeats.

The final moments of act 4 truly highlight the horrible tragedy of the Tyrone family. The play is left unresolved, further illustrating the inescapable disabilities that plague the four characters. Mary is noticeably incapacitated—the morphine diminishing her maturity level to that of a schoolgirl. Edmund is left helpless at the table so nervous about his illness that he begs his completely debilitated mother for help. Jamie sits drunk and humiliated after being slapped across the mouth by his younger brother. Lastly, James sits stoically trying to "shake off his hopeless stupor" (1685). He still is unable to admit that the sad group he is watching forms from his actions. One realizes by the end of the play that it is James who encourages his children to drink by choosing to ignore the impact his habits may have on them. It is James who dismisses the possibility of financing enduring cures which could help stabilize his family. Finally, James makes a harmful situation for his wife worse by withholding from Mary her dream of a proper home. To complicate matters even more, James also disregards his alcoholism, which only advances his state of denial about his family: the whole family is handicapped. They are so exceedingly dysfunctional that each character is an entity unto itself—alone, empty, and degraded. The miserliness of James Tyrone is to blame. The simple investment of good treatment could have been a determining factor in his family's health. In the place of treatment, one determines that "drugs and alcohol cannot protect them from the emptiness of their lives; these only intensify the feelings of hopelessness, and keep them trapped in circles of behavior and interaction that ultimately leave them all alone" (Bloom 176). In essence, since James remains stagnant, so does his family. Most importantly, just as he imposes limits on his own quality of life, thereby paralyzing himself, he cripples his family members because he too controls their standard of living. In conclusion, the monopoly of control, wielded by James Tyrone, eventually monopolizes all of them, even the man who creates it.

Works Cited

ADA Basic Building Blocks. 28 April 2009. U.S. Dept. of Education. DBTAC: Southeast ADA

Center. Syracuse U. 21 April 2009.

Bloom, Steven F. "Empty Bottles, Empty Dreams: O'Neill's Use of Drinking and Alcoholism in Long Day's Journey into Night." Critical Essays on Eugene O'Neill. Comp. James J. Martine. Ed. James Nagel. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1984. 159-77.

Coleman, Lerita M. "Stigma: An Enigma Demystified." The Disability Studies

Reader. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis, 2006. 141-152.

Goffman, Erving. "Selections from Stigma." The Disability Studies Reader. Ed.

Lennard J. Davis. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis, 2006. 131-140.

Granofsky, Ronald. The Trauma Novel: Contemporary Symbolic Depictions of Collective

Disaster. New York: Peter Lang, 1995. 6, 19, 108, 110.

O'Neill, Eugene. Long Day's Journey into Night. The Norton Anthology of American Literature.

Ed. Nina Baym. 7th ed. Vol. D. New York, NY: Norton, 2007. 1610-1685.

Pond, Gloria Dibble. "A Family Disease." The Eugene O'Neill Newsletter. 9.1(1985): 1-3. 17

Wendell, Susan. "Toward a Feminist Theory of Disability." The Disability Studies

Reader. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis, 2006. 243-256.

Author Credentials:

Kelley A Pasmanick is a thirty-five-year-old woman from Atlanta, Georgia. Pasmanick’s work has appeared in Wordgathering, Squawk Back, Praxis Magazine, The Mighty, Loud Zoo, The Jewish Literary Journal, Umbrella Factory Magazine, Breath & Shadow, Kaleidoscope, and Tiny Tim Literary Review. Pasmanick is a repeat contributor to The Handy, Uncapped Pen and Disabled World. Her work has also been reprinted in Queen Mob's Teahouse. Explore Kelley's complete biography for comprehensive insights into her background, expertise, and accomplishments.

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Cite This Page (APA): Pasmanick, K. A. (2021, August 15 - Last revised: 2024, February 15). The Miser Monopoly and the Downfall of the Tyrone Family: An Analysis of Disability in Long Day's Journey into Night. Disabled World. Retrieved June 20, 2024 from

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