Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “Long Day's Journey into Night” by Eugene O'Neill that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “Long Day's Journey into Night”and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Long Day's Journey into Night” by Eugene O'Neill in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Long Day's Journey into Night” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the play and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Persistence of the Past in Long Day’s Journey into Night
Throughout “Long Day's Journey into Night” by Eugene O'Neill, the issue of the past is one that is brought up quite frequently, by the entire Tyrone family. Mary resents the fact that she has never had a “home" and that Tyrone was too cheap to find her a doctor who would have found another way to deal with her pain after childbirth, instead of simply prescribing morphine. The children are resentful of the way in which they were brought up, they dislike their mother’s addictions and Tyrone’s money pinching ways. Their father, Tyrone, resents the fact that he took on a role that typecast him, and subsequently kept him from obtaining his big break. Through it all, Mary repeats that the past cannot be helped, that no one controls his or her own actions. What can be learned from the way in which the Tyrone family deals with the past? Are they the perpetrators of their own destiny?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Forgiveness in Long Day’s Journey into Night
In Long Day’s Journey into Night there are many reasons for the Tyrone family to be at odds with one anther. Jamie and Edmund are always fighting, whether over their parents or issues between themselves. Tyrone and Mary are constantly bickering between themselves, or with their children. Even the maid is on the receiving end of Mary’s anger in the second act of the play. However, throughout their fights, it is clear that the family really cares about one another. Edmund and Tyrone make a compromise in terms of the sanitarium to which Edmund will be sent. Jamie finally admits his jealousy to Edmund, and Edmund forgives his brother for his willful acts. In which ways does the forgiving one another serve as a plot device? Does this make the family seem like enablers? Why or why not?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Escapism in Long Day’s Journey into Night
Every character in Long Day’s Journey into Night has a personal issue that is very troubling to themselves and to the rest of the family (which alone can make for several great attempts at character analysis). Tyrone is a money-grubbing man who is so lost in his own tumultuous childhood that he refuses to see how he is hurting his family. Jamie is irresponsible and has never worked for anything in his life, letting his jealousy towards Edmund rule over him. Mary is still resentful of not becoming a nun or a concert pianist, and Edmund is suffering from the trials of tuberculosis. Each character avoids their problems in their own self-destructive way, whether through alcohol, drugs or loose women. Never does anyone face anything head on. What is it that O’Neill is saying about avoidance in his play “Long Day's Journey into Night? Does it ever actually solve anything? How has their avoidance only worsened the problems of the Tyrone’s?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Motif of Repetition in Long Day’s Journey into Night
Throughout the course of the play by Eugene O'Neill, “Long Day's Journey into Night” it seems that the Tyrone family is always having the same arguments over and over again. At times they are fighting over Mary’s addiction to morphine and the effects it has on the family, while at other times they are fighting over Edmund and his condition. Even the act of drinking seems like a mere repetition to the family. What other repeating themes are seen throughout this play? Draw a correlation between the repetition throughout the day and the title of the play. Do you think that instead of describing the day itself, the title is referring to the monotony of the lives of the Tyrone’s instead?
This list of important quotations from “Long Day's Journey into Night” by Eugene O'Neill will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Long Day's Journey into Night” by Eugene O'Neil listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “Long Day's Journey into Night” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers or scene and act numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the play they are referring to.
“If you can’t be good, you can at least be careful." (I.i)
“None of us can help the things that life has done to us." (II.i)
“The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future too." (II.ii)
“If he’s ever had a loftier dream than whores and whiskey, he’s never shown it." (III)
“Everything looked and sounded unreal. Nothing was what it is. That’s what I wanted-to be alone with myself in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself…I was set free! I dissolved in the sea, became white sails and flying spray, became beauty and rhythm, became moonlight and the ship and the high dim-starred sky." (IV)
“For a second you see—and seeing the secret is the secret. For a second, there is meaning." (IV)
"Happy roads are bunk. Weary roads are right. Get you nowhere fast. That’s where I’ve got—nowhere. Where everyone lands in the end, even if more of the suckers won’t admit it." (IV)
“The Mad Scene. Enter Ophelia!" (IV)
“It never should have gotten a hold on her! I know damned well she’s not to blame! And I know who is! You are! Your damned stinginess! If you’d spent money for a decent doctor when she was so sick after I was born, she’d never have known morphine existed!" (IV)
“Oh, we’re fools to pay any attention. It’s the damned poison. But I’ve never known her to drown herself in it as deep as this. Pass me that bottle, Jamie. And stop reciting that damned morbid poetry. I won’t have it in my house!" (2081)
Source: Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter 6 ed. New York,
NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2003
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