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Synopsis
by Margaret Loftus Ranald

A play in four acts and five scenes, "a play of old sorrow, written in tears and blood," awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1957. This autobiographical play takes place from 8:30 A.M. to around midnight on an August day, 1912. The single set is the living room of James Tyrone's summer home. A round table with a green-shaded reading lamp attached by a cord to an overhead chandelier is at center on an "inoffensive" rug which covers almost the entire floor. Three wicker armchairs and an oak rocker surround the table. There are two bookcases, the smaller one with philosophical and political tracts, modern poetry, novels, and assorted plays; the larger, a glass-enclosed one, is filled with complete sets of great writers, world literature, Shakespeare, histories of Ireland, and others—all of which seem to have been well read. There are windows on each side of the stage, with the backyard to the left and the front lawn and harbor to the right, with a screen door opening onto the porch. Doors at the rear lead to the seldom-used front parlor and to the windowless back parlor, really a passageway to the dining room.

 

Act I: A sunny morning, about 8:30 A.M. Mary Cavan Tyrone and her husband, James, enter from the back parlor, having come from breakfast. She is fifty-four, plump but still graceful, with a curiously thin face, devoid of makeup, framed by white hair which accentuates the size of her beautiful dark brown eyes. "Her extreme nervousness" is manifested by the ceaseless movements of her hands, whose slender beauty is now warped and gnarled with rheumatism. Her voice has a soft Irish lilt, and her manner retains the "innate unworldly innocence" of the convent girl she once was. James Tyrone, age sixty-five, "looks ten years younger" with a military bearing that makes him seem taller than his five feet eight inches. Though his face is starting to go, he is still remarkably handsome, and his voice is "fine, resonant and flexible." In movement and manner he shows a conscious technique, reminiscent of his past as a romantic actor, but his simplicity and humble beginnings show in his current dress which is "commonplace shabby. He believes in wearing his clothes to the limit of usefulness," and since he is to do some gardening, he is unconcerned with appearance. He is a curious combination of "stolid, earthy peas-ant. . . sentimental melancholy and rare flashes of intuitive sensibility."

 

The two enter, with "Tyrone's arm around his wife's waist." As he twits her about gaining twenty pounds, she counters by saying she must reduce, and Tyrone asks if that is why she has eaten so little at breakfast; he himself is accustomed to a large meal, and he rejoices in the youthful quality of his digestion. They both sit down as Mary wonders what is keeping the two boys at the table; James jokingly, yet a trifle resentfully, suggests that "they're cooking up a scheme to touch the Old Man." As he puffs contentedly on his cigar, Mary teases him about his real estate deals—all but one unsuccessful—and then speaks worriedly about Edmund Tyrone, the younger son, who has "a bad summer cold." James then shows concern about Mary's own health because she seems upset; after being her "dear old self again," Mary remarks that she did not sleep well the previous night because of the noise of the foghorn, and then she teases James about his snoring. They are interrupted by the sound of laughter from the dining room, and it becomes clear that James is angry with his older son, James ("Jamie") Tyrone, Jr., who is nearly thirty-four and has not yet made anything of himself—but Mary defends him. With this, Mary calls on them to finish breakfast, and the two young men enter.

 

Jamie resembles his father rather than his mother but has never been as handsome as he. Similarly, he looks shorter and stouter than James "because he lacks Tyrone's bearing and graceful carriage." His face is beginning to show signs of dissipation, and with its aquiline nose and expression of perpetual cynicism, it has "a Mephistophelian cast." His personality is that of the charming irresponsible Irishman, though the charm is beginning to wear thin. He is dressed in a shabby suit with collar and tie, and his fair skin is sunburnt. Edmund, the younger, is twenty-three, taller than Jamie and wiry. He looks more like his mother, having her large dark eyes set in a long thin Irish face, a high forehead and a sensitive mouth, though his profile is his father's. His dark brown hair is slightly sun-bleached, but he does not appear to be in good health and is "much thinner than he should be." His eyes look feverish and his cheeks are sunken. He is dressed in old flannel trousers, a tieless shirt, and sneakers.

 

Mary becomes even more nervous, putting her hands to her hair and saying that it is hard for her to do it properly. She also complains that her eyes are bad and she cannot find her glasses. This search continues throughout the play and she never does find them. Jamie and his mother discuss Tyrone's snoring with an air of easy companionship, and Tyrone starts to needle Jamie. In an attempt to smooth over differences, Tyrone asks what had been amusing the boys, and Edmund tells the tale of Shaughnessy, a tenant of Tyrone, and his outsmarting of Harker [sic], the Standard Oil millionaire (an incident that is fully dramatized in A Moon for the Misbegotten). With the completion of the tale, Tyrone denies his enjoyment of it and once more turns on Jamie, a situation that annoys Edmund, who leaves to get a book. In his absence they discuss Edmund's health, Jamie and Tyrone showing themselves concerned that it might be more than the "summer cold" that Mary Tyrone maintains to be the cause. When her husband suggests that Doctor Hardy thinks it might be malaria contracted during Edmund's sojourn in the tropics, Mary flares up, saying that Hardy, like all doctors, doesn't know anything. But her outburst causes both Jamie and his father to look so long at her that she becomes discomfited, being reassured only when Tyrone flatters her about the beauty of her hair; she recalls that she didn't have a single gray hair "until after Edmund was born." Still rather pleased by Tyrone's flattery, she goes out to look after the day's menu, telling him not to allow Edmund to work in the garden.

 

Left alone, Tyrone and Jamie continue to discuss Edmund's health, and Tyrone says that Hardy thinks he might have consumption and will telephone him today with the result; Jamie angrily suggests that this wouldn't have happened if Tyrone had been less miserly and had gone to a decent doctor first. With this, Tyrone rounds on Jamie, claiming that he is a ne'er-do-well who would never even have had an acting job had it not been for his father's position. Finally, Jamie agrees, "I'm a bum," just to stop the argument. Tyrone speaks again of Edmund's illness in such final terms that Jamie is shocked, but his father blames him for Edmund's malady because of his evil influence. Jamie denies it and says that he really loves "the Kid," pointing out that Edmund is exceedingly stubborn and further that he has played fast and loose with his constitution during his travels as a sailor through his drinking and living in low dives. Jamie notes that his brother has always come home broke, and even though Edmund is currently working, it is only on a small-town paper.

 

But then they speak of Mary and forget their enmity, expressing their joy in having her at home again. She has been back for the past two months and seems "strong and sure of herself." Nonetheless, Jamie is still suspicious that she might be regressing because she had wandered around all night and even moved into the spare room as she had done before. Tyrone tries to reassure himself and as a result argues once more with Jamie, recalling that Mary's "curse" began with Edmund's birth, a comment that Jamie counters by claiming that it was the fault of the "cheap quack like Hardy" whom Tyrone had summoned to treat her. Again Tyrone loses his temper with Jamie, but when Mary returns, they both compliment her, Jamie telling her not to worry about Edmund and warning her to be careful, a comment that Mary takes with resentment. As the two men go out to the garden, leaving Mary alone, she looks nervous, frightened, and even a trifle desperate; but as she hears Edmund come downstairs, momentarily seized by a fit of coughing, she composes herself with a book. The two discuss Edmund's health and then Tyrone's meanness in buying a second-hand car. Mary feels that she is alone, cut off from friends, partly because of the cheapness of the house and Tyrone's preference for the bar room. Edmund tries to comfort her and warns her to be on her guard: "You know what's happened before." Again, Mary seems defensive, complaining about the constant suspicion with which everyone is treating her and asking why it has surfaced today. Edmund confides that he had noticed her night-time wandering and move to the spare room. She then says she is worried about Edmund's health. He reassures her, and again they speak of her promise on her word of honor, as before. But then she makes a remark that serves as a theme for the play: "That's what makes it so hard—for all of us. We can't forget." With this she decides to go upstairs for a nap since she has not slept all night, "Or are you afraid to trust me alone?" Edmund, torn between trust and fear, tells her to take her nap while he goes out to watch the others work. Mary sits back down but grows very tense, clearly fighting "a desperate battle with herself." In this act, Mary Tyrone's addiction to morphine is discussed only in euphemisms.

 

Act II, Scene i: About 12:45 p.m., Edmund is trying to concentrate on a book. Cathleen the second girl, enters with a bottle of bonded bourbon and glasses on a tray. She is a somewhat dense, well-meaning, Irish servant. As she goes to call Jamie and Tyrone, Edmund manages to grab an extra drink, but he is concerned over Cathleen's revelation that his mother has not been sleeping but is lying down with "a terrible headache." As he hears Jamie, Edmund puts back his empty glass, and the two manage another surreptitious drink, watering the bottle to keep the liquid level constant. Jamie suggests to Edmund that he cut out the liquor and also warns him that he may be really ill, something Edmund himself suspects. But then Jamie asks where his mother is and berates Edmund for leaving her alone so long, telling him that he really doesn't understand the situation; he, Jamie, has known and lived with the secret of his mother's addiction ten years longer than his brother. At that, Mary comes downstairs, looking less nervous than earlier in the day, but her eyes are brighter and her manner shows a somewhat withdrawn quality; Jamie realizes that his suspicions were correct, and his face and manner collapse into "embittered, defensive cynicism." They exchange a few remarks, but when Jamie makes a cynical comment about Tyrone's dilatoriness, Mary turns on him resentfully, realizing that he knows what she has been doing. But then she withdraws, saying that "none of us can help the things life has done to us." With an automatic sense of grievance which lacks inner conviction, she complains about her husband, her difficulty in getting decent servants because he won't pay high enough wages, and his refusal to spend money on a home because he has lived too much of his life in second-rate hotels. Nonetheless, he is even proud of "this shabby place" because deep down he does want a home. Edmund goes out to call Tyrone, and Jamie taxes his mother with having started on drugs once more. On his return, Edmund is at first angry with Jamie, but then he realizes that Jamie is right, but he won't admit it. Tyrone appears, and the three men bicker over the size of their drinks, while Mary is in the kitchen organizing the help. When she comes back, she begins to speak of the old grievance of "second-rate hotels" and so forth, and Tyrone realizes that she has slipped again. "He suddenly looks a tired, bitterly sad old man." Edmund tries to stop his mother, who turns on Tyrone for allowing Edmund a drink against doctor's orders. They wait for Mary to go in, all of them looking at her as she flutters about her hair, her lost glasses, and complains about their accusations, reacting to Tyrone's "I've been a God-damned fool to believe in you" with the excuse of worry about Edmund. Then she tells him that she really has tried to break her habit, but when he turns against her, griefstricken, she takes an attitude of "stubborn denial." They go into lunch as Tyrone says, "Never mind. It's no use now."

 

Act II, Scene ii: About a half-hour later. The family enters from lunch, Tyrone no longer with his arm about Mary; he seems to avoid touching her, while Jamie has put on his mask of "defensive cynicism." Edmund tries to do likewise but without success; he is both physically and spiritually sick. Mary is talking nonstop about the servant problem, the end of summer, their imminent return to the road, to "second-rate hotels," her inevitable loneliness, and Tyrone's return to the bar room. She claims that "in a real home one is never lonely," recalling that she gave up a home, her father's, to marry Tyrone, who thinks only of "buying property but never to give me a home." In the course of concern over Edmund's health, there is a telephone call from the doctor wishing to see Edmund that afternoon. Again Mary starts talking, this time about cheap doctors, like Hardy, who spoke to her about will power when she was desperate, and then she returns to the past: "it was exactly the same type of cheap quack who first gave you the medicine—and you never knew what it was until it was too late." Edmund and Tyrone try to stop her talking, and she decides to go upstairs to fix her hair, "if I can find my glasses," suggesting that her husband come upstairs "If you're so suspicious"; but he knows it is of no use. As she leaves, Jamie cynically says, "Another shot in the arm," a remark which makes the others turn on him; but then he says he does indeed have pity but realizes that "the truth is there is no cure." Edmund mimics his cynicism, but then they quarrel about Nietzsche, which brings from Tyrone a denunciation of both young men for falling away from Catholicism. Edmund then quotes from Zarathustra: "God is dead; of His pity for man hath God died." Tyrone and Jamie seem to consider Mary's case as hopeless, but Edmund says he will go up to speak with her.

 

Left alone with Jamie, Tyrone confides that Edmund does indeed have consumption and will have to go to a sanitorium. Jamie tells his father to be sure that he sends his brother to a good one, not "a cheap dump" because of his "Irish bogtrotter idea that consumption is fatal." Jamie suggests that he go uptown with Edmund for company when his brother hears the bad news, and Tyrone warns against getting him drunk. At this Mary enters, her eyes brighter and her manner becoming progressively more detached. First she complains about Tyrone's treatment of Jamie, blaming his shortcomings on his never having had a real home, then talking of the fog (which won't worry her tonight, she says), and going on about Tyrone's drinking, for which, he says, "No man has ever had a better reason." She tries to get him to stay, but he suggests that she take a spin in the car which he has bought for her, even hiring a chauffeur to drive it. Again Mary complains of his miserliness in buying a second-hand car and getting a cheap driver, but says she realizes that he had made the investment out of love for her. This touches Tyrone and he embraces her, begging her to stop the drug, but she returns to her defensive manner, making it quite clear that she will not make the attempt, again returning to a recital of past wrongs. When she married an actor, a lot of her convent friends dropped her; especially when Tyrone's former mistress sued him; when Edmund was born, "a cheap hotel doctor" gave her medicine for pain; when Jamie had measles, he went into the room where his baby brother Eugene was, and the child contracted measles and died. She still blames her son for that but also blames herself for ever having another child. Yet she assures Tyrone that she did want Edmund, though she knows he is doomed because "he was born too nervous and sensitive, and that's my fault."

 

Edmund then enters, dressed up to visit the doctor; he touches Tyrone for the carfare and to his surprise receives ten dollars. Mary, by now excessively nervous, has decided to go uptown to the drugstore–to "lay in a good stock ahead," Tyrone says bitterly, recalling the night she had screamed for "it" and threatened suicide. Edmund is a trifle suspicious about this sudden generosity of his father, asking whether the doctor has said he was going to die, a remark that angers Tyrone and evokes an apology from Edmund.

 

Tyrone goes upstairs to change, suggesting that Edmund talk to his mother. She tries to persuade him to stay with her and not go to visit Hardy, who preaches "will power." Edmund seizes the opening and begs her to stop—they will all help her. But Mary openly denies everything and speaks in her "remote and objective" manner of lying to herself and not being able to call her soul her own. One day, when Edmund is "healthy and happy and successful," things will be all right, and the Blessed Virgin Mary will forgive her and give her back the simple faith of her convent days so that she will be able to bear things. She then announces that she is going to the drugstore: "You would hardly want to go there with me. You'd be so ashamed." She asks if Edmund is going to divide the money with Jamie to help his dissipations and begs Edmund not to drink. With this, all three men leave the house. Mary at first complains of her loneliness but then realizes that she had wanted them to leave: "Their contempt and disgust aren't pleasant company. You're glad they're gone. Then Mother of God, why do I feel so lonely?" she asks as the curtain falls.

 

Act III: It is 6:30 P.M. on a dusky, foggy evening with the sounds of the foghorn and ships' bells in the background. Mary and Cathleen are standing at the table on which is a tray of whiskey and glasses, the girl having obviously been drinking. Mary is paler than before, and her eyes are unnaturally bright. She seems to have "found refuge and release in a dream where present unreality is but an appearance to be accepted and dismissed." She is well-dressed, but she wears her clothes in a slovenly way and her hair is disarranged. She talks to Cathleen as if she were an old friend, and her manner seems curiously girlish. Mary complains about the foghorn, while the girl complains about the chauffeur, who makes passes at her. Cathleen continues to drink and waters the bottle to deceive Tyrone. In answer to the girl's query why she had not gone into the theatre, Mary reveals her distaste for the life and her early desire to be a nun. Cathleen then tells of the difficulty she had had in getting the druggist to fill the prescription for rheumatism medicine for her mistress, and Mary, unhearing, goes back to her happy time at the convent where she had been a promising pianist. That had been her second dream, to be a concert pianist. She is now far back in the past, the time of happiness, which alone seems real now that she is drugged, as she recalls her meeting with Tyrone backstage when he was a matinee idol. All she wanted then was to marry him, and they have been husband and wife for thirty-six years. As she speaks she seems to revert to those early years, but Cathleen recalls her to reality by asking permission to take a drink to Bridget, the cook, and suggesting that Mary eat: "It's a queer medicine if it takes away your appetite." Left alone, Mary sits dreamily and then suddenly looks cynical as she denigrates her sentimentality about Tyrone but longingly wishes she could call back her simple faith. She commences to say a Hail Mary but then berates herself as "a lying dope fiend reciting words."

 

She is about to go upstairs—"When you start again you never know exactly how much you need—but Tyrone and Edmund return, finding "their worst expectations" confirmed. Mary offers them drinks, asking Jamie's whereabouts and suggesting that he wishes to destroy Edmund out of jealousy, recalling his dislike of the dead baby, Eugene. Tyrone agrees that Edmund should beware of Jamie's cynicism, but Mary babbles on obliviously, about Jamie as a child, about the dead Eugene, about Jamie's failures at school, and now about his drinking, which is the result of Tyrone's giving him whiskey to quiet him as a baby. This stings him into response, and Edmund recalls that his father had done the same thing to him. Then Mary continues, telling Edmund, "You were born afraid." They start to drink, and Tyrone realizes how much the liquor has been watered.

 

Mary becomes momentarily normal, telling Tyrone of her love for him, while he reciprocates, but then she taxes him with too much drinking, recalling one honeymoon evening when he was brought home literally dead drunk. This brings Edmund to look accusingly at his father, but Mary rambles on, recalling the beauty of her wedding and the glory of her wedding gown, wondering where it is, probably the attic. Tyrone leaves to get another bottle of whiskey, and she slips in and out of reality, one moment talking of the past and then of her love for Tyrone, asking Edmund to understand his father despite his miserliness about such things as light bulbs. She recalls the often-told story of Tyrone's youth, his desertion by his father, and his going to work in a machine shop at the age of ten. Edmund tries to tell her of his illness and that he must go to a sanitorium, but she is incapable of real understanding, seeing the situation as an attempt to separate Edmund from her. But when he mentions the word consumption, the disease which killed her father, Mary forbids him to remind her of it. With this Edmund condemns her bitterly: "It's pretty hard to take at times, having a dope fiend for a mother!" But almost instantly he repents and goes out as Mary thinks of taking more dope, hoping one day that she will accidentally give herself an overdose, something she could never do deliberately. Tyrone returns with a new bottle (having outwitted Jamie's attempt to get to his store because of a new padlock) and is surprised to find Edmund gone, but then Mary breaks down, afraid that Edmund is going to die. Tyrone denies it, saying that the doctor has said he will be cured in six months; but Mary is inconsolable, saying she should never have borne him; then he would never have known of her addiction and have come to hate her. Tyrone attempts to calm her as Cathleen enters "woozily" to announce dinner. Mary says she must go to bed and rest because of the pain in her hands, but Tyrone knows the truth: "You'll be like a mad ghost before the night's over!" Once again Mary resorts to outright denial as she leaves, and Tyrone, brokenly, goes to dinner.

 

Act IV: Around midnight. The hall light has been extinguished, and in the dining room only the reading light is on. The fog has grown denser, and the noise of the foghorn and ships' bells can be heard. Tyrone, wearing his old dressing gown and pince nez, is drunkenly playing solitaire. He has the air of "a sad, defeated old man, possessed by hopeless resignation." Edmund's voice is heard in answer to Tyrone's call, which is then followed by a thump as Edmund bangs into the hatstand in the darkness. This precipitates an instant argument about Tyrone's stinginess over light bulbs, which culminates in Tyrone's ordering his son to turn out the hall light or risk a thrashing. But then he recalls Edmund's illness and turns on all three bulbs in the chandelier, dramatically speaking of the poorhouse at the end of the road. The two discuss Jamie, who has not yet returned, and they drink together. Edmund has just walked home in the fog, and he quotes Ernest Dowson on the evanescence of life, saying that in the fog he had felt the peace of being "nothing more than a ghost within a ghost," explaining that one doesn't want to see life as it is. In reply, Tyrone suggests that Edmund has something of a poet in him, "but it's a damned morbid one!" He suggests a return to Shakespeare and quotes Prospero's speech from The Tempest: "We are such stuff as dreams are made of." The two then discuss their situation, "trying to forget" or "try[ing] to be resigned—again," or as Edmund suggests, to "be so drunk you can forget." With this he quotes from Baudelaire, on drink, and from his "Epilogue," then from Dowson's "Cynara." Tyrone finds these poems "morbid filth" as Edmund continues to apply the last two poems to Jamie's plight, and Tyrone inveighs against the kind of literature that Edmund reads, from Baudelaire to Zola, "whoremongers and degenerates!" suggesting once more that he read Shakespeare. Edmund whimsically recalls once winning a bet from the old man that he would learn Macbeth, "letter perfect," and his father remembers "approvingly"; but then they hear Mary moving around upstairs, and they drink together.

 

Tyrone speaks of Mary's recollections of the past, suggesting that they need considerable modification to conform to the reality. Her father became an alcoholic (drinking only champagne) when he was forty, and that and tuberculosis soon killed him. Even "her wonderful home was ordinary enough," and as for her pianistic talent, that was the flattery of the nuns who loved her because she was so devout. Her religious vocation was not really strong: "She was bursting with high spirits and the love of loving." They start a game of Casino, afraid that Mary might come downstairs, Edmund detesting "the bank of fog in which she hides and loses herself," almost as if she hates the three men in her life. Tyrone suggests that she is concerned about Edmund's health, and with that Edmund turns on his father, accusing him of guilt in his mother's addiction to morphine because he "put her in the hands of a cheap hotel quack" because of his own "stinginess." He berates Tyrone for not sending her for a cure earlier, "while she still had a chance," and again blames his miserliness. Tyrone claims that for years he didn't know, and he has spent thousands on cures, none of which has worked; but Edmund continues to attack his father for never giving Mary a home "except this summer dump in a place she hates and you've refused even to spend money to make this look decent." It is no "wonder she didn't want to be cured. Jesus, when I think of it I hate your guts." Tyrone counters by recalling that Mary had followed him on the road because she had wanted to and always had a nurse for the children. Finally, Tyrone taxes Edmund with being the cause of her addiction, something that the young man knows, but then Tyrone repents of having said so. The two make up "with real, if alcoholic, affection."

 

The subject changes to the sanitorium to which Edmund is to go, and Edmund tells Tyrone that he has found out that his father has chosen the state institution merely to save money, even though the old man owns plenty of property. Edmund has tried to understand and tried to be fair, remembering Tyrone's past. He also recalls the rotten things he himself has done, but he appeals to his father's "pride and shame" in this instance, before collapsing in a fit of coughing. This gives Tyrone a momentary pause in which he recites once more the litany of his boyhood troubles, the source of his fear of poverty, claiming that Edmund's "fling of hard work" was merely "a game of romance and adventure"; but the son tells him that he attempted suicide at Jimmy-the-Priest's once, when he was completely sober. Again Tyrone returns to past hardships, his father's death, their poverty, his working in the machine shop, and his resultant miserliness. Then he offers Edmund the choice of any sanitorium he likes, "within reason," suggesting another one that the doctor had recommended: "It's only seven dollars a week but you get ten times that value" because it is heavily endowed. Edmund agrees to it as "a good bargain." The two return to their game, but then Tyrone wanders off again, speaking of the way a dollar perhaps meant too much for him, "and the time came when that mistake ruined my career as a fine actor." Like O'Neill's own father with his perpetual role as Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo, James Tyrone bought a play cheaply and made such a great success in the role that "it ruined me with its promise of easy fortune," and finally he woke up to the fact that he was a slave to the property, so "identified with that one part" that no one wanted him in anything else. He talks of the way he had educated himself, read Shakespeare, studied elocution, and developed into an actor worthy of praise from Edwin Booth as a leading man. His ambitions were fulfilled, he married Mary, but then he fell into the trap of this single part which gave him a net profit of thirty-five to forty thousand dollars per season. Edmund is touched by this account, but Tyrone is not sure whether it will make him even more contemptuous of his father, and it certainly doesn't teach the value of money. At this, Tyrone looks up and asks if he can turn off the extra lights: "There's no use making the Electric Company rich." As he extinguishes them, he says he wouldn't care now if he had only the poorhouse to look forward to in old age if he could look back on his past as a fine artist. Edmund starts to laugh at the irony of life as his father wonders where the piece of paper with Edwin Booth's words of praise is now. Edmund suggests that it could be in the attic in an old trunk along with his mother's wedding dress.

 

This precipitates Edmund's own reminiscences, delivered "as if he were deliberately giving way to drunkenness and seeking to hide behind a maudlin manner." He tells of his memories of the sea, the occasions on which he has felt at one with nature, in "ecstatic freedom, . . . Like a saint's vision of beatitude," in which "for a second there is meaning!" but then the fog draws in again and one stumbles on. He believes he would have been more successful as a seagull or a fish than as a man because now he is a permanent stranger "who can never belong, who must always be a little in love with death." Tyrone is very impressed and declares that Edmund has "the makings of a poet," but Edmund turns aside the praise, saying that he will never be a real poet: "I couldn't touch what I tried to tell you just now. I just stammered." His strength will be in "faithful realism, at least. Stammering is the native eloquence of us fog people."

 

At that moment Jamie appears, monumentally drunk. Tyrone, in order to avoid a fight, leaves Edmund to deal with his brother. He downs a large drink and then tells Edmund that he really does love him, refusing him a drink until Edmund convinces him that he will go on the wagon tomorrow. Jamie asks whether Tyrone is going to send Edmund to the state farm to avoid expense, but the younger man says that they have decided on another place and shows sympathy and understanding toward his father. Jamie then tells the story of his evening on the town, starting with a quotation from Oscar Wilde's "The Harlot's House." He visited the local brothel and took up with Fat Violet because he felt sorry for her. He has reached a somewhat maudlin stage, but then he seems to remember his mother and asks, "Where's the hophead? Gone to sleep?" This cruel remark calls forth a punch in the face from Edmund. But Jamie is not really malicious. He has simply lost hope: "I'd begun to hope, if she'd beaten the game, I could, too," a remark that plunges him into tears and starts him on his own confidences. He has known about his mother's addiction much longer than Edmund, once having "caught her in the act with a hypo." Edmund's illness has really hit him hard because he would do anything for his brother, but then Jamie suggests that perhaps Edmund thinks Jamie is hoping his brother will die so that he and his mother can inherit all of Tyrone's cash. Edmund tells him to shut up, but Jamie starts to cut his brother down to size, saying that his success is only with a hick newspaper. But then he changes, asserting that he has really taught Edmund everything he knows, from literature through drinking to whores, confessing that he has consciously been a bad influence—out of jealousy toward "Mama's baby, Papa's pet," the cause of his mother's addiction. In fact, he loves Edmund more than he hates him but nonetheless wishes with one part of himself to make his brother fail, hoping he will die. The part of him that's dead also hopes that Mary will not break her habit: "He wants company, he doesn't want to be the only corpse around the house!" Then, having "gone to confession," he expresses his love for Edmund and falls into a drunken sleep. Tyrone returns, looks with bitterness at his failure of an older son, who wakes up enough to insult him with two quotations, one from Shakespeare's Richard III and the other from Rossetti on "Might-Have Been." He then suggests a revival of The Bells, with Tyrone playing Gaspard the miser, and insults him before falling asleep. Tyrone then dozes off as well, waiting for Mary to go to bed.

 

Suddenly Edmund hears something. All the lights go on in the front parlor and someone starts playing the piano rather like "an awkward schoolgirl." Then the playing stops and Mary enters, wearing a blue dressing gown, nightdress, and dainty slippers. "Her eyes look enormous. They glisten like polished black jewels," while her face looks astonishingly youthful, shy, inexperienced. Over one arm she carries her white satin wedding dress "trimmed with Duchesse lace." She looks at the three men without recognition as Jamie remarks, "The Mad Scene. Enter Ophelia!" Both Tyrone and Edmund round on him, and Edmund slaps him across the mouth. Jamie admits he "had it coming" and then starts to weep as Mary speaks. She has regressed to her life at the convent and talks of her stiff fingers, which she will ask the infirmarian to check. Tyrone finally realizes that she is carrying her wedding gown and takes it from her as she looks at it without seeming to comprehend what it is, and without recognizing Tyrone. She identifies it as a wedding gown which she has found in a trunk in the attic but says that she is planning to be a nun. She knows she has lost something, but cannot remember what it is, "Something I miss terribly" presumably her religious faith. Jamie is the first to realize that she has gone beyond their comprehension and recites two stanzas of Swinburne's "A Leave-Taking," and after the second, Mary continues with her search for "something I need terribly. I remember when I had it I was never lonely nor afraid." She moves around like a somnambulist, unaware of everyone. For a brief moment, Edmund seems to get through to her as he pulls at her like a little boy, telling her, "I've got consumption." Her initial reaction is to cry out "NO!" but then she tells him not to touch her because she is going to be a nun. Again Jamie says there is no hope, and again he quotes from Swinburne, with Tyrone telling him to stop. They steady themselves with drinks. None of them has ever seen her quite so far gone as she is now, as she tells of her visit to Mother Elizabeth concerning her vocation and her vision of the Blessed Virgin giving her consent. But Mother Elizabeth had told her to test her vocation for a year by living like other girls. Mary was shocked and prayed again to the Virgin, who told her she would always love her "and see no harm ever came to me so long as I never lost my faith in her." Then Mary becomes uneasy, recalling that the following "spring something happened to me. Yes, I remember. I fell in love with James Tyrone and was so happy for a time." As she stares before her in a dream, Tyrone moves slightly while the two sons remain still, and the curtain falls.

 

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