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Character Analysis
by Margaret Loftus Ranald

HOGAN, Josie. Daughter of Phil Hogan and sister of Mike Hogan. She is an almost freakish woman of five feet eleven inches weighing about 180 pounds, with a rough tongue, a bad reputation, and a heart of gold. When her mother died giving birth to her brother Mike, now twenty, Josie acted as mother to him and her other two brothers, all of whom she assists to leave the rockstrewn tenant farm which Phil Hogan rented first from James Tyrone, Sr., and now from his son. She manages to keep Phil in order with rage and blows, but inwardly she pities his weakness. She loves James Tyrone, Jr., the ne'er-do-well son of the old actor; and her brother, Mike, seems to be correct when he alleges that she is scheming to get Jim in bed with her and have her father catch them and force a marriage. Josie vigorously denies the suggestion, but later on, when Phil leads her to believe that Jim has welshed on their understanding that Phil would have first refusal of the farm, she deter-mines to go through with the plot. However, despite all her blather, Josie is really a virgin who covers up her essential undesirability to men by pretending promiscuity, while all the young men who claim they have known her sexually are really covering up the fact that she has actually punched them away. But with Jim Tyrone, things are different on this moonlit September night. Josie discovers that Phil has lied to her and that Jim will indeed sell him the farm. First she is furious with her father, and then she looks at Jim, who wants nothing from her except her maternal love. To be sure, he does make one serious pass at her but then decides not to go through with it because he, alone among the young men, has seen through Josie's defense mechanism and sees her brazen exterior as a means of covering a deeply wounded woman who knows herself undesirable but who has much love to give.

 

Josie understands the sadness of Jim Tyrone, his weakness, and his sorrow for the death of his mother. Throughout that long night, she cradles his head on her breast, like the Virgin and the dead Christ in the "Pieta," as he confesses himself to her, obtaining forgiveness from her and assurance that his own mother forgives him. Josie is a combination of feminine characters earlier portrayed by O'Neill. She is Cybel, the earth-mother prostitute of The Great God Brown who comforts both Dion Anthony and William A. Brown, and like her, she understands how to bring peace to Jim. She also knows how to help her weaker brothers to escape their fate on the farm, giving them the chance to fulfill their ambition at the expense of her own. She is the only prop on whom Phil Hogan is able to lean, for she manages to maintain his self-respect, even if it is only by chasing him with a broom handle when he gets drunk. She supports him in his chicanery, laughing at his tricks, and at the same time saving him from himself. With Jim Tyrone she is also the unattainable Virgin, the mediatrix in mankind's salvation, and also his mother and in these roles speaks words of absolution to Jim so that he need no longer feel guilt. At the same time she echoes the spirit of Nora Melody in A Touch of the Poet, who takes pride in her love, in her tending the dreams of others, regardless of her own wishes. She is content to have had the chance to bring peace to the tortured soul of the man she loves dearly yet without hope.

 

HOGAN, Phil. Father of Josie Hogan and Mike Hogan.  Phil is a tenant of James Tyrone, Jr., on a rockstrewn farm in Connecticut. He is a feisty, stocky little Irishman of around fifty-five, about five feet six in height, with a wicked sense of verbal humor and an enormous capacity for liquor. He dislikes his youngest son, Mike, partly because Phil's wife had died giving birth to him but mainly because he is a "priest's pet," an extremely upright, rather mean-minded young man. He frequently berates his Amazonian daughter, Josie, who keeps him in line and who also helps Mike (and her older brothers, Thomas and John) to escape from the farm. In truth, Phil respects Josie because she keeps alive his image of himself as a sharp practiser (helping him to do so in a very practical way) and also shares his sense of humor. He understands her love for James Tyrone and as a result attempts to trick them into bed together as a means of forcing their marriage—or so he says. He tells Josie that James is about to sell the farm to an heir of Standard Oil, T. Stedman Harder, on whom both he and Josie have played a practical joke (also recounted in Long Day's Journey into Night). Josie believes her father and as a result attempts to seduce Jim Tyrone, only to discover that Phil has lied to her and that Jim is even more wounded than she. Out of love and pity, she spends her last evening with him cradling his head on her breast in maternal comfort. When Phil returns, he claims that he had misinformed Josie so that the two of them might find solace in each other. Josie is really heartbroken, but she realizes that she must stay with Phil, who knows that he cannot exist without her support.

 

HOGAN, Mike. Youngest son of Phil Hogan and brother of Josie Hogan. He is twenty years old, a "primly self-righteous" young man of about five feet seven with a "common Irish face, . . . a New England Irish Catholic Puritan, Grade B, and an extremely irritating youth to have around." His sister, Josie, has brought him up since his mother had died at his birth. Josie helps him escape from the rockstrewn farm of their father, as she had also done for his two older brothers. Mike is shrewd enough to see Josie's affection for James Tyrone, Jr., and also smart enough to understand that his sister would like to trick Tyrone into marrying her. Nonetheless, Mike is an unlikable young man who fortunately disappears early from the play.

 

TYRONE, James, Jr. (Jim). Son of James Tyrone and Mary Cavan Tyrone; brother of Edmund Tyrone. A Moon for the Misbegotten takes up his story about ten years after Long Day's Journey Into Night, with Jim Tyrone now "in his early forties." The marks of steady drinking are clearly upon him, and his good physique is beginning to become flabby; his incipient bald spot is now very noticeable, and his "Mephistophelian quality . . . is accentuated by his habitually cynical expression." However, he still retains remnants of that old Irish charm which still makes him popular among women and men (especially drinking companions) alike. James and Mary Tyrone are now dead, with Mary's estate just about to come out of probate. It appears that Jim is about to become a reasonably affluent man, and he teases Phil Hogan, his tenant farmer, about thinking of selling his farm to the highest bidder, the Standard Oil heir, T. Stedman Harder.  However, it is made clear early in the play that this is unlikely because of his glee in overhearing Harder outsmarted by Phil and his freakishly large daughter, Josie Hogan, who loves Jim but recognizes his faults. Jim intends to take his inheritance and leave.

 

To prevent this, Phil tries to trick Josie into bed with Jim, as she has often wanted, by pretending that Jim has decided to sell the farm. This galvanizes Josie into suggesting a moonlight rendezvous at the farm, but when Jim arrives, she realizes the truth about him, that he has already died inwardly, and also that her father has tricked her. Jim, with the acuteness of the deeply wounded, also understands the depth of Josie's sadness, for she is so freakish that no man would want her; as a result she has pretended promiscuity to cover the fact of her virginity. She gets Jim extremely drunk, and while he makes one sensualist's pass at her, he tells her that he wants this night to be different from other ones and has hoped to lay his head on her breast.

 

Josie realizes that what he most needs is maternal affection, and they spend a long night together, in a pieta-like position, with Josie holding the "dead" man. But before he sleeps, Jim confesses his past faults to Josie, telling of the way he had accompanied his mother's body from the West Coast, too drunk to care, and taking a prostitute to his drawing room throughout the trip. Finally he was too drunk even to attend the funeral. He was not merely grief-stricken for his mother's death but also because of the hurt he had inflicted on her by returning to drinking before she died. It is not directly stated, but understood, that she had cured her morphine addiction.

 

Josie, in her roles of earth-mother (like Cybel in The Great God Brown), the virgin mediatrix, and Jim's own mother, absolves Jim and forgives him his faults, with the result that for the first time in years he is able to rest. On his awakening he feels an unfamiliar sense of blessed peace, complicated only by his recollection of the way he had tried to seduce Josie. Again she forgives him and lets him go, feeling a pride that her love through its chaste maternal quality has brought him peace. Marriage between them would be impossible, and Josie's last wish for Jim is that he will die soon, as he undoubtedly wishes to do.

 

The character of James Tyrone, Jr., is directly based on O'Neill's own brother, James ["Jamie"] O'Neill, Jr., and the facts of his confessions are biographically accurate, from his attempt to pass off a prostitute as his sister (a prank that had Jamie expelled from college) to his conduct on the train from the West Coast. In these plays O'Neill exorcises his own ghosts in what is meant to be a basically understanding and sympathetic portrait of his brother, who eventually drank himself to death.

 

HARDER, T. Stedman. Heir to Standard Oil money, and neighbor of Phil Hogan and his daughter, Josie Hogan. Harder is in his late thirties, living the life of a country gentleman, and endeavoring to look the part. He is offended by the existence of the raffish Hogans and unsuccessfully tries to buy their farm for ten thousand dollars from the legal owner, James Tyrone, Jr. He comes to the Hogan farm to complain about their breaking down his boundary fences to allow their pigs into his pond. He is' no match for the Irish wit and comic malice of the Hogans, who trip him up both literally and figuratively. A short account of this incident also appears in Long Day's Journey into Night.  In A Moon for the Misbegotten it becomes the central comic piece.

 

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