The importance of family has been an integral part in the American Dream. Drama has focused on such family conflicts such as drug addiction, marital problems, and coming to terms with past events. The authors’ diction and the mood of each particular piece of work accentuate these conflicts. The unique combination of familial conflict, language, and mood has produced great pieces of literature such as Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. These plays have one central issue and that is family conflict.
In O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night the main crisis in the family is Mary’s morphine addiction and the Tyrone family’s denial of that addiction while Williams’s The Glass Menagerie focuses on Amanda Wingfield’s unwillingness to let go of the past. Each play focuses on a different crisis that the families must endure, but rather than In O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night the Tyrone family is dealing with the morphine addiction of Mary Tyrone. O’Neill’s diction creates a mood of denial that mirrors the family’s refusal to see Mary’s relapse into drug use.
No one in the family is able to fully admit to Mary’s problem until they are confronted with physical changes in Mary that are undeniable. The family’s tendency to deny Mary’s problem leads to another crisis that is prevalent throughout the play: blame. The Tyrone’s deal with their deficiencies by blaming each other for what went wrong with them. Mary even blames her children for the loss of her youth when she says, “It wasn’t until after Edmund was born that I had a single grey hair. Then it began to turn white. (1311).
O’Neill uses this ever-present blame to set off the family’s denial of their problems. As long as the Tyrones can continue to preoccupy themselves by blaming each other, then they do not have to admit to the looming crises at hand. This type of denial pushes the family farther into their problems, and it soon becomes apparent that until the Tyrone’s face their deficiencies they will be caught in a never-ending cycle of misery. Williams also explores familial conflicts in The Glass Menagerie.
In his play Williams focuses on the Wingfield family, but unlike O’Neill, he draws more attention to the individual members’ problems. With The Glass Menagerie Williams calls attention to the fact that if the individuals of a family are out of touch with each other and the world around them, then it is impossible to have a functioning family unit. Amanda Wingfield and her two children Laura and Tom struggle with each other’s problems, but still do not seem to be resolving anything for anyone. Amanda wants her daughter to be more social, but she seems to be too stuck in her past to do anything to help Laura.
Amanda also fails to realize that Laura’s social anxiety is partially her fault, and until she comes to that realization and begins to treat her daughter as a grown up Amanda will not be able to help her at all. Laura is confronted with feelings of inadequacy towards the social arena, and without realizing it reverts into her own little world that revolves around a glass menagerie. Williams uses this menagerie to convey how fragile Laura has become through the years, and that the menagerie will eventually become an extension of Laura.
Laura’s inferiority complex stems from Amanda’s continuous visits to the past. Amanda talks incessantly about her gentlemen callers in her youth mentioning that, “One Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain — your mother received — seventeen- gentlemen callers! Why, sometimes there weren’t chairs enough to accommodate them all. ” (772). In this way Laura is constantly reminded of her short comings and her failures in her mother’s eyes. It is clear by the end of the play that Laura will not get the support she needs from Amanda, because Amanda is not willing to give up the past to help her daughter.