I chose to discuss addiction because of how greatly it effects the characters through the plot line of Long Days Journey Into Night. I found a parallel between the Tyrone family and my own family in dealing with bouts of addiction that have plagued one of my family
members. On one hand you hope to go God that this time is the last time, and that everything will be alright once they return from receiving help, yet you can’t help but be suspicious. I think the suspiciousness comes rightly so. You want to help this person, but it seems they refuse to help themselves. The Tyrone family has a larger problem because the addict is the family’s matriarch.
In my family the addiction came after a terrible motorcycle accident in which my family member was literally screwed back together and had to take copious amounts of pain medication. In the play Mary Tyrone becomes addicted to Morphine originally from birth complications with her second child. It is not clear whether Mary has any residual pain or has permanent physical damage which causes her to take morphine or she is just addicted. This play takes place in 1912 and for many years addiction to opiates and other narcotics has been an undertone of American society. In movies that take place in the late 1800’s you commonly see people prescribed opiates for chronic headaches and body pains, sometimes this prescription ends up in addiction. In this early era of modern America there wasn’t any reason for a doctor not to feed a patient addiction, most addicts were able to function in society, and the doctors were making money.
In the case I personally know, the addict was eventually cut off from the prescription because as time passed and clinical investigation showed, there was reason to abdicate pharmaceutical pain relief. This person was still very young, and accesses to other forms of “pain relief” were readily available, especially in the 1980’s with the introduction of crack-cocaine which stemmed from the hype of cocaine.
The main culprit of this story, Opium which is cultivated from the Poppy plant, has been around for almost as long as man has had anything considered civilization. The act of growing, cultivating and using opium has been passed down through the millennia from civilization to major civilization and is still used today. For the first few thousand years of its life opium was highly prized and a staple object of trade status between major ancient civilizations, it was introduced to the East a few hundred years after Christ’s death by Arab traders.
Not until the Holy Inquisition, like many regular practices, was heroin first seen in a negative light. In the mid 16th century opium was first prescribed as a painkiller. Opium’s status as an effective painkiller grew into the 19th century, products produced containing opium were even administered to children as pacifiers and cold remedies. In the late 1800’s opium transformed into what we still call morphine. Although its trade had strict tariffs and was relatively expensive it was regularly used. American’s commonly came under the spell of opium and morphine addiction as clearly displayed in Mary Tyrone’s character.
The second oldest narcotic still used today is cocaine, which has historically been used by the people who first discovered it in the mountains of South America as a stimulant. The natives ate the leaves of a Cocoa plant to give them energy in the high altitudes which lacked normal amounts of oxygen. Of course they didn’t know the whys or wherefores to this discovery, all they knew was that it helped. The original form used by the natives was no where near as potent as it is today, the dosage the raw leaves delivered was minimal and the chance of addiction was slim to none.
In the 1850’s cocaine was enhanced to basically its current form. Cocaine was around in its more potent form for about twenty five years before it was noticed by the medical community. As time went on people in the upper levels of society began to use cocaine as an “in thing” and cocaine was well touted through the turn of the century and into the early 1900’s. Cocaine usage had much support from people like Sigmund Feud, Thomas Edison, and Hollywood film stars. Many silent films of the era contained positive messages about cocaine, all coming at a time of new things and new beginnings, consequently cocaine grew in popularity. Coca Cola even devoted a large portion of their advertising scheme to endorse the fact that their product contained cocaine.
Regardless of the restrictions placed on cocaine it always managed to have a following thus creating a strong market. Through experimentation cocaine found a rebirth in crack-cocaine during the 1980’s. When “crack” hit the scene it was immediately heralded as the do all end all drug in society, dealers made massive amounts of money, and the addicts were hit hard. Crack provides the same euphoric sensations as cocaine only ten times as strong producing addictive qualities that are also ten times as strong.
With such a long history of drug use and abuse coupled with addiction its clear to see how we as a society have become so hell bent of limiting the sale and use of narcotics in the United States. The effects of a serious addiction on a person’s life are devastating, sometimes fatal, and definitely destructive. In the case of the Tyrone family portrayed in Long Days Journey Into Darkness the children and patriarch do not trust their own mother and wife. The setting of the play is a short time after Mary has returned home from a sanatorium staving off her morphine addiction. It is apparent through dialogue that it wasn’t the first time she had a problem with morphine, but this time was supposed to be different. As the play progresses it becomes apparent to the characters that Mary has not beaten the addiction fully and still has a serious problem. Throughout the play she creates schemes to run off and do more morphine all the while blaming her family for spying on her and scolds them for their distrust. It is evident that her behavior is putting monumental amounts of negative stress on their home life.
The entire calamity portrayed in Long Days Journey Into Darkness I have seen for myself and wouldn’t wish it on my own worst enemies family. I personally have never dealt with an addiction of any sort but I have always believed in the virtue that a man must have a vice. When that vice begins to destroy the life around you, that’s when it becomes a problem, when nothing else but a substance or action matters to a person they should seek help. I believe drug addiction is one of the worst problems currently facing America, especially with the invention of new stronger narcotics, as seen with the recent sky rocket use of meth-amphetamine. I hope to see more plays and movies like this one so finally the millennia old problem of drug abuse can be stopped.