Eugene O’Neill completed writing this play in 1942. When he had already won the Nobel and three Pulitzers. He was a living legend. He was credited with bringing modernism to American Theatre. He was an institution in himself. His influence over American Drama was so profound that Time in his obituary in 1953 upon his death wrote, “Before O’Neill United States had Theater, after O’Neill United States had Drama”. Despite all this today he is remembered the most for his last play. (And many trivia enthusiasts know him as the unhappy father-in-law of Charlie Chaplin).
The play ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’ talked about real-life situation in Eugene’s life around 1912. When the play was completed it ended up becoming a mirror image of a lifetime of plight. The play was so painful for him that in his will he prohibited any stage adaptation of the play, not only during his lifetime but for 25 years after his death. However three years after his death his wife Carlotta Monterey had allowed to stage the play.
Such an estranged relationship between a creator and his own creation is not unusual. So often an artists sublimates personal emotions, stories, pains and complains in pieces of art. However once completed, it becomes difficult for the artist to confront that very personal pain again. Hayao Miyazaki, famous animation director from Japan, who probably has made the sweetest animation movie of all time, ‘Tonari no Totoro’ (my neighbor Totoro) had to deal with such a situation. The movie ‘Tonari no Totoro’ is a movie about two young girls, Satsuki and Mei whose mother is in hospital and they meet ‘Totoro’. Miyazaki once said that the same movie would have been too painful for him if he had two boys as protagonists instead of girls because the situation of the girls reflects very much the situation he and his brothers were in as kids.
Art is tough. Creating art is tough. Imagining art is touch. And once your creation is out, confronting your own creation is also tough. O’Neill, Miyazaki and many other artists confront this dilemma frequently. “Should I use my plight as my inspiration? or should I just let it disappear in the amnesia”. For the sake of their obsessive love for their art, they choose to suffer.