Long Day’s Journey into Night

by

Eugene O’Neill

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Mary’s Wedding Dress Symbol Analysis

Mary’s Wedding Dress Symbol Icon

Because of how much she covets it, Mary’s wedding dress comes to stand for her own desperate attempt to reconnect with her past. In an opiated rant about her wedding, she fondly remembers how picky she was in the process of choosing her gown, saying, “It was never quite good enough.” After describing the dress at length, she suddenly wonders where it is, saying, “Where is it now, I wonder? I used to take it out from time to time when I was lonely, but it always made me cry.” As such, it’s clear that this particular article of clothing is fraught with meaning and symbolic of the fact that Mary will never again be able to relive her past, which she has romanticized as a way of taking her mind off her bleak current circumstances. In the play’s final scene, she appears holding the dress, which is draped over one arm and dragging along the floor as she advances into the room and talks about her life as a young girl in the convent. The fact that she focuses in this moment not on the dress itself but on the life she led before she got married suggests that finding the gown has done nothing to help her revitalize her past. As a result, she has gone back even farther in time and trying to relive her years in the convent. In turn, the dress comes to signify the futility of romanticizing the past.

Mary’s Wedding Dress Quotes in Long Day’s Journey into Night

The Long Day’s Journey into Night quotes below all refer to the symbol of Mary’s Wedding Dress. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fatalism and Resignation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Yale edition of Long Day’s Journey into Night published in 1987.
Act Three Quotes

But I forgive. I always forgive you. So don’t look so guilty. I’m sorry I remembered out loud. I don’t want to be sad, or to make you sad. I want to remember only the happy part of the past.

Related Characters: Mary Tyrone (speaker), James Tyrone
Related Symbols: Mary’s Wedding Dress
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Four Quotes

MARY
Looking around her.
Something I need terribly. I remember when I had it I was never lonely nor afraid. I can’t have lost it forever, I would die if I thought that. Because then there would be no hope.
She moves like a sleepwalker, around the back of Jamie's chair, then forward toward left front, passing behind Edmund.

EDMUND
Turns impulsively and grabs her arm. As he pleads he has the quality of a bewilderedly hurt little boy.
Mama! It isn’t a summer cold! I’ve got consumption!

MARY
For a second he seems to have broken through to her. She trembles and her expression becomes terrified. She calls distractedly, as if giving a command to herself.
No!
And instantly she is far away again. She murmurs gently but imperson­ally.
You must not try to touch me. You must not try to hold me. It isn’t right, when I am hoping to be a nun.
He lets his hand drop from her arm.

Related Characters: Mary Tyrone, Edmund Tyrone
Related Symbols: Mary’s Wedding Dress
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mary’s Wedding Dress Symbol Timeline in Long Day’s Journey into Night

The timeline below shows where the symbol Mary’s Wedding Dress appears in Long Day’s Journey into Night. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act Three
Love and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Past, Nostalgia, and Regret Theme Icon
Once again reverting to nostalgia and sweetness, Mary reminisces about the beauty of her wedding dress , remembering how “particular” she was about how it was made. “I wonder where I... (full context)
Act Four
Denial, Blame, and Guilt Theme Icon
The Past, Nostalgia, and Regret Theme Icon
...awkward, and abruptly ceases. Moments later, Mary materializes in the doorway. Over one arm, her wedding dress is draped so that it drags carelessly on the floor. “The uncanny thing is that... (full context)
Love and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The Past, Nostalgia, and Regret Theme Icon
...absent-minded I’ve become. I’m always dreaming and forgetting.” Seeing that his wife is getting her wedding gown dirty, James jumps up and says, “Christ! Mary! Isn’t it bad enough—? Here, let me... (full context)