Fiction but Fact: Though confined society will emerge united

(Sara Heymann | Daily Trojan)

It’s raining where I live. It’ll rain for the next several days according to the weather forecast. 

It’s like the sun has tired from shining so effortlessly, constantly sharing her warmth with us. I guess she, too, needs a break from the noisy world we live in. She probably knows just how much the trees and animals need water to thrive and grow. 

Looking out of my window, I hear the loud weeping of the rain and see the streets fill with her tears. They say your skin glows after you cry. So after the rain stops, maybe the outside world will radiate as the grass becomes greener and the animals come out to play. It just goes to show that even the weather has feelings. She, too, is going through this trying time with us. 

During this isolation period, everyone seems to be on their own journey of personal regrowth. While this is important, collective growth should not be forgotten. Though it’s easy to sink away from the busy world and desire to be alone, maintaining healthy social relationships remain just as important. Succumbing to loneliness and miscommunication creates a fragmented social world. The story of the Tyrone family in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” is an exemplar of the ways we become victims to desolation. 

Written by American playwright Eugene O’Neill and published by his widow in 1956 — three years after his death — the play follows a day in the life of the Tyrone family, a once-close family of four whose bond has broken over the years for various reasons. From the mother Mary’s morphine addiction and the father James’ alcoholism to their two sons’ (Edmund and Jamie) growing alcoholism and lax attitude toward life, this story highlights the fall of something that was once great — a family who loved and cared for each other. What remains the greatest conflict in this play is the characters’ lack of meaningful communication despite their constant arguing. 

Unlike previous installments of this column where I applied life lessons from stories, I write this one in particular to do the opposite. Instead of mimicking the characters’ behavior of detachment, I warn you of the dangers of miscommunication and its powerful ability to cultivate toxic relationships. Given our current circumstance — whether you feel trapped in your childhood room with the chaos of your family or feel isolated in your own studio apartment — we can learn from the flaws of the Tyrone family. 

Longing to escape the all-consuming ties of his family, the younger son, Edmund, wanders the outdoors on a path near his house. In Act 4, Scene 1, he narrates his little excursion with a newfound epiphany regarding solitude. 

“The fog was where I wanted to be,” Edmund said. “I didn’t meet a soul. Everything looked and sounded unreal. Nothing was what it is. That’s what I wanted — to be alone with myself in another world where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself. Out beyond the harbor … I even lost the feeling of being on land … As if I had drowned long ago. As if I was the ghost belonging to the fog, and the fog was the ghost of the sea. It felt damned peaceful to be nothing more than a ghost within a ghost.”

Edmund’s walk through the fog serves as a healthier means of escapism than drinking away his feelings. And still, he does not communicate his deepest desires, wavering thoughts and contradictory feelings to his family. He longs to be a ghost and to live in a world where people can hide from their own reflections. 

His longing for extreme isolation is ironically something that today’s society involuntarily faces. Forced to shelter in place, the world is in a state of seclusion. Yet, what Edmund desperately wishes for is a reality most of us dread. His broken family drove him to the point of confinement. 

In contrast, I hope that during our own period of confinement we find solace and comfort with the people that surround us. Relying on our families and friends to help us through this dark time where change appears daunting, it’s this continuous communication that quenches our innate thirst for social interaction. 

By breaking the confinement of quarantine and taking a second to enjoy the company of others, we grant ourselves with the opportunity to deeply connect with people. Communicating and exchanging thoughts and feelings permits a needed emotional release from whatever stress bothers you.     

So, like the rain, remember it’s OK to cry sometimes. But at the same time, never forget to share your feelings with those around you. 

Trust me. Though your face may glow after the tears fall down from your cheeks, your heart will not. The real beauty comes when your soul shines from the love you receive by the ones you cherish the most.

Aisha Patel is a freshman writing about fiction in parallel to current events. Her column, “Fiction but Fact,” typically runs every other Wednesday.