Below are questions that are useful to both individual learners and facilitated groups in processing the performance and relating it to current clinical practice.
Why do you think Eugene O’Neill wrote this play? What do you think he was trying to say or do? And why did he have it sealed in wax and ask that it not be published until after his death?
At several points in Act III, the characters talk about the stigma associated with Mary Tyrone’s addiction.
Cathleen expresses her discomfort at asking the local pharmacist for Mary’s prescription.
Edmund castigates Mary when he finds out that she sent Cathleen to pick up the prescription, “For God’s sake, Mama! You can’t trust her. Do you want everyone on earth to know?”
Finally, Edmund, in a fit of frustration says to Mary, “It’s pretty hard to take at times, having a dope fiend for a mother!”
How have you seen the stigma associated with addiction impacting your patients and their families?
How does stigma affect clinicians who are treating addicted patients?
Mary Tyrone walks into your office. She’s looking good—well dressed, put together—and complaining of arthritis in her hands. Before writing her a prescription, how would you begin to assess if she might have an issue with substance abuse or addiction? What would you say to her or ask her?
In the play, James Tyrone describes Mary’s addiction as “a curse” that was put on her without her “knowing or willing it.” How does our current understanding of addiction as a largely biological phenomenon affect the lens through which we view this scene written 70 years ago? How far have we come? And where do we need to go?