Comparison of Themes in Super Sad True Story and Long Days Journey Into Night

Published: 2021-08-11
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University of California, Santa Barbara
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Super Sad Story and Long Days Journey into Night are two stories that share some themes and the message that they pass along. Both of the stories revolve around family and friendship where some people like to put other things above them. Super sad story looks into the lives of 40-year-old Lenny and 24-year-old Eunice who are in a relationship. They do not communicate well similar to the family focused on in the Long Days Journey into Night. Acceptance, forgiveness, communication, and isolation are some of the underlying themes in the two stories.Acceptance allows people to appreciate the place that they are in, and to work hard to improve their situation. It is because living in denial makes one assign blame to others, and to also find other things to help them cope with their predicaments. the story Super Sad True Story touches on the theme of acceptance where Lenny is an aging man that wants to maintain his youth. He is not comfortable with his age and the lack of acceptance makes him take steps that do not benefit him. He first enrolls into an anti-aging program that he thinks would make him look younger and live forever. In his diary he says "I want to live forever" (ONeill 43). Lenny goes a step further to dating a younger woman as an attempt to maintain his youth mentality. Similar to that, the story a Long Day's Journey into Night follows the story of a family that refuse to accept their shortcomings, constantly putting blame on each other. The son in the story suffers from tuberculosis, the mother is addicted to morphine, and the father is a drunkard. James comments There's nothing like the first after-breakfast cigar, if it's a good one, and this new lot have the right mellow flavor. (ONeill 1.1.9). They all have reasons for arguing, which they do constantly. Acceptance as the theme in this story allows the characters to view themselves differently. Their behavior as not a result of something, but a behavior that causes more harm. Ben Brantley of the Guardian offers critic by saying the use of imagery sometimes makes some of the themes lost in the words. Therefore, the theme of acceptance is a common one between the two pieces of literature. Lenny says

We know summer is the height of of being alive. We don't believe in God or the prospect of an afterlife mostly, so we know that we're only given eighty summers or so per lifetime, and each one has to be better than the last, has to encompass a trip to that arts center up at Bard, a seemingly mellow game of badminton over at some yahoo's Vermont cottage, and a cool, wet, slightly dangerous kayak trip down an unforgiving river. Otherwise, how would you know that you have lived your summertime best? What is you missed out on some morsel of shaded nirvana? (Shteyngart, 95).

Lenny in Super Sad True Story accepts himself as an aging man, comes off the anti-aging treatment, and calls it off with the young girlfriend. He eventually ends up living a fulfilling life. The family in the story Long Day's Journey into Night also end up agreeing once they accepted their short comings.

Forgiveness is an important virtue portrayed in many books as the beginning of something new. Indeed, forgiveness allows one to forget and let go of past grudges, and to focus on positive things for the future. Long Day's Journey into Night epitomizes the aspect of forgiveness required for a progressive life. The family members in the story cannot forgive each other throughout most of the story. Mary says I'm not blaming you, dear. How can you help it? How can any one of us forget? (ONeill 1.1.228). Subsequently, they are in constant arguments and they cannot get along. A change of attitude came about through forgiveness. They stopped their quarrelling and assigning blame. Forgiveness helped them to feel that they loved each other and there was hope to become better people. Lenny in Super Sad True Story also had the decision to forgive Eunice and move on with his life. Eunice broke up with Lenny because he was old and unattractive. He could have developed anger, self-resentment, or continued on with the anti-aging process, but the power of forgiveness allows him to move in a productive direction. He forgets his mistakes, and those done to him and the story ends with him as a satisfied person as karma catches up with his transgressors (Shteyngart 291). Chris Cox of The Guardian criticizes the use of humor in the authors delivery that takes away the gravity of the matter. The common theme, forgiveness, helps people to form new interests instead of holding onto unproductive vengeance. It is evident in the way it brought a family together and helped Lenny o overcome his grief. Communication is another important theme present in both stories. Poor communication is first shown in each of the stories, and then comes the concluding scenario of good communication. The family in Long Day's Journey into Night exhibit poor communication skills. They constantly argue, and no one is willing to pay attention to the other. Similarly, Super Sad True Story shows poor communication. The characters live in an era where they post every detail about themselves online. People find out about each other online rather than through communicating face to face. Lenny and Eunice are in a relationship, but cannot communicate well to find out their common interests. In addition, Eunice comes from a family where they do not communicate well, mostly because of the fear of their father. The poor communication distances Lenny and Eunice. Eunice finds Lenny boring, as she prefers communicating her life choices online. The communication problem is resolved in one of the stories where the family finally forgive each other and begin to talk respectfully to each other.

The other theme that common in the two stories is the idea of the past as a refuge and a burden. In the story Long Days Journey into Night, the family hang onto past mistakes that burden them. Mary speaks with despair as she thinks her current state cannot be corrected because her past choices caused ruin to her present life. James says Yes, forget! Forget everything and face nothing! It's a convenient philosophy if you've no ambition in life. (ONeill 1.1.45). The family wronged each other in the past and cannot find ways to move on. The past continues to control them as it is a burden that they cannot let go and they remain stuck in the past. The arguments consume all the joy in the lives of the characters, and they find it difficult to reconcile with their present selves. The result of the past lying over them is that they continue to argue within themselves. Accordingly, the past acts as refuge. Mary escapes to a fantasy where she recreates her past as a girlchild at the Catholics girls school. She does this with the help of morphine. The characters use of the past to escape the present is also exhibited in the story Super Sad True Love Story. The anti-aging process used by some of the characters is seen as a way for them to clinch and not willing to let go of the past and move forward. Lenny says

My hair would continue to gray, and then one day, it would fall out entirely, and then, on a day meaninglessly close to the present one, meaninglessly like the present one, I would disappear from the earth. And all these emotions, all these yearnings, all these data, if that helps to clinch the enormity of what I'm talking about, would be gone. And that's what immortality means. It means selfishness. My generations belief that each one of us matters more than you or anyone else would think (Shteyngart 127).

Lenny is a victim of the character as he says that he wants to live forever. He enrolls into the anti-aging process. In continued efforts, Lenny decides to engage in a relationship with a younger woman. He refuses to grow out of his youth into adulthood because he feels that he finds refuge in the past. The two stories share the same lesson as it shows the dangers of sticking to the past, and the benefits moving forward. Lenny finally lets go of his youthful desires and Mary also stops reliving her past. Isolation is an addition theme that is seen throughout the two stories, Super Sad True Story and Long Days Journey into Night. Lenny is in isolation from the realities of his old age as he wants to remain young. He is also in isolation from his from his girlfriend, Eunice, as they do not get along well even when together. It leads to their break-up. Eunice too is in isolation from her family because they are quiet and distant when she visits them. The same theme of isolation is seen in the story Long Days Journey into Night where Tyrone family live in isolation in spite of staying under the same roof. They do not eat together, which is an activity that would help them to bond. Mary particularly lives in isolation due to morphine addiction. Interactions in the family are provocative that continue to increase their isolation.

Acceptance, forgiveness, communication, and isolation are some of the themes shared between the two stories Super Sad True Love Story and Long Days Journey into Night. The themes are positioned as lessons that are explained lengthily, and resolved at the end of the story. A reader is able to understand how and why to forgive, how to communicate, live together and accept their place in the world. Critics have dwelled into the lives of the authors for signs of what drove them to create the literatures, but the critics appreciate the quality of the works.

Works Cited

Brantley, Ben. Review: D Is a Tempest in a Bourbon Bottle. The

New York Times, April 27, 2016.

Cox, Chris. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart review. The Guardian, February

27, 2011.

ONeill, Eugene. Long Days Journey into Night (1955). New Haven: Yale U P, 2002.


Shteyngart, Gary. Super Sad True Love Story. New York: Random House, 2010.


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