Long Day's Journey into Night: Metaphor Analysis
Fog is a recurring metaphor in the play. In the stage directions for Act 3, it is described as "like a white curtain drawn down outside the windows." It signifies different things for different people. For Mary, the fog represents a refuge from reality. She says it "hides you from the world and the world from you. . . . No one can find or touch you any more" (Act 3). The foghorn, on the other hand, is for Mary a reminder of real life, something that pulls her back to reality. This is why she says she loves the fog but hates the foghorn.
Edmund also expresses the idea that the fog represents an escape from reality ("to be alone with myself in another world, where truth is untrue and life can hide from itself"), but he also sees another significance in it. Fog is a metaphor for the confusion of life. People lose their way in fog, just as they do in life. When Edmund describes his great experience of oneness with nature (in Act 4), he says that when it was over he was "lost in the fog again," and he speaks of humanity as "us fog people."
There are two important symbols in the play. The first is Mary's wedding gown that she recalls so fondly in Act 3. It symbolizes her lost ideals, her lost happiness, her lost youth. After she was married, she used to take it out from time to time, but the memories it aroused made her cry. So she decided to hide it somewhere, she is not sure where, perhaps in an old trunk in the attic. The hidden wedding gown is a testament to the fact that old dreams still linger on as a kind of yardstick by which present unhappiness is to be measured. When Mary finally lapses back into her youth, in Act 4, it is appropriate that she carries the wedding gown on her arm.
There is an equivalent symbol for Tyrone. It is the note he has kept from thirty-eight years ago in which the words of Edwin Booth the actor, in praise of Tyrone's acting, were recorded. Like the wedding gown, the note is a symbol of past happiness and achievement, and is treasured for that reason. And just as Mary wonders where the wedding gown is, so Tyrone wonders where the note now is. In other words, what has happened to the dreams and the happiness of youth?
The note and the wedding gown are explicitly linked when Edmund, in response to Tyrone's wondering about where the note is now, says, "It might be in an old trunk in the attic, along with Mama's wedding dress" (Act 4).