Act 2, scene 2
It is about half an hour later. The family returns from lunch. Mary is nervous again but also seems aloof. Tyrone does not look at her or touch her. Jamie has a manner of defensive cynicism and lights a pipe, while Edmund, who is upset and tries to hide it, sits in a chair. Tyrone smokes a cigar and looks out of the screen door. Mary chatters on, but the others are not listening. She and Tyrone argue again briefly about the home, which she says has never been a home for her, and she continues to fuss over Edmund. The phone rings and Tyrone answers it. It is Dr. Hardy, and it is clear that the news is not good. But all Tyrone says when he returns is that the doctor wants to see Edmund at four that afternoon. Mary says excitedly that Hardy is an ignorant fool, and Tyrone only uses him because he is cheap. Then she says with hatred and passion that she hates all doctors. After calming down, she becomes detached again, and says she is going upstairs for a moment.
Jamie implies that she has gone for a shot of morphine, and Tyrone is furious with him. Jamie says there is no cure for the addiction, and they are foolish to hope for one. Edmund and Jamie argue about Edmund's interest in the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, but Tyrone cuts them off by accusing them of having rejected Catholicism, the faith in which they were brought up. The two brothers unite to argue against him, and Tyrone admits that he is a bad Catholic, but at least he still believes in the faith, which is the only true one. He claims that he prays every night and morning, and that he prayed for his wife, but Edmund replies that that merely shows that Nietzsche, who once wrote "God is dead," was right. Tyrone is resigned to the fact that Mary has become addicted again. Edmund says there is still hope, but Jamie agrees with his father. Edmund leaves the room to speak to his mother.
After Edmund has gone, Tyrone tells Jamie that Hardy confirmed Edmund has consumption. But the doctor also said that Edmund could be cured by spending six to twelve months in a sanatorium. Jamie demands that Tyrone send Edmund to a good sanatorium, not a cheap one. He fears that because his father believes consumption to be fatal, he will not think it worthwhile to spend any more money on Edmund's treatment than is absolutely necessary. Tyrone angrily claims that he has every hope that Edmund will be cured.
They decide that Jamie will go with Edmund and Tyrone to the doctor. He exits to change clothes as Mary enters. She wonders what is the matter with him and complains to Tyrone that he would have turned out better had he been raised in a real home. Tyrone tries to get away from her and go upstairs, but she pleads with him not to be left alone. She tells him not to give Jamie any money because he will only waste it on drink. She also nags Tyrone about his own drinking. Tyrone tells her that he has good reason to get drunk, referring to her addiction. When she again complains about being left alone, Tyrone replies that she is the one who is leaving, because of the aloofness that comes over her when she takes the drug. He tells her to take a drive in the car that he bought for her. He complains about how much money the car cost him, and now she hardly uses it. Mary agrees it was a waste of money because he bought it secondhand. She also claims that Tyrone is being cheated by Smythe, the man he hired as a chauffeur. Tyrone disputes this, and then Mary's tone softens. She says she knows that buying the car was hard for him, and that it proved how much he loved her. He hugs her and begs her to stop taking the morphine. She pretends not to know what he is talking about, and says that all they should remember is that they love each other. But then she says she has no one to invite to go for a drive. When she was younger she had many friends, but not since she married an actor. She alludes to a scandal about a former mistress who sued him, after which she had no friends. Tyrone tells her not to dig up the past.
Mary then says she needs some things at the drugstore. Tyrone sneers that she is going to buy more of the drug so she doesn't run out of it and scream for it in the night, as has happened before. Then he is ashamed of himself and apologizes. She gets very distant and recalls how she got addicted to morphine when Edmund was born, and she had to see a cheap doctor at a hotel. Then she blames herself for not sticking to her vow not to have another baby after Eugene died. Eugene was her second baby who died at age two from measles caught from seven-year-old Jamie after Jamie went into the baby's room. Mary believes Jamie did this on purpose. Tyrone again tells her to forget the past, but Mary now blames herself further, for not staying with Eugene but going with her husband instead as he toured with his acting company. She also says she should never have allowed Tyrone to persuade her to have another baby. She maintains that although she did want Edmund, he has never been healthy, and that is her fault. She feels guilty about it.
Edmund returns and asks his father to lend him money. Tyrone gives him more than he was expecting, and Edmund is grateful. Then he blurts out that maybe his father is suddenly so generous because he expects Edmund to die. He immediately retracts the thought, but this does not stop Mary from reproaching him for being morbid. She is alternately angry and detached. Then she begins to sob. Tyrone hurries off to get ready to leave, leaving Mary alone with Edmund. She tries to persuade him to cancel the appointment with the doctor, telling him that Dr. Hardy will only lie to him anyway. He asks her to make an effort to stop taking the morphine, but she pretends not to know what he is talking about. However, she admits she has become a liar and cannot blame him when he does not believe her excuses. She says she doesn't understand what has happened to her; all she knows is that she can no longer call her soul her own. She hopes one day the Blessed Virgin Mary will redeem her and give her back the faith she used to have. Edmund goes out to join Jamie and Tyrone, leaving Mary to her loneliness.
One important thing revealed in this scene is the fault line between the generations. Tyrone is still attached to the Catholic faith of his Irish family, even though he no longer attends Mass. But Jamie and Edmund have cast this traditional belief aside, and Tyrone claims that their denial of the faith has brought them nothing but self-destruction. Edmund in particular, who has read Nietzsche and other modern philosophers, has a completely different attitude to life, one that his father, steeped in the old ways, cannot comprehend. The difference between them can be seen in what they choose to read, and this is shown in the stage set, as described at the beginning of Act 1, scene 1. The set contains two bookcases. The smaller one contains works by modern writers such as Zola, Nietzsche, Marx, Ibsen, Shaw and Wilde. These are Edmund's books. The larger bookcase contains the work of earlier nineteenth writers, such as Hugo and Dumas, as well as three sets of Shakespeare, The World's Best Literature in fifty large volumes, and various histories of England, Ireland and the Roman Empire. This is Tyrone's library. The difference is between the old and the new, the classic and the modern, the traditional and the innovative. Given this difference of perspective, it is not surprising that Edmund and his father do not see eye to eye.
This scene is also notable, as is the whole play, for its repetitiveness. The same issues-Mary's hatred of doctors, Tyrone's miserliness, his failure to provide a decent home-are sounded again and again, as more details of the family's past emerge. Each new incident recounted gives a deeper picture of how the family has become what it is. This is a family that is stuck in the past, like a cart in a ditch. Old wounds that were never healed continue to shape the present. As Mary says, "The past is the present, isn't it? It's the future, too."