Ephraim has worked the same farm for 50 years, survived two wives (three soon after the action of the play, as Abbie will go to the gallows for killing her son), and warded off the acquisitive desires of his three sons to take over the farm. Eben returns and wakes the men with news from the village that their father has remarried a “female ’bout thirtyfive— an’ purty, they says.” The brothers curse bitterly, “Everythin’ll go t’ her now” (2:327). Eben tells Ephraim that he felt his mother’s spirit go to its grave; he then orders his father to work. Irritated by this encounter, Ephraim grumbles over Eben’s soft-headedness— “Like his Maw” (2:357)—and goes in to breakfast as the curtain falls. In addition, the Cabots’ dialogue is uncharacteristically restrained for an O’Neill play, and it is not exactly meant to replicate the early New England vernacular; rather, O’Neill was “trying,” as he maintained, “to write a synthetic dialogue which in a way should be the distilled essence of New England” (quoted in Alexander 28). Murphy, Brenda. The Apollonian impulse brings us full circle back to puritanical belief, typified in Ephraim Cabot’s character, in “discipline, work, and the permanence of the establishment.” We might also include reason, logic, order, and deference to social norms. Eben the central character of the play lives with his two half brothers Simeon and Peter. She therefore kills their son to prove her love to him, now evoking the Greek tragedy character Medea, who killed her two children for vengeance against her husband, Jason, for leaving her. Sigmund Freud, the illustrious German psychologist, was just then gaining a wide following in the United States. Cowley, Malcolm. Freud notoriously employed the Oedipus myth to describe the subconscious desire of all men to kill their father in order to marry their mother. The lovers worry over the possibility of Ephraim finding out the baby is Eben’s, then kiss passionately. She married him with his assurance that his “hum” would be part hers. Ranald, Margaret Loftus. Contour in Time: The Plays of Eugene O’Neill. In O’Neill and His Plays: Four Decades of Criticism, edited by Oscar Cargill, N. Bryllion Fagin, and William J. Fisher, 170–171. Written well before these later masterpieces, Desire Under the Elms exhibits O’Neill’s full talent as a playwright relatively early in his career, though there had been many missteps along the way and several more to follow. (quoted in Clark 96–97.). Her first line in the script reads, “Hum!. “Desire Under the Elms,” New York Herald Tribune, November 12, 1924. Eben swears to recover this land. Local color as a literary mode has often been condemned for its superficiality and lack of the inherent truths in staging “spiritual abstractions.” But O’Neill posited that the setting and Yankee attributes of the characters are the most important aspects of the play: “What I think everyone missed in ‘Desire’ is the quality in it I set most store by—the attempt to give an epic tinge to New England’s inhibited lifelust, to make its inexpressiveness poetically expressive, to release it” (quoted in Alexander 28). “Yankees.” In Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, edited by Stephen Thernstrom, 1,028–1,030. “It’s purty! Freud called this condition the “Oedipus complex.” Because of Eben’s intense attachment to the memory of his mother (a recurring motif in American drama; see Bogard 214–215), his hatred of his father, and his subsequent sexual relationship with his stepmother (which is technically incest, though they are not blood-related), many critics singled out Freud, rather than the Greek myth, as the guiding source for Desire Under the Elms. Ephraim’s monologue in part 2, scene 2, a speech to Abbie that Margaret Loftus Ranald considers the “great key to the theology of the play” (1984, 175), exposits his entire life history, including the theological lessons learned along the way: He came to the farm 50 years earlier and worked himself to the bone removing stones to make a workable farm. Two windows are on the top floor and two on the bottom. He dresses and heads downstairs. Her husband later died as well, and though she celebrated her freedom for a time, she was soon back working in domestic servitude. Source: Dowling, R. M. (2009). Thus, with Desire Under the Elms, O’Neill “[demonstrates] one of his greatest strengths—as myth user rather than myth maker. The action takes place in various rooms of the green and “sickly grayish” Cabot farmhouse: the kitchen, the porch, the bedrooms, and the parlor, described in stage directions as a “grim, repressed room like a tomb.” This room has been preserved as... Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Desire Under the Elms study guide and get instant access to the following: You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and 300,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts. He warns Abbie that Ephraim will soon return from the barn. Greed and sexual desire characterize their interaction, and their eventual submission to their impulses destroys their lives. His return comes in part 1, scene 4, wherein he brings “hum” a new wife, Abbie Putnam. Desire Under the Elms summary. Both are arrested for their part in killing their child while the farm they longed for becomes destroyed. Contour in Time: The Plays of Eugene O’Neill. Desire Under the Elms by Eugene O'Neill: Summary When the play opens, the two sons of old Ephraim, Simeon and Peter are very excited and determined to go to gold mining in California. Jim has the final, ironic lines of the play: “It’s a jim-dandy farm, no denyin’. Clark, Barrett H. Eugene O’Neill: The Man and His Plays. Bibliography Two months later, the production headed uptown to the Earl Carroll Theatre for a run on Broadway, and following that it went on a road tour across the country. In spite of the fact that O’Neill abandoned Irish Catholicism early on, he also took a disdainful view of contentment and “soft” living, which is most probably what he meant by identifying Ephraim rather than Eben as being “so autobiographical.” This is a point of confusion, as O’Neill’s personality more evidently resembles Eben’s contradictory consciousness. Wished I owned it!” (2:378). Ephraim and Abbie sit side by side on their bed, and Eben sits forlornly on his. . His son Eben is her only competitor, as Ephraim’s other two sons, Simeon and Peter, desert the farm upon her arrival to prospect for gold in California. Simeon is 39 years old, and he lost his wife, Jen, 18 years before. Eben cries out that he “helped her do it. Ephraim interrogates him suspiciously. Eben’s half brothers, Simeon and Peter, both in their late 30s, stand outside and also take note of the sunset’s beauty. ed. He returns demanding an explanation, and she confesses hatefully that she loves Eben and that the child was theirs. MyEssayHero offers writing services for our clients research purposes and helping them to gain better understanding of the subject. Eben confronts Abbie, who now loves him. Ephraim insists the farm will be Abbie’s after his death; he then adds that she accused Eben of attempting to seduce her. On the one hand, Eben expresses his Apollonian impulse in the form of his practical, if avaricious, desire for possession of the farm, his handling of his brothers more as competitors for real estate rights than as siblings, and his initial rejection of Abbie as a competitor for those rights. The upper bedrooms and kitchen are exposed. An hour later; the same rooms are shown as in the previous scene. Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Abbie attempts to seduce him to form an alliance against Ephraim, but in spite of her covetous designs, she falls in love with him. One might even see Ephraim’s death, if O’Neill had chosen to kill him off, as a kind of suicide. Banton inadvertently advanced the play’s profile, however, and long queues at the ticket counter followed the publicity. Though the set is permanent, O’Neill specified that only the rooms in which the action takes place should be visible at any given time, making the farmhouse replicate the systole and diastole of the four chambers of the human heart. The sheriff takes a look about the farm and utters the final, ironic lines of the play: “It’s a jim-dandy farm, no denyin’.
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