Incest In "Mourning Becomes Electra" Essay

Incest In "Mourning Becomes Electra" Essay

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Eugene O'Neill, an American play writer, is the author of Mourning becomes Electra, one of the most controversial plays in American history. O'Neill had been happily married at one time, but his marriage fell apart and it ended in divorce. During this time, O'Neill became enthralled with the psychoanalytical view on life, which continued to haunt him for most of his life. After the divorce, O'Neill remarried, but was still fascinated with psychoanalytical views. His obsession with such views became bluntly palpable with the publication of Mourning Becomes Electra, where he "compasses the Oedipus complex, the Electra complex, female sexuality, penis envy, castration anxiety, the uncanny, and the interpretation of dreams"(Soloski, villagevoice.com). This fascination made O'Neill a smidgen private. In fact, he felt so indebted to this theory, he wrote the play which still "[did] not quite relieve O'Neill of indebtedness to psychoanalytic theory"(Bogard, 85). While writing the play, he discussed it with no one, not even his wife or close friends. Mourning Becomes Electra is actually based off of a Greek trilogy which O'Neill condensed into one play, divided by parts and then acts. Part of the reason O'Neill made Vinnie such a tragic hero is because he believed in the Greek tragedy that she had too tragic a fate in her soul to let it fade from heroic legend (Bogard, eoneill.com). And so, although O'Neill changes Vinnie's personality to get his point across, he essentially keeps her the same as in the Greek tragedy, but rejeuvenates a little. For example, the time period is now the Civil war, which is important because in the original play there was also a war which helped to stage the play and draw out each character's emotions. Compar...


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... characters and moving the plot forward. The characters themselves even conceive that what they want is immoral and wish "to be forgiven!"(O'Neill, 407), however, as much as they wish to be cleansed they still have their incestuous needs to fulfill. So although they despise themselves for feeling this way, it is these feelings that move the plot forward that push the characters into situations where they make decisions that others without these desires might denounce. In conclusion,Woodard wraps up how although the play is an immoral tragedy, the characters methodically envelope the reader with their problems and the reader is forced to feel sympathy with them even if they feel the character is fatuous. "Whether mourning becomes Electra or not, it has become her life...She draws us into the domestic torment and tension as we respond to her inwardness"(Woodard, 131).

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