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During the period of its composition, O誰eill spoke less about Mourning Becomes Electra than he had about any other play he had composed up to that time, with the single exception of Desire Under the Elms. The pairing is perhaps a significant one, for the two plays have much in common葉heir use of Greek myths as a narrative base, their New England scene, the intense psychological focus of the subject matter, their historical perspective, their primary realism which avoids all the trappings of the Art Theatre and their inner conviction which in no little measure anticipates the mood of the late plays. Compared to the theological romances which surrounded them, the quality of these two plays is one of intense, even recessive concentration, bearing the quality of a private statement. O誰eill held them both close to his chest during their creation, as if he were unwilling to release them to the theatrical world until there was nothing more he was able to do with them.

O誰eill痴 mention of Mourning Becomes Electra in letters, even to his most intimate friends, is vague and general. To Joseph Wood Krutch on July 27, 1929, he wrote of the necessity for selecting a big subject for his art, and described his current project as one of the biggest ever attempted in modern drama, comparing it to plays by the Greeks and the Elizabethans in its possibilities. In the same letter he cried, 徹h for a language to write drama in! For a speech that is dramatic and not just conversation. I知 so strait jacketed by writing in terms of talk. I知 so fed up with the dodge-question of dialect. But where to find that language? The cry presents the problem of matching the Greek theme with an appropriate dialogue預 problem which was to dog him after the production of the play. But nothing more is said of the nature of the work.

A similar statement to Benjamin de Casseres, to whom he wrote ordinarily with great candor, occurs in a letter dated April 20, 1930. He had, he said, finished the first draft of his new work, but he stated only that he worked on it harder than on any of his other plays. He had no idea when it would be ready for production. Not until August 23, 1930, did he reveal the subject matter in a letter to Manuel Komroff, and then his bare account葉hat it is a retelling of the Orestes story laid in New England at the close of the Civil War, that it is a 菟sychological drama of lust and that it has more complicated relationships than any Greek treatment謡as sent 妬n strictest confidence.

His secrecy and his refusal to predict a probable production season for the work suggests that he was conscientiously attempting to avoid the mistakes he made with Dynamo, which he let out of his hands before it was ready, and of which he talked too freely before its production. Now, living in France, under the shelter of his new marriage, he could seek to fulfill himself, taking all the time he needed, not going off, as he phrased it, 塗alf-cocked, but struggling to achieve 殿 mature outlook as an artist. Mourning Becomes Electra was the first product of what he had termed 殿 complete upheaval, a total revaluing of all my old values.1 The luxury of time for visions and revisions came about in part because O誰eill, after the success of Strange Interlude was in a good financial position, and in part because he was under no necessity of providing plays for a hungry theatre. The Theatre Guild could easily afford to wait and was as committed to O誰eill as he was to it. Thus the work proceeded slowly, arduously. Between November, 1929, and August, 1930, he told Komroff, he had spent 225 working days on the script, and it was then by no means completed. His plans for vacations in order to gain a perspective were frustrated by the intensity of his application to the task. Nothing, it seems true, existed in his life except the security of his marriage and his work.

Although he closed a circle of silence around the script, the composition of the play is better documented than most by a work diary he kept during the period of its creation. Published extracts from the diary date from spring, 1926, and continue through September, 1931, as he worked on the galley proofs shortly before the play was produced.

The first entry asks whether it is possible to get a 杜odern psychological approximation of Greek sense of fate into a play intended to move an audience which no longer believes in supernatural retribution. Perhaps the Electra story or that of Medea would serve? A gap of two and a half years follows the original entry, and then in October, 1928, while on the Arabian Sea bound for China, he begins again on his 敵reek tragedy plot idea, and appears to have settled on 摘lectra and family as being 菟sychologically most interesting洋ost comprehensive intense basic human interrelationships. By November, the idea has taken firmer hold, and he notes that it will be important to give Electra a tragic ending worthy of her. With that he has found his area of contribution. 展hy did the chain of fated crime and retribution ignore her mother痴 murderess?預 weakness in what remains to us of Greek tragedy that there is no play about Electra痴 life after the murder of Clytemnestra. Surely it possesses as imaginative tragic possibilities as any of their plots! O誰eill痴 addition to the story, then, will be the punishment of Electra who 塗as too much tragic fate within her soul to be allowed to slip from heroic legend into 砥ndramatic married banality. With this definition of central narrative focus, he is ready to begin.


Other details followed slowly. By April, 1929, he had decided to set the story in an American historical setting, always provided that it remain a 杜odern psychological drama. The story needs time and distance, but the period is to be only a mask over the 電rama of hidden life forces庸ate傭ehind lives of characters. He recognizes that the Civil War with its heroic, even epic scale is the best possible period, permitting the desired modernity, yet also providing the time and distance essential to the tragic legend.

Quickly, thereafter, details of setting and time are sketched in: New England and the Puritan sense of retribution, the house that resembles with total architectural and thematic justification a Greek temple. He lists his departures from the Greek story at length in notes on the relationships of the characters to one another. At the end of the entry which conveys a sense of excited discovery, he is concerned to stress family resemblances, 殿s visible sign of the family fate, and he adds, 砥se masks (?). By May the names of the characters are in order, developed on simple assonantal parallels with the Greek names, and he has found his title, using 釘ecomes in the sense of 澱efits: 鍍hat is . . . it befits擁t becomes Electra to mourn擁t is her fate預lso, in usual sense (made ironical here), mourning (black) is becoming to her擁t is the only color that becomes her destiny. The play痴 structure is clear, a trilogy, and he has the titles of the first and third plays, Homecoming and The Haunted. He begins on the scenario in June, 1929, eight months after settling on the Electra story, and he has decided to write the first draft as 都traight realism in order to get the play into definitive form before worrying about the use of masks or soliloquies and asides.

The scenarios were finished by August, having raised a problem about which O誰eill was curiously bothered: how to arrange the murders so that no tedious police action would follow. The first draft was written between September, 1929, and February, 1930, and laid aside for a month. Rereading it in March, he found much of it 都crawny but parts of it were 電amned thrilling. What he had failed to provide was a 都ense of fate hovering over the characters. . . . I get the feeling that more of my idea was left out of play than there is in it! In next version I must correct this at all costs羊un the risk of going to other cluttered up extreme蓉se every means to gain added depth and scope. To get it, he determines to 砥se half masks and an 選nterlude technique (combination 銑azarus and 選nterlude) and see what can be gotten out of that葉hink these will aid me to get just the right effect洋ust get more distance and perspective洋ore sense of fate洋ore sense of the unreal behind what we call reality which is the real reality!葉he unrealistic truth wearing the mask of lying reality, that is the right feeling for this trilogy, if I can only catch it! He writes an aide-memoire about the dialogue in which he reminds himself not to be too faithful to the speech of the historical period, and he discusses with himself the alternation of scenes, each play to begin and end with an exterior, and to create a rhythm between interior and exterior settings in the course of each play. One scene is to break this rhythm, that on Adam Brant痴 ship at the center of the second play: (this, center of whole work) emphasizing sea background of family and symbolic motive of sea as a means of escape and release. The notes continue to discuss the chorus, the development of the South Sea Island motif, the desirable 田haracterlessness of Peter and Hazel, the use of the chanty 鉄henandoah and the problem of controlling melodrama in the story. The entry ends with a reiteration of the diary痴 constant theme: 妬t must, before everything, remain modern psychological play庸ate springing out of the family.

Between March and July, 1930, he wrote the second draft and records his fatigue on completing it. He promises himself a vacation, but within a week he is back at work, and on rereading the second draft, he finds its use of 的nterludisms cluttering. He writes himself a warning: 殿lways hereafter regard with suspicion hangover inclination to use 選nterlude technique regardless葉hat was what principally hurt 船ynamo, being forced into thought-asides method which was quite alien to essential psychological form of its characters妖id not ring true熔nly clogged up play arbitrarily with author痴 mannerisms. . . . 選nterlude aside technique is special expression for special type of modern neurotic, disintegrated soul when dealing with simple direct folk or characters of strong will and intense passions, it is superfluous showshop 礎usiness. 鄭 second rereading the next day convinced him that the masks introduced wrong connotations. The play痴 soliloquies were also troublesome. He sought to give them a stronger connection with the masks, and thought perhaps that by arranging soliloquies in a fixed structural pattern he could make both masks and soliloquies effective. He urges himself to 鍍ry for prose with simple forceful repeating accent and rhythm which will express driving insistent compulsion of passions engendered in family past, which constitute family fate. The next day, he began to rewrite the second draft and to cut it, a process he finished on September 16, 1930. The dialogue went well, and the omission of the asides was right. Now the play was to be laid aside to gain perspective.

Only four days elapsed. By the twentieth, he was back at work. The soliloquies and masks were bad because they introduced an 登bvious duality-of-character symbolism quite outside my intent in these plays. They were dropped along with the asides, and by September 21, he knew that while the second draft had been profitable in that the 的nterludisms had given him new insights, it remained to rewrite the entire play 妬n straight dialogue預s simple and direct and dynamic as possible謡ith as few words耀top doing things to these characters様et them reveal themselves. The concept of the masks he decided to keep, but now he saw that make-up could achieve the effect he wanted葉hat of a death-mask 都uddenly being torn open by passion. What the play needed, he felt, was a stronger structural rhythm: 迭epetition of the same scene擁n its essential spirit, sometimes even in its exact words, but between different characters庸ollowing plays as development of fate葉heme demands this repetition. And he noted, 溺annon drama takes place on a plane where outer reality is mask of true fated reality蓉nreal realism.

The third complete draft was started two days later, on September 23, and finished by October 15. Finally, then, he took a vacation, returning to work in mid-November, expressing himself as 吐airly well satisfied with the last script, which he reworked until January 10, 1931. The script was typed, but by February 7, he found himself dissatisfied with the last revision, and began to prune back recent additions. The revision was finished on February 20, and he went to the Canary Islands, where on March 8 he read the typed script.

In type the script looked 電amned good, although it was long and some sections needed rewriting, cutting, pointing up. This work was finished by March 26, and by April 9 new typed copies were prepared and the final script sent to the Theatre Guild. In August, 1931, he read the play in galley proof, and, after a lapse of nearly four months without reading the work, he found he was moved by it and that it had 菟ower and drive and the strange quality of unreal reality I wanted洋ain purpose seems to me soundly achieved葉here is a feeling of fate in it, or I am a fool預 psychological approximation of the fate in the Greek tragedies on this theme預ttained without benefit of the supernatural. In addition he expressed himself as pleased with its structure as a trilogy. In August and September, he worked on the galley proofs. Some matters remained to be ironed out, but, as the Work Diary ends, he had little more to do that could not be accomplished during rehearsals. Mourning Becomes Electra was at last ready for the stage.2

The enormous consecutive creative effort was a staggering labor. Between May, 1929, when he wrote the scenarios, and February, 1931, when he finished the third draft, he was away from the script no more than two months and a few days. It was an expenditure of incredible strength that was to define, so far as the matter can be judged, the working habits of his mature years. The routines of ordinary life dropped away from him as he worked, and the result was very different from what had gone before.

Although the phrase 砥nreal realism that runs through the diary suggests that some of the pretensions of the Art Theatre Show Shop still remained, the ruthless excision of the elements of technical exhibitionism for which he had become famous makes clear that the trilogy was truly the result of 殿 complete upheaval of his old values, as he had claimed.

If further proof than that offered by the play were needed, a letter to Macgowan written on June 14, 1929, amounts to a renunciation of Art Theatre principles and of Macgowan痴 guidance:

No more sets or theatrical devices as anything but unimportant background容xcept in the most imperatively exceptional case where organically they belong. To read Dynamo is to stumble continually over the sets. They池e always in my way, writing and reading預nd they are in the way of the dramatic action. Hereafter I write plays primarily as literature to be read預nd the more simply they read, the better they will act, no matter what technique is used. Interlude is proof of this. I don稚 mean that I wouldn稚 use masks again in the writing if a Lazarus or Brown should demand it傭ut I do mean that my trend will be to regard anything depending on director or scenic designer for collaboration to bring out its full values as suspect. Brown & Lazarus, of course, don稚. They will always convey more to a reader痴 imagination than any production can give. But I知 fed up with the show shop we call a theatre in the world today and I refuse to write any more which uses it. Constructivism and such stuff is all right for directors but it痴 only in an author痴 way. At least that痴 the way I feel now. Greater classical simplicity, austerity combined with the utmost freedom and flexibility, that痴 the stuff!

The new mood represented a deliberate retrenchment, a decisive and controlled return to a point of origin, a recession of art and spirit. It was an essential change if O誰eill was to continue to write for the theatre. He had built his reputation on the work he did for the theatre of the Triumvirate. He was famous for the furious breaking of theatrical icons as he plunged toward the goals the aestheticians descried with a literal, bold directness that shocked and excited his audiences. George Jean Nathan once said that audiences were more excited by the phenomenon of O誰eill than they were by his plays.3 The comment is revealing and just. O誰eill was a 菟resence, and the premiere of one of his works was a national event, not quite in the category of other drama. Yet, as O誰eill disappeared into France, a new theatre, Depression-oriented and alive to social causes, emerged in the United States. It was not the kind of theatre in which O誰eill could take direct part, and it moved away from the tenets of theatrical art O誰eill had held. Dynamo failed and Days Without End would not write. Both plays were marred by failing power and a serious diminishment of genuine creative energy. Hence the need for a new direction.

Once before, O誰eill had come to such a pass after committing himself to the theories of George Pierce Baker and the 47 Workshop. Then after a period of doldrums, he gripped and forcefully changed direction. When he was young, it was an easy matter, much less difficult than the change after his commitment to Macgowan. Yet his process of return was the same in both instances. He recovered from Baker痴 doctrine by writing Before Breakfast in unrelenting imitation of Strindberg, with whom Baker was unconcerned. That play was a jumping-off spot for his first serious work.

As he had done before, he turned again from the false lights he had followed, selected a model he admired and in reworking older material found once more the sources of his creative life. This time, because the commitments of the past ten years were so strong, he could not do it easily. His own habits, his imagination, his involvement with brute size and with important themes, to say nothing of the expectations of his audiences, led him by no conscious route to the source of all tragedy, the Oresteia of Aeschylus, and to the later plays which spun off from it. From that primal fountain, he took new life.

The act, if such a subconscious thrust can be called an act, was, like all he did, daring and even presumptuous. Yet it can be seen in a historical perspective. Mourning Becomes Electra takes its place in the forefront of many modern dramas based on Greek themes and written by the greatest names in the modern theatre: Giraudoux, von Hoffmannsthal, Eliot, Sartre, Shaw among many others. It is part of the twentieth-century Greek revival; yet, for all this, the work emerged as the end product of private necessity. The irony presents itself: Days Without End, a story of salvation, meant damnation for its author; whereas his study of the damned brought his own salvation as an artist.

His modern parallels for the Electra story are appropriate and unforced. The Civil War and the New England Greek-style architecture provided a satisfactory time and place for his history. The details of the relationships in the House of Atreus created the structure of the Mannon clan. The names, following the punning allusion to 鄭gamemnon in Ezra Mannon, with its connotation of power and wealth, were developed by the alliterative scheme which at one time he tried to maintain in Lavinia by calling her 摘lavinia. In the ancient servant of Electra he found Seth, just as Peter emerged from Pylades and Hazel from such innocents as Sophocles Chrysothemis. In similar fashion, his chorus of gossips came naturally, if not entirely convincingly, from his source. Such details are obvious, but less so is O誰eill痴 remarkable fidelity to basic motifs of the myth: the presence of the sea in the Troy story finds congenial recapitulation in O誰eill痴 response to the sea and the islands of the South Pacific; the primitive need to honor the dishonored father, and the horrifying origin of the curse in the devouring of children is echoed in the fate of the Mannon heirs, Lavinia, Orin and Adam Brant; the sense of a haunted world, peopled with ghosts, and of men and women thrust into action by the dictates of a compulsive and destructive will and pursued by the furies of their own guilt are admirably brought into alignment with the legend. By the same token the trilogic structure parallels in its scope the cyclic evolution of the Oresteia.

In some thematic respects, Mourning Becomes Electra is closer to Euripides than to Aeschylus, owing to the Euripidean treatment, its psychological interest and the incorrigible self-justifications for acts of violence in which Euripides Electra and Clytemnestra engage. The incest motif also has its strongest source in Euripides Orestes. Nevertheless, O誰eill has worked freely with his Greek material, and, as he noted in his diary, in centering on Electra痴 destiny after the murder, he has added a fresh increment to the legend. Certainly, as the legend moves behind the work, pinning it to essentials, it makes the trilogy a larger play than it would otherwise have been. It is a greater achievement than Strange Interlude, and, compared with Desire Under the Elms, where similar legends, more deeply imbedded, heightened and generalized the story, the Electra plays seem more insistently impressive.

The mixture of ancient and modern, Aeschylus and Freud, has tended to obscure two important qualities of the trilogy. The first is that it is a history play, and an excellent one. Granted that the Civil War offered a luckily appropriate means of modernizing the post-Trojan-war period of the legend, O誰eill has been at pains to make his image of post-war New England faithful in spirit and fact to what it was. Without much apparent research and with stringently economic means he has created the past: a song, cannon shots celebrating the surrender, a few names from history, lilacs, almost inevitably associated through Walt Whitman痴 elegy with the death of Lincoln. In a letter to the Theatre Guild dated April 7, 1931, he noted that 鍍he dialogue is colloquial of today. The house, the period costumes, the Civil War surface stuff, these are masks for what is really a modern psychological drama with no true connection with that period at all. His claim arises from the drive revealed in the work diary to find a substitute for elements of the legend and to make the play 杜odern, but in fact, those qualities of his imagination that were to make him turn for his last major works to America痴 historical past in order to explain its present were already operating to make the past a reality and to show therein an aspect of contemporary truth.

Thus, in his picture of the war, O誰eill creates unforgettable images that seem to have in them historical truth. Sometimes the treatment is elaborate as when Orin describes his falsely heroic charge in Act III of The Homecoming. The passage, which owes much to the anti-war literature of the late 1920痴, also recalls Stephen Crane痴 description of similar heroics in The Red Badge of Courage. It is perhaps less a matter of what the war really was than what men felt it to be. Crane defined a point of view toward the past; O誰eill related it to his present. Past or present, the sequence has imaginative authority.

In less elaborate ways, his recreation of the past proves unexpectedly strong. For example in describing his feeling of the safety of a military encampment at night, Ezra Mannon says,

I can稚 get used to home yet. It痴 so lonely. I致e got used to the feel of camps with thousands of men around me at night預 sense of protection, maybe! (53)

The words have no direct reference to the past, but they convey it vividly. The song 典enting Tonight sounds faintly in the mind, and the past awakes through the response of a character to his environment. As many who have lain awake in a barracks at night may recognize, the words are verifiable in present experience, and again the passage seems true for both past and present. O誰eill痴 remark that the historical images are 都urface stuff is less than accurate. Even if his emphasis is on the present, at no point does the play痴 modernity violate the image of the past. The two are conjoined to convey truth.

A consequence of the play痴 being set firmly in historical time is that the society in which the action moves is realized more fully than in any of his mature works except Desire Under the Elms. Indeed, it surpasses the story of the Cabots in its creation of the social community surrounding the central action. The presence of that community, like the historical past, is suggested by economical means. A show curtain, painted to reveal the Mannon house surrounded by woods, orchards, gardens, with a drive curving to its door past a lawn, is in cinematic terms a long shot, giving a perspective on the close-ups to follow. As the play begins, sounds from town drift on the wind, keeping the presence of the community on the periphery of awareness. The 田horus, small town civic types幼arpenters, sailors, clerks, doctors, gossips, visiting cousins, business men, ministers幼onvey something of the typicality of the chorus of Lazarus Laughed, but they are not so diagrammatically conceived as to create a symbolic unit. They only sketch what O誰eill called 鍍he human background for the drama of the Mannons. The background is reinforced through the presence of Hazel and Peter, whose obligations to another kind of existence than that of the Mannons, is always present; they have parents they respect and places to go other than the central house. Finally, through Adam Brant, the world outside is brought into the play, and through him, the action is briefly shifted from its focal center to his ship, Flying Trades, anchored in the Boston harbor.

Both the historical frame and the full social context prevent the play from becoming like Strange Interlude, a drama that exists only in a limbo of purely personal emotions. The fact has important consequences. Lavinia痴 final act is strong in part because she lives in an inhabited world. Unlike the Hairy Ape, she is not driven out by faceless voices. Her needs are created by the society she inhabits, and because her world has meaning, her self-inflicted punishment, a rejection of that world, gains significance, if not universality. Much the same may be said of the initial isolation of the Mannons.

Legend, its parallel in history, and a fullness of social framework容ach contributes new value to the play. To this list must be added the extensive use of Freudian psychology. O誰eill denied any obligation to Freud. He was irritated when critics saw Freudian patterns in Desire Under the Elms, and, after Barrett Clark had objected to what he felt was the too explicit Freudianism of the trilogy, he replied in aggrieved tones,

. . . I find fault with critics (who) read too damn much Freud into stuff that could very well have been written exactly as is before psychoanalysis was ever heard of. . . . After all, every human complication of love and hate in my trilogy is as old as literature, and the interpretations I suggest are such as might have occurred to any author in any time with a deep curiosity about the underlying motives that actuate human interrelationships in the family. In short, I think I know enough about men and women to have written Mourning Becomes Electra almost exactly as it is if I had never heard of Freud, Jung or the others. . . . I am no deep student of psychoanalysis. As far as I can remember, of all the books written by Freud, Jung, etc., I have read only four, and Jung is the only one of the lot who interests me. Some of his suggestions I find extraordinarily illuminating in the light of my own experience with hidden human motives.4

Freud, however, had been part of his knowledge since at least the early days of the Provincetown Players, when Cook and his wife had written a satire on the pretensions of Freudian cultists, called Suppressed Desires. More importantly in 1926, he had taken part as a subject in Dr. G. V. Hamilton痴 research into marital problems, and at the conclusion had received a brief 菟sychoanalytic counseling from Hamilton. The sessions, which lasted only six weeks, were conducted in the traditional manner of Freudian analysis, with the patient on a black leather couch. Although the principal matter of concern was to put an end to O誰eill痴 excessive drinking, O誰eill told Macgowan that he had learned he was suffering from an Oedipus complex.5 The Freudian world was professionally opened to him through Hamilton.

Hamilton痴 survey, A Research in Marriage, was published in 1929, the year O誰eill began serious work on Mourning Becomes Electra. Perhaps more readily available to him, and certainly more readable, was a popular book derived from the same series of interviews and written, in collaboration with Hamilton, by Kenneth Macgowan, who like O誰eill had offered himself as a subject for the interviews. What Is Wrong with Marriage, also published in 1929, is essentially Macgowan痴 book. In a preface, Hamilton acknowledges that Macgowan had made himself a member of the research team, and that he had contributed greatly to the analysis of the materials for their human, rather than for their clinical value.* Chapter IX of Macgowan痴 book is titled 徹edipus Rex; Chapter X is 典he Tragedy of Electra. Macgowan defines the Oedipus complex in these terms:

You get a mother complex, in most cases, because your mother loved your father too little and loved you too much. It was as though she said at your birth: 選 don稚 love my husband, so I知 going to concentrate all my affection on this man-child of mine. . . . The kind of mother who creates this complex謡hich Freud named for the Greek king Oedipus who unwittingly killed his father and married his mother溶ot only develops too great a love for her in her son. She goes on cultivating this abnormal fervor, and dominating his life . . . so tenaciously that often he cannot look on any other woman with longing熔r at any rate with enough longing to make him break his chains.6

A little later, he speaks of the son痴 reaction to the taboo of incest as he feels sexual stirrings toward his mother, and of his attempt to find as a mate a woman who is either physically or temperamentally like his mother.

Somewhat less at ease in his analysis of the Electra complex, Macgowan recognizes that there is no term in English such as 吐ather痴 girl which carries connotations similar to 杜other痴 boy. Without formally defining the complex, he notes that if a mother continually belittles her husband in the eyes of his daughter, thus destroying the child痴 image of her father, not only will the child be unable to marry happily, but 典he consequences are likely to follow through a century. He narrates the story of a family whose great-great-grandmother ridiculed her husband before her daughter, and describes its consequences in similar patterns of behavior and similar unhappy marriages through several generations. 滴ere, indeed, he concludes, 努ere the sins of the mother visited upon the children even unto the fourth and fifth generations.7

While there is no evidence that O誰eill read Macgowan痴 book, the probability is that his own participation in the research, the fact of his divorce and new marriage, together with his continuing friendship with Macgowan, led him to the work. The matter is of no great concern, for much of what was in the book undoubtedly was discussed at length.**

O誰eill at moments comes very close to Macgowan痴 simplifications, as when Mannon says to Lavinia, 的 want you to remain my little girl庸or a while longer at least, (51) or when he tells Christine, 的 tried not to hate Orin. I turned to Vinnie, but a daughter痴 not a wife. (55) O誰eill is right in asserting that as a dramatist, and therefore presumably something of a student of human nature, he will necessarily see patterns that reflect Freudian truths. Yet this explanation, while it satisfies for Shakespeare and for Sophocles, does not quite relieve O誰eill of indebtedness to psychoanalytic theory, which loomed large in his life in the years immediately preceding the writing of the trilogy. Hamilton and Macgowan at least brought Freud well into his range of vision, and, perhaps unconsciously, he permitted a certain clinical definition of human relationships to creep into the play, as for example Christine痴 line to her daughter, 添ou致e tried to become the wife of your father and the mother of Orin! You致e always schemed to steal my place! (33)

To write 殿 play containing a modern psychological approximation of the Greek sense of fate caused O誰eill to substitute Freud for Apollo. The consequences to the trilogy were curious. O誰eill relentlessly analyzes the lives of five persons at the center of his drama. While Peter, Hazel and the townspeople are deliberately characterized by purely external means, and Seth is left on the edges of the action, Lavinia, Christine, Orin, Ezra and Adam are placed in a crucible. They are concerned with nothing but themselves, and even that concern is limited to the psycho-sexual problems which they all fatally share. The psychoanalytic approach makes such concentration possible, perhaps inevitable, and it is extraordinary that a play of this length, with so small a cast and so little variety of subject matter, can hold an audience for the length of such remorseless investigation. That it works is because, with the psychoanalytic lead, O誰eill provides an essentially purgative action. Whereas nothing happened to Nina Leeds, much happens to the Mannons. They discover, they grow, and they change; and what happens to them is therapeutic as psychoanalysis is therapeutic.

For example, when Ezra Mannon returns from the war, he sits with Christine on the steps of the house. He tells her of his war experiences, of his longing for her, of his hope for a better marriage in a long quasi-soliloquy similar in situation and emotional content to that which Ephraim speaks to Abbie. As a scene it is among the most effective moments of the play, but what is perhaps most noteworthy about it is that Ezra, although he speaks to Christine as his wife, also asks of her the services a patient might ask of an analyst. He cannot look at her and asks her to shut her eyes so that she may hear him neutrally, dispassionately, as a psychiatrist might, and his words move in a free association around the pivots of loneliness and desire. It comes to nothing; she will not help him or try to understand. Even so, his attempt to purge himself by speaking his truth is a way of finding release from his interior torment.

Orin痴 long written confession, which relates the history of the Mannons crimes, has something of the same motivation葉he psychoanalysis of a family which may lead to purgation. He tells Lavinia, 的致e tried to trace to its secret hiding place in the Mannon past the evil destiny behind our lives. I thought if I could see clearly in the past I might be able to foretell what fate is in store for us. (153) He has gone with Lavinia to the Islands that she might purge herself of her repressions and her sense of guilt, and he has come home to purge himself. Lavinia says, 添ou told me that if you could come home and face your ghosts, you knew you could rid yourself forever of your silly guilt about the past. (141) At the play痴 climax, when Orin attempts to force his sister to the inevitable act of incest, the scene takes on something of the quality of a classic recognition scene. Orin, the course of his self-discovery completed, loves his sister who is his mother, the ghost of the mother of Adam Brant, Marie Brantme, and also 都ome stranger with the same beautiful hair濫 (165) and, although his attempted seduction dies in its own disgust, it wrings from him the final plea for purgation: 天innie! For the love of God, let痴 go now and confess and pay the penalty for Mother痴 murder, and find peace together! (165) A similar realization that peace can be obtained only through payment comes to Lavinia when, crying out to Peter to love her, she calls him by Brant痴 name, 展ant me! Take me, Adam! (177) As O誰eill insists, she is betrayed by her own subconscious, and recognizing its truth forswears love in her lifetime.

The course of purgative action, concentrated on the raising and recognition of submerged truths, while it can be paralleled in Greek and Elizabethan tragedy, is, if only by virtue of its concentrated and psychoanalytic phrasing, given a 杜odern quality. Macgowan, in What is Wrong with Marriage, had said that men with Oedipal complexes seek to marry women like their mothers, and added that they will have a chance to be happy if the woman is physically like the mother. He does not hold out the same hope for women with 摘lectra complexes, although he recognizes that they will attempt to find happiness by marrying men like their fathers. O誰eill, translating the theories into a specifically incestuous context, sees in them a twisted thrusting for happiness and for a purge that at best kills desire.

In the course of the action his characters find no peace nor adjustment; the long analysis they undergo brings no satisfaction. That this is so is because O誰eill, while accepting modern psychoanalytic theory, still holds to the idea of crime and punishment that he inherited from the source in legend. In tragedy, human crime is punished by the Gods who control human destiny. A divinity shapes the end. O誰eill understands that psychoanalysis can mean an end to repression, and he causes all the Mannons to seek such an end, but he does not permit purgation to occur. Relying heavily on the Calvinistic traditions of the New England Puritan culture, his final view of the Mannons is as a dynasty bound as if by a divine edict to its destiny. 釘ound is the operative word in Seth痴 chanty 鉄henandoah, and the repressions of Puritanism are constantly recalled through the presence of the spying townspeople, through the house and the ancestral portraits, and through the longings of all the Mannons for a different condition: for flowers, for the freedom of the sea, for the Blessed Islands. Yet they are bound as if they were in fact controlled by an angry God. The tangled web of love and lust in which they struggle is called an 兎vil destiny that shapes their lives. Macgowan had spoken of a similar curse brought to families whose women had 摘lectra complexes, but O誰eill makes of the complex more than a psychological problem, by causing it to lead as the course of destiny in the Oresteia leads toward judgment, punishment, expiation of crime. O誰eill is careful to avoid significant reference to any deity as an agent of fate. Constantly the play is redirected from thoughts of God toward human responsibility. When Hazel speaks of God痴 forgiving Lavinia, Lavinia replies, 的知 not asking God or anybody for forgiveness. I forgive myself! (174) In the same spirit, she judges, condemns and punishes herself. In this, however, she acts as her own 敵od, rather than as her own psychoanalyst. The promise of purgation offered by psychoanalysis is finally vitiated by the drive toward self-inflicted punishment. For all its Freudian modernity, the action is controlled by the dead decrees of Olympus.

The deliberate elimination of the Gods is perhaps the clearest sign of O誰eill痴 determination to make of his version of the Electra myth an uncharacteristic kind of play. In the context of his other plays written in the twenties, it is an altogether startling phenomenon. His theological plays for the Art Theatre had all been concerned with what O誰eill called the 釘ig Theme, the quest for God or a God substitute. Now the Gods are gone except for the atavistic traces they have left in the basic legend. What is more, no one seeks them: the motif of the questing dreamer is notable by its sudden absence. The religious concerns that emerge from the play are matters of historical place, a part of the background, but not a part of the play痴 thematic center. And no one in this study is touched with poetry. O誰eill has shucked off all his most characteristic thematic material as he turns toward a new kind of study. Except for Days Without End, he never returned to the old ways.

In place of former concerns new images arose and a new concept of human destiny emerged. In what O誰eill in his work diary called the 田enter of the whole work, the scene on Adam Brant痴 ship which comprises Act IV of the second play, The Hunted, certain elements of the new direction can be examined. Here, for a moment, O誰eill returns to the mood and manner of his early sea plays, but he created only a faded image. The scene reveals the afterdeck and, later, the cabin of Brant痴 clipper ship, Flying Trades, at anchor in Boston. Moonlight silhouettes the rigging, and from a neighboring ship the chanty 鉄henandoah drifts over the water. On the dock sits an old, drunken chantyman whom O誰eill describes in terms reminiscent of his former poet-hero: 塗e has a weak mouth, his big round blue eyes are bloodshot, dreamy and drunken. But there is something romantic, a queer troubadour-of-the-sea quality about him. (102) Now, the poet, formerly O誰eill痴 constant hero, is old and useless, an insignificant figure on the edge of tragedy, as if Hamlet had become the Hell-Porter in Macbeth. He sings a chorus of 鉄henandoah and drunkenly laments the loss of his cash. Adam Brant, from the deck, orders him to keep quiet. They talk, the chantyman bragging of his ability to bring a crew into working order with his singing. He laments the coming of steam to ships and the death of the old days. With an unconscious word of prophecy, he says lugubriously, 摘verything is dyin! Abe Lincoln is dead. I used to ship on the Mannon packets an I seed in the paper where Ezra Mannon was dead! (105) He praises Adam痴 ship, and then drunkenly disappears singing the chanty, 滴anging Johnny: 典hey say I hanged my mother, / Oh, hang, boys, hang! The exit of the chantyman is the last glimpse O誰eill was to give his audiences of the protected children of the sea. Thereafter, as The Calms of Capricorn was to attest, the sea was for drowning.

Next, Christine comes to Adam, and the scene gives way to frantic, melodramatic plotting. Christine is discovered as a murderess: 的壇 planned it so carefully, she says, 澱ut something made things happen! The words echo Simeon Cabot痴: 的t痴 allus somethin. That痴 the murderer, but here no sense of a directing life force is evident. Their own weaknesses, qualities Adam calls cowardice, have brought them to this desperate moment. Their loss is great. Adam must give up the ship he cares for more than the world. Earlier he has told Lavinia that to him ships are like women and that he loved them more than he had ever loved a woman. Now, he is aware that the sea is through with him. 典he sea, he says, 塗ates a coward. What is left for them is to dream of happiness and safety on the 釘lessed Isles of the South Seas to which they plan to escape.

The image of the Blessed Isles is derived, in all probability, from the scene of the second book of Thus Spake Zarathustra. O誰eill, however, has made no further use of Nietzsche痴 philosophy, except to suggest that the islands, like the sea, like the longed-for mother, are all one, and that in them man can sink into rapture and forgetfulness. The description of the islands carry into the play some of the feeling of Dionysian ecstasy so pronounced in Desire Under the Elms. Ephraim had said to Abbie, 鉄ometimes ye air the farm an sometimes the farm be yew, (236) and for both Orin and Adam, Christine is the embodiment of the beauty, security and peace of the earthly paradise. In The Hunted, Orin, telling his mother of Melville痴 Typee, speaks of a dream that came to him in a delirium. He was on Melville痴 islands, alone with his mother: 鄭nd yet I never saw you. . . . I only felt you all around me. The breaking of the waves was your voice. The sky was the same color as your eyes. The warm sand was like your skin. The whole island was you. (90) To all the Mannons, even Ezra, who proposes that he and Christine take ship to find such an island, the symbol of the Islands means the same hope. Yet in the tension of the moment, Adam, at least, appears to know that the Islands are an illusion. He speaks of them thirstily:

I can see them now耀o close預nd a million miles away! The warm earth in the moonlight, the trade winds rustling the coco palms, the surf on the barrier reef singing a croon in your ears like a lullabye! Aye! There痴 peace, and forgetfulness for us there擁f we can ever find those islands now! (112)

His last sentence denies their hope, and shortly Orin, who with Lavinia has been listening at the cabin skylight, torn with rage that Christine has shared the dream of the Islands with her lover, shoots him. Then hope stops. As he bends over the dead man, he is struck by the resemblance to his own face and anticipates his destiny: 滴e looks like me, too! Maybe I致e committed suicide! (115)

The scene awakens many echoes of earlier themes and images in O誰eill痴 plays. The Blessed Isles lie beyond the horizon, their intimacy with nature creating in the natives a freedom from sin and a closeness to a life source. Their essence is hope, as similar concepts gave 塗opeless hope to earlier questers. Now, however, hope is not even 塗opeless. No one believes in the Islands. When Lavinia and Orin go there after Christine痴 death, their influence transforms Lavinia痴 personality, turning her from her martinet, military self to a woman who is startlingly like her mother but their effect is transitory. Within three days of her homecoming her repressions have returned. For Orin, there is no change whatever. The dream of the Blessed Isles is a sham, and since it is, conviction that the Islands, somehow, are set at the source of life, all feeling that the Islands are God幼oncepts that were urgently held in many earlier plays預re absent here. The Islands are only a refuge from a new and more urgent compulsion: to atone for guilt.

As the old dream ceases to have sustaining reality O誰eill shifts from theological and philosophical problems to ethical ones. In Strange Interlude, for all its emphasis on sexual behavior, nothing turned on an ethical dilemma. No blame attached to Nina for her early promiscuity; no questions beyond clinical speculation were raised with reference to her abortion or to her adultery. Mourning Becomes Electra is very different and very new. The only earlier hint of such concerns was in the ending of the trilogy痴 progenitor, Desire Under the Elms, when Abbie and Eben accepted the guilt of their crime and their punishment. At that point, the theological implications of the play lost their strength. The lovers became their own persons, not the creatures of the forces expressed through the earth. In the trilogy, hope being gone, what is left is damnation, an acknowledgment of guilt and acceptance of the consequence: human obligation. In the shipside scene, the love, which still perhaps contains an element of hope, of Lavinia and Christine for Adam, as well as the love of Orin for Christine, is perverted and turned into hate. Guilt follows in the course of the willful actions of the guilty. Now, for the first time in O誰eill痴 dramas, the will begins to play a significant role. His earlier studies of obsessed men, such as Captain Keeny in Ile or Captain Bartlett in Where the Cross Is Made, were studies of madness, men who forced themselves to move beyond their limits and to deny their destiny. What is perhaps most horrifying in Mourning Becomes Electra is that no one, not even Orin as he comes to the point of suicide, is insane. All the actions are deliberate, the product of desire energized by ruthless purpose.

The new commitment to will and its human consequences creates for O誰eill a new set of images, both poetic and theatrical. For one, there is the image of the desolate emptiness at the bottom of the sea, expressed in Orin痴 words to Hazel: 典he only love I can know now is the love of guilt for guilt which breeds more guilt蓉ntil you get so deep at the bottom of hell there is no lower you can sink and you rest there in peace! (160) The sea, which even so recently as Dynamo, had been thought of as a source of all life, is now hell itself.

Hell is reached through a dark doorway. When Lavinia Mannon moves to punish herself, throwing out from the house all the flowers, nailing up the shutters and turning her back on love, she marches through the door of the house that closes behind her. The image of the door, dividing life from death, sanity from madness, hope from despair, love from rejection, will become in the late plays one of O誰eill痴 principal images. The sound of its closing here sets the seal on Lavinia痴 punishment and fittingly climaxes this play of the damned.

Mourning Becomes Electra, perhaps O誰eill痴 most secular play, is also his least symbolic work to date. Such symbols as exist in the play, the house, for example, or the portraits, or the flowers, are all related to the human beings at the central focus. Now, none of the conflict between character and symbol that beset many of the minor works and even such major plays as Strange Interlude enters to plague this study of crime and retribution. There are no ambiguities; nothing is vague or suggested. The characters are drawn precisely, their story fully told, and they move toward a comprehensible and convincing destiny. Thus O誰eill returned to his point of origin, to the realistic theatre, from whence, with the single exception of Days Without End, he never again departed.*** In this, perhaps, had he been alive to know of it, George Cram Cook might have felt a small triumph. Had he not said years earlier, in 1916, when the Provincetown Players produced Thirst, that O誰eill was a realist, not a writer for the Art Theatre?

* For a detailed account of the influence of the study by Hamilton and Macgowan on the trilogy, consult Doris M. Alexander, 撤sychological Fate in Mourning Becomes Electra, PMLA, LXVIII, December, 1953.

** Cf. Geib, 596: 淘In our circle, Macgowan recalled, 奏he interviews were the table topic of the day.樗

*** An exception is the use of soliloquies in More Stately Mansions.

 

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