Incest In "Mourning Becomes Electra" Essay

1302 words - 5 pages

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. Compared to other plays of his time, O'Neill's was one of the most socially unacceptable because of its constant use of incest, which was entirely immoral. Thusly, the root of the play itself is immoral in that every character has a complex of some sort that drives them to covet for a blood relative and yet yearn to be cleaned of the sins they wish to commit. Freud Sigmund, the person who stated what he postulates to be the Oedipus and Electra complex, had views which although seemed to fit into O'Neill's play, essentially did not because of the intrinsic components. In Freud's interpretation of the Oedipus complex, a boy yearns to take his father's place and be married to his mother as well as have the same role as his father; however he keeps this secret because he fears his father castrating him for what he wants. Eventually, the boy grows out of this and marries another woman. Freud's Electra complex is similar to the Oedipus complex, only it is a girl who wants to take over her mother's role and be with her father, but again she keeps this a secret. As the play itself says, "a daughter feels closer to her father" (O'Neill, 278) meaning the daughter feels closer to her father because she begrudges her mother. In both...

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