Desire Under the Elms as a tragedy of passions

Desire Under the Elms as a tragedy of passions

Question: Comment on “Desire Under the Elms” as a tragedy of passions.

Or, discuss the Eben-Abbie relationship.


“Desire Under the Elms” (1924) is a modern tragedy written by Eugene O’Neill (1888 – 1953). This play is packed up by huge description of the passion of Abbie and Eben. At the end of the play, we get them as true lovers in the world. Because their passion turns into original love.

Unconventional tragedy

Tragedy means “a play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending, especially one concerning the downfall of the main character.” “Desire Under the Elms” is an unconventional tragedy. We know that there are sundry features of a traditional tragedy. In this modern tragedy, there is a lack of traditional features.


When Cabot gets married to Abbie, Eben takes her negatively. He thinks that She has come to occupy the farmhouse. He hates her from this negative attitude. Negativity will be proved from these dialogues:

“Abbie: You are Eben, are you? My name is Abbie.  I am your new mother.

Eben: No, damn you.”

Eben says her this in a most hostile tone.

Click here: for all notes of Drama

From hatred to passion

Later on, we find him in a passionate mood with her. From the first meeting of them, they start to quarrel. But in quarrel, Abbie always tries to lure him. In Part 2 Scene 3, we get the description of their kissing scene. Suddenly, Abbie has come to his room and kisses him. At first, he does not want to kiss her but ultimately, he also helps her for passionate kisses. Thus, they have come from hatred to passion.

Open forbidden love

Eben says her after kissing that he thought the lips of Minnie, the local prostitute not her at kissing time. We come to know that Abbie wants to be Eben’s lover. Then Abbie says her in the following manner:

“Abbie: ……. I thought that you would not go to her when I am willing to accept you as a lover.”

They are step-mother- son. But there is no care about it. They are loving each other like a lover and beloved. After kissing part, she invites him in the parlour for their passionate desire. She says that:

“Abbie: ….. Now I am going downstairs and you Mr. Eben Cabot, you will come downstairs to meet me in the parlour.”

Then very soon she says that:

“Abbie: I shall expect you to follow me and come to me.”

Eben goes to the parlour to meet her and having sex with her. Thus, they fulfil their forbidden passionate love.

Stubborn love between Eben and Abbie

After Having sex, they start to love each other passionately. Some days later, Abbie gives birth to a son. Abbie says to Cabot that this son is from him. But the fact is this son is from Eben. She becomes pregnant from that intercourse in the parlour. Somehow, Eben can know that all the property will go to new-born baby and Abbie. Then he blames her for getting the child according to her plan. He threats to leave her. He wishes that if there is no son from Abbie it could have been good.

Abbie’s passion turns into true love at that time. She kills her son to prove his original love for him. Then Eben can understand that he also is responsible for murdering the son as he expresses his wish. At last, they share their punishment.


From the light of the above discussion it is clear that the main scenes of the play are packed up by the passion of Eben and Abbie. The ending of the play is very much destructive. Thus, the play can be said the tragedy of passion.

Ruhul Huda
Ruhul Huda

You can call me Mr. Huda. I am a researcher and doing this work for years. I like to learn everywhere. So, feel free to share your experience with me.

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