How does O Neill deal with the desire in Desire Under the Elms

How does O Neill deal with the desire in Desire Under the Elms

Question: How does O’Neill deal with the desire in “Desire Under the Elms”?


“Desire Under the Elms” (1924) is a modern tragedy written by Eugene O’Neill (1888 – 1953). As an expressionist, he has shown public desire in this drama. After scanning the play, we get the description of the desire of central characters in a fascinating way. The clashes of the desire in the play make a tragic story.

Cabot’s desire for property and sexuality

Cabot is the senior character in the play. He believes in hard God. He dedicates his life to the stony and infertile land because he wants to make it the land of good crops. He is a hard worker. Besides, he makes his family members hard worker. He always feels lonely and does not feel any comfort at home because of his passion for the farm. His desire for property makes him blind because he does not value any relationship. Even, in the last part of the play, he wants to burn his farmhouse so that nobody can possess it.

He is the owner of three legal wives. He marries Abbie at the age of 75. From the discussion of the three brothers, we come to know that he had illegal relations with Minnie, the local prostitute.

“Simeon: Are you going to see that woman, Minnie?

Eben: Yes.


Peter: ……. After all, Simeon was her lover at one time, and then I followed.

Simeon: And our father can tell you something also. He was her lover first of all.”

This type of odd task makes him a sexually attracted person. Finally, he remains lonesome.

Click here: for all notes of Drama

Abbie’s desire for security and sexual desire for Eben

In Part One scene IV, Abbie tells her story that she was an orphan in early life. Then she had to work in other people’s houses. Her husband was a drunkard and fell ill and died. Her little child also died. Then she gets married to Cabot only for her financial security and house.

After coming to the farmhouse, she claims that it is her own. Then she makes a sexual relationship with Eben, her step-son. She does so that she can be the permanent owner of the farmhouse. Cabot says that if they can produce a son, he would make a will of the farm for her and her son. So, she is to desire to have sex with Eben at any cost. These types of desires make her tragic in life.

Eben’s desire for the farm and revenge

Eben’s desire for the farm and revenge upon his father makes him tragic at the end of the play. Eben always claims that he is the only owner of the farm. But his father does not allow him in this case. From the revengeful desire upon his father, he makes sexual relations with his step-mother. They produce an illegal son. By misunderstanding Abbie with Eben, she kills the son. At last, he shares the punishment of killing the son by Abbie.

Simeon and Peter’s desire for freedom and gold

Simeon and Peter’s desire for freedom and gold are discussed in the play. We come to know that Cabot makes all the family members hard worker. Simeon and Peter are treated like animals on the farm. They want freedom so that they go to California in search of gold. After their father’s marriage, they give up their hope of getting the shares of the farm. They sell their shares to Eben for six hundred dollars.

Overall general desire

Here, we notice that some unique desires of human beings are discussed in a fascinating way. The desire for sex, wealth, security, freedom, revengeful tendency is some of the fundamental desires of human beings.


To sum up, it is clear that O’Neill fantastically describes the clashes of desires in the play that makes a good tragic play.

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.

Articles: 158

One comment

Leave a Reply

error: Sorry !!