Desire under the Elms

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Play by O'Neill, produced and published in 1924.

Ephraim Cabot, in his elm-shaded New England farmhouse in 1850, is a decadent Puritan, harsh and miserly. He acquired the farm from his dead second wife, mother of his son Eben, who works it with his elder half-brothers, Simeon and Peter. Eben, who resembles his gentle mother, hates Ephraim for having mistreated her, and the other sons are kept from joining the gold rush to California only by their avaricious interest in inheriting the farm. When Ephraim, despite his 75 years, takes a third wife, Simeon and Peter sell their shares to Eben and leave for California. Ephraim's third wife is Abbie Putnam, a young widow, greedy and sensual, whose only purpose is to gain her husband's wealth, and she seduces Eben in order to have a child who will inherit it. Ephraim exults over the birth of his supposed son, and when he reveals that the new child will inherit the property, Eben repudiates Abbie's love, which is by now genuine. She kills the child and in a rage confesses her crimes. Eben informs the police, but, overcome by love for Abbie, admits a part in the murder, and is arrested with her.

Subjects: Literature — Theatre.

Reference entries

Eugene O'Neill (1888—1953) American dramatist

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.