Chapter

“Lust for Possession”

Edited by John Patrick Diggins

in Eugene O'Neill's America

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780226148809
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226148823 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226148823.003.0006
“Lust for Possession”

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  • Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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The opening of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms educes lusty emotion. O'Neill's description of the elm trees in his stage directions indicates that human emotions create the conditions of their own entrapment. In this play, ownership of the farm represents the Christian duty to labor in a universe where “God is hard.” The play also undermines the main currents of political philosophy. There was always a touch of the romantic in O'Neill, and he concluded Desire Under the Elms on a note foreign to a U.S. Constitution that had forsaken any possibility of human regeneration. O'Neill saw humanity as condemned to losing its soul by aspiring to possess something outside it. He noted that American history needed both the father and the daughter, a soul that thought in compliance with Christianity and a body that willed in defiance of it.

Keywords: Eugene O'Neill; Desire Under the Elms; lusty emotion; political philosophy; humanity; American history; Christianity

Chapter.  7012 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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