Mourning Becomes Electra
IQRA AQEEL-007B.S. ENGLISH 8TH
Mourning Becomes ElectraEugene O Neill
Iqra Aqeel[Pick the date]
Significance of the South Sea IslandsThe carefree islands of the South Sea are a most desirable locale for a vacation or honeymoon. In the play Mourning Becomes Electra, by Eugene O'Neill, the islands are a place where sex is not seen as a sin and people live life freely, as nature intended people to do so. This play was written in a setting where such actions were frowned upon. It was also these islands where escaping to them with Christine Mannon, was a goal never achieved by two men, both who met a painful, vain death. Orin Mannon and Captain Adam Brant fell to the femme fatale that was Christine Mannon. Both of them were sucked into the whirlpool of destruction as Christine sung her siren's song, lulling them to come to her and escape to the South Sea Islands. It was also here where girls became women and complete freedom was found.Adam Brant wanted to take Christine and Lavinia to "The Blessed Isles." He had previously been there before and had resided in the land where "the natives walked around naked." He remembers them vividly as he describes them to Lavinia.
Lavinia: I your admiration for the naked native women. You said they had found the secret of happiness because they had never heard that love can be a sin.Brant: so you remember that, do you? Aye! And they lived in as near the Garden ofParadise before sin was discovered as you'll fin on this earth! Unless you've seen it, you can't picture the green beauty of their land set in the blue of the sea! The clouds like down on the mountaintops, the sun drowsing in your blood, and always the surf on the barrier reef singing a croon in your ears like a lullaby! The Blessed Isles I'd call them! You can forget there all men's dirty dreams of greed and power (279)!
Adam Brant speaks of these islands like a heaven that no one can go to and find bliss. He tells Lavinia that he wants to take her there, the isles where innocence can be found. However, these picturesque islands are the places he really wants to go with Christine, for Adam loves her. This messy love triangle only proves that getting to these islands of innocence are truly beyond the scope of morality. "O'Neill re-employs in various forms the conventional image of exotic islands in order to gain a universally-conditioned response from his audience--escape from unpleasant reality--" (Ronald T. Curran Literature Resource Center). Curran defines the islands as the only innocent object in the play. It is the last normal thing left in the mess of the Mannons. He only tells Lavinia of these islands to deter any suspicion of adultery between himself and her mother. Anthony S. Abbott wrote of the Mannon family all trying to find freedom through murder and sex but as he says two wrongs don't make a right:Christine Mannon and Adam Brant try to break out of the repressive world of the Mannons through the life-giving freedom on sexuality. Sex in the Mannon household is associated with sin, and the only way that Christine and Adam can find to overcome this repressive attitude is to kill Ezra. But murder only begets murder, and all of the characters' attempt to gain freedom and peace, to find "the Blessed Isles," end in disaster (Abbott 55).
These Islands becomes a form of escapism for Christine and Adam for she wants to go there after being caught red handed with Adam by Lavinia:
Christine: Don't talk like that! You have me, Adam! You have me! And we will be happy- once we're safe on your Blessed Islands! It's strange. Orin was telling me of an island-Brant: Aye-the Blessed Isles- Maybe we can still find happiness and forget! I can see them now- so close- and a million miles away! The warm earth in the moonlight, the trade winds rustling the coco palms, the surf on the barrier reef singing a croon in your ears like a lullaby! Aye! There's peace and forgetfulness for us there- if we can ever find those islands now (363)!
Adam felt the foreboding sense of despair when he found out his attempt to murder Ezra, head of the Mannon house, had succeeded. However, Lavinia discovered the poison and sensed foul play in Ezra's death. Christine also realized that Orin had wanted to take her to the islands as well. What would be the outcome if she did leave with Adam and Orin found out? Christine loved Brant as well as her son but she decided to be with the captain in the end. She wanted to forget the crime she had committed and wished to escape her inevitable punishment. Everyone in the play was looking for some form of escape through the South Sea Islands. Horst Frenz also spoke of Lavinia and even though she seems to have the most dominant role in the play she too is looking for an escape, "Now Lavinia does not differ from the others in her attempt to escape into illusion; she tries harder than anyone else. She differs from the other characters in being herself the obstacle to her own happiness" (Horst Frenz Literature Resource Center).Orin came home from the war and find Lavinia and Christine bickering about something he doesn't fully know, yet. In the scene he arrives home, his Oedipus Complex stands out vividly as he holds Christine's hand lovingly. He describes the island with the same dreaminess that Adam Brant had as he described the islands himself.
Orin: Someone loaned me the book. I read it and reread it until finally those islands came to mean everything that wasn't war, everything that was peace and warmth and security. I used to dream I was there. And later on all the time I was out of my head I seemed really to be there. There was no one there but you and me. And yet I never saw you, that's the funny part. I only felt you all around me. The breaking of the waves was your voice, the sky was the same color as your eyes. The warm sand was like your skin. The whole island was you. A strange notion wasn't it? But you needn't be provoked at being an island because this was the most beautiful island in the world- as beautiful as you mother (342)!
The difference in explanation, between Adam's island and Orin's, is that on Orin's island, the island is his mother. Orin also wished to escape, from the war, the pain, the suffering, the death, and the numbness he felt while fighting the war. He wants to forget his injuries and stay with his mother, who he loves dearly, and escape. Orin's Oedipal Complex was acutely shown here. He lovingly speaks to his mother as more than a maternal figure but more as a lover. He also speaks of his father as a barrier between the two of them. As critic, Frederick I. Carpenter once wrote, "The fatal necessity for the Oedipus and Electra complexes. It has described the sinful love of the son for the mother and of the daughter for the father as a universal, compulsive pattern. The protagonists seem to have been born damned" (Carpenter 129). Carpenter speaks of people born with these obsessions for their parents, of the opposite gender, are doomed to have a tragic ending. He also wrote, "the avenging furies strike, and the family destroys itself until only Lavinia is left" (Carpenter 72). This critic is saying that in a household where the Oedipus and Electra Complexes prevail, only doom awaits them.Long after Ezra Mannon was cold-heartedly murdered, by his wife, and Christine committed suicide, Lavinia and Orin decided to go to the "Blessed Islands" themselves. It was here Lavinia changed into a beautiful woman, after experiencing the love that only a native, Avahanni, could offer.
Lavinia: I loved those islands. They finished setting me free. There was something there mysterious and beautiful- a good spirit- of love- coming out of the land and sea. It made me forget death. There was no hereafter. There was only this world- the warm earth in the moonlight- the trade wind in the coco palms- the surf on the reef- the fires at night and the drum throbbing in my heart- the natives dancing naked and innocent without the knowledge of sin! But what in the world! I'm gabbing like a regular chatterbox. You must think I've become awfully scatterbrained!Peter: Gosh, no! I'm glad you've grown that way! You never used to say a word unless you had to (394)!
While Lavinia is describing the island to Peter, her soon-to-be fianc, she describes the islands with the exact words Adam Brant once used to describe the islands to her. She wanted to go there with Adam Brant, but he was dead now. She had killed what she loved the most. It was also the Islands, where she found peace and relaxation, where she could undergo a metamorphosis, from a block-like girl into a graceful woman, love on an island can change anyone. She changed into almost a spitting image of her mother. Lavinia had a sort of sexual awakening there. Almost like Eve biting into the forbidden fruit of knowledge. She had her eyes open to the humanly pleasure that there was to offer. Critic Bette Charlene Werner wrote that, "But peace is impossible in Eden, given the nature of Eve. Woman is the first betrayer, who lets pure love turn to passion. She is the original deceiver, who is not only mother, but mistress" (Bette Werner Literature Resource Center). This critic portrays that in opening the eyes of a woman, peace cannot be found afterward. In that way the islands can also be viewed as the Freudian Id. As Judith E. Barlow wrote in her criticism of the play she describes how Eugene O'Neill used the Freudian Id to describe the change in Lavinia:In his depiction of Christine Mannon and her daughter, Lavinia, O'Neill again seems to have taken his cue from Freud. Freud postulated that a girl's "turning away from the mother is accompanied by hostility; the attachment to the mother ends in hate. A hate of that kind may become very striking and last all through life" Lavinia eventually comes to empathize and identify with her mothe