The Libation Bearers

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The Hair and Footprints of Orestes and Electra Symbol Analysis

The Hair and Footprints of Orestes and Electra Symbol Icon

One of the few healthy relationships in the play is the connection between Orestes and Electra, siblings who desperately love each other and who have mourned for each other while apart. This bond takes on a visual element early in the play, when Electra finds Orestes’ hair and footprints at Agamemnon’s burial mound, and realizes that they both match her own. Both the hair and the footprints emblemize the sense that Orestes and Electra are two halves of one person, and make clear how closely the two are linked. The strength of this bond will become even more apparent as the siblings conspire to kill their mother. They are completely in sync about their motives, their actions, and their need for vengeance.

The Hair and Footprints of Orestes and Electra Quotes in The Libation Bearers

The The Libation Bearers quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Hair and Footprints of Orestes and Electra. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Revenge Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Libation Bearers published in 1966.
Lines 1-585 Quotes

Your pain is mine.
If I laugh at yours, I only laugh at mine.

Related Characters: Orestes (speaker), Electra
Related Symbols: The Hair and Footprints of Orestes and Electra
Page Number: 223-224
Explanation and Analysis:

After hiding behind his father's burial mound, Orestes reveals himself to his sister Electra, and the two tearfully reunite. While Electra is incredulous, Orestes reassures her that he has returned. Beyond the joy of siblings at seeing each other for the first time in years, this quote demonstrates the extent to which Orestes and Electra are presented as two halves of the same whole. Their love goes beyond that of ordinary siblings; they feel each others' emotions, and are matched both physically and mentally.

The harmony and strength of Orestes' and Electra's bond stands in contrast with the un-motherly and un-wifely behavior of Clytemnestra. While she has desecrated every familial bond in which she participates, the queen's children have managed to keep their relationship pure and ideal. They illustrate the way that family members should treat each other, providing an example for Greek audiences of proper familial love. 

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The Hair and Footprints of Orestes and Electra Symbol Timeline in The Libation Bearers

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Hair and Footprints of Orestes and Electra appears in The Libation Bearers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-585
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
...prays to Hermes, the god of the dead, to give him strength. He cuts two locks of his hair and lays them on the grave, honoring Inachos (the god of a local river in... (full context)
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Violence, Death, and the Dead  Theme Icon
Having finished her prayer, Electra spots Orestes’ locks of hair on the ground. She notes that the hair is identical to her own, and she... (full context)
Fate, the Gods, and Piety  Theme Icon
Familial Bonds  Theme Icon
Within moments, Electra spots Orestes’ footprints in the dirt (as well as Pylades’). Comparing the tracks to her own feet, she... (full context)