Desire Under the Elms

by

Eugene O’Neill

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Peter Character Analysis

Peter is Ephraim Cabot’s second-oldest son, whom Cabot had with his first wife. Peter is 37 years old, and, like his brother Simeon, he despises Cabot for subjecting the family to a hard life of farm labor. But he’s also scared of Cabot, who’s aggressive and mean-spirited. Despite having slaved away on the farm for his entire life digging stones out of the unforgiving land, Peter chooses to abandon the farm (instead of waiting to inherit it) after carefully weighing his prospects. He and Simeon both sells their share of the farm to their half-brother, Eben, in exchange for funds to travel to California. Peter then leaves to pursue a better life, along with Simeon, feeling free and happy to be rid of the farm and the tough life it demands.

Peter Quotes in Desire Under the Elms

The Desire Under the Elms quotes below are all either spoken by Peter or refer to Peter. 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:
Desire, Revenge, and Tragedy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Desire Under the Elms published in 1995.
Part 1: Scene 1 Quotes

Here—it’s stones atop o’ the ground—stones atop o’ stones—makin’ stone walls—year atop o’ year—him ’n’ yew ’n’ me ’n’ then Eben—makin’ stone walls fur him to fence us in!

Related Characters: Peter (speaker), Simeon, Eben, Ephraim Cabot
Related Symbols: Stones
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

‘T would be hard fur me, too, to give up what we’ve ‘arned here by our sweat.

Related Characters: Peter (speaker), Simeon, Eben, Ephraim Cabot, Maw , Abbie Putnam
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1: Scene 2 Quotes

They was chores t’ do, wa’n’t they?

Related Characters: Eben (speaker), Maw , Peter, Simeon
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1: Scene 3 Quotes

Waal—when I seen her, I didn’t hit her—nor I didn’t kiss her nuther—I begun t’ beller like a calf an’ cuss at the same time, I was so durn mad—an’ she got scared—an’ I jest grabbed holt an’ tuk her! (Proudly) Yes, siree! I tuk her. She may’ve been his ’n—an’ your ’n, too—but she’s mine now! […] What do I care fur her—‘ceptin she’s round an’ wa’m?

Related Characters: Eben (speaker), Minnie, Peter, Simeon, Ephraim Cabot, Abbie Putnam
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Mebbe it’s all a lie ‘bout Paw marryin’. We’d best wait an’ see the bride.

Related Characters: Simeon (speaker), Peter, Ephraim Cabot, Abbie Putnam, Eben
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1: Scene 4 Quotes

Lust fur gold—fur the sinful, easy gold o’ California! It’s made ye mad!

Related Characters: Ephraim Cabot (speaker), Simeon, Peter, Abbie Putnam
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Livin’ free! Whoop!

Related Characters: Simeon (speaker), Peter, Ephraim Cabot
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Scene 2 Quotes

I lived with the boys. They hated me ‘cause I was hard. I hated them ‘cause they was soft. They coveted the farm without knowin’ what it meant. It made me bitter ‘n wormwood. It aged me—them coveting what I’d made fur mine. Then this spring the call come—the voice o’ God cryin’ in my wilderness, in my lonesomeness—t’ go out an’ seek an’ find! […] I sought ye an’ I found ye! Yew air my Rose o’ Sharon!

Related Characters: Ephraim Cabot (speaker), Abbie Putnam, Simeon, Peter, Eben
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Desire Under the Elms LitChart as a printable PDF.
Desire Under the Elms PDF

Peter Character Timeline in Desire Under the Elms

The timeline below shows where the character Peter appears in Desire Under the Elms. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Scene 1
Farming, Labor, and Poverty Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...repressed demeanor. He spits on the ground as his brothers Simeon (39 years old) and Peter (37 years old) emerge from the fields, stomping around in their boots. They stare dumbly... (full context)
Desire, Revenge, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Farming, Labor, and Poverty Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...remembers that Jenn, his “woman,” died 18 years ago. He remembers her long, golden hair. Peter thinks about the gold sky and gold in California’s mines. Peter reflects bitterly about how... (full context)
Part 1: Scene 2
Desire, Revenge, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Farming, Labor, and Poverty Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
It’s twilight, Eben, Simeon, and Peter are in the sparse, bare kitchen. There’s a poster on the wall of a ship... (full context)
Farming, Labor, and Poverty Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Religion, Faith, and Suffering Theme Icon
Eben thinks that Simeon and Peter should have stopped Cabot from working Maw to death. Simeon and Peter think about Maw’s... (full context)
Desire, Revenge, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Eben angrily scolds Simeon and Peter for being scared of Cabot, and he gets up to visit a woman named Minnie.... (full context)
Part 1: Scene 3
Desire, Revenge, and Tragedy Theme Icon
...that Cabot got married to a woman (Abbie) who’s younger than they are. Simeon and Peter can’t believe it. Dejected, Peter realizes that the woman will inherit the farm before they... (full context)
Desire, Revenge, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...her. Eben boasts that Minnie may have been theirs, but she’s his now. Simeon and Peter joke about Eben and Minnie getting married, and Eben storms out, angrily saying he’d rather... (full context)
Part 1: Scene 4
Desire, Revenge, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Farming, Labor, and Poverty Theme Icon
Simeon and Peter are finishing breakfast in the kitchen at dawn. Eben hasn’t touched his food—he feels it... (full context)
Desire, Revenge, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Farming, Labor, and Poverty Theme Icon
In the kitchen, Simeon and Peter kick up their feet and pour themselves some whisky. Feeling a little restless, they decide... (full context)
Farming, Labor, and Poverty Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Simeon and Peter hand over the signed deed, collect Eben’s money, and promise to send Eben a lump... (full context)
Desire, Revenge, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Farming, Labor, and Poverty Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Religion, Faith, and Suffering Theme Icon
Cabot wonders why Simeon and Peter are just standing there instead of working, and he introduces Abbie to them as their... (full context)
Part 2: Scene 2
Farming, Labor, and Poverty Theme Icon
Religion, Faith, and Suffering Theme Icon
...explains that he’s always been lonely. He married his first wife and had Simeon and Peter. After she died, he married Maw, and they had Eben. Maw’s parents contested Cabot’s ownership... (full context)
Part 3: Scene 4
Religion, Faith, and Suffering Theme Icon
...savings, before realizing they’re not there. Blankly, Eben admits that he gave the money to Peter and Simeon in exchange for their share of the farm. Cabot looks nauseous, but then... (full context)