Desire Under the Elms

by

Eugene O’Neill

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Desire Under the Elms: Part 1: Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Just before dawn, Eben returns, cursing loudly that Cabot’s the devil. He just found out 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 will. He thinks they may as well go to California now. Simeon agrees. Eben hands Simeon and Peter a contract—he’s offering them $300 each for their share of the farm, so that they can afford a boat to California, instead of walking across the country. Maw hid the money for Eben before she died. Peter and Simeon aren’t sure if they should accept.
It's clear that all three sons despise their father for the oppressive labor he makes them endure on the farm. Still consumer with revenge, Eben is determined to seize the farm, and he impulsively offers Simeon and Peter money to leave, without considering how he'll tackle the obstacle of another character who’s now more entitled to inherit it than the boys are. In contrast, Simeon and Peter are able to see past their immediate desire to inherit the farm, weigh their chances of success, and consider practical alternatives for their future. They also take time to consider their options, rather than acting impulsively upon learning the news about Cabot’s new wife.
Themes
Desire, Revenge, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Eben heard the news about Cabot’s marriage as soon as he got to the village, and we was so riled up that he grabbed Minnie and took 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 kiss a snake than bring Minnie to take over Maw’s farm. Wondering if Eben is lying and scheming to take over the farm, Peter and Simeon decide to wait and see if Cabot shows up with some woman (Abbie) who’ll be their new mother. They decide that they’re not going to work until then—they’ll let Eben deal with the farm.
Eben continues exposing his dismissive attitude towards women. He boasts about subjecting Minnie to violence and openly insults her, showing that he has no qualms about disrespecting women. Eben’s impulsive violence towards Minnie also shows that he tends to act on his emotions without considering the consequences. Simeon and Peter, meanwhile, continue deliberating more cautiously about how they’ll proceed, showing that they approach situations in a more measured way than their half-brother.
Themes
Desire, Revenge, and Tragedy Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
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