Short Summary of Mourning Becomes Electra by O' Neil: summary "Mourning Becomes Electra" by O' Neil

The play opens with chorus praising the character of General Ezra Mannon:

"This town's real proud of Ezra."

while his wife is criticized as unworthy of him:

"Which is more'n you kin say for his wife. Folks all hates her! She ain't the Mannon kind. French and Dutch descended, she is. Furrin lookin' and queer."

Soon, we are well aware that the daughter, Lavinia, is not happy with her mother's deeds. She seems to hate her mother, Christine, and is in deep association with her father. Though every daughter loves her father yet her affection for Mr. Mannon is a way too deep and lustful. She is subject to the Oedipus complex of loving her male parent; however, her father is completely unaware of her strange and unethical feelings. In the very early part of the play we come to know that Christine and Lavinia are at odds with each other.

We know that General Ezra Mannon and his son Orin are on the front, fighting for their nation. While back home, the fights between the daughter and mother reveal that Christine has been in an affair with a person named Adam. While Peter, a cousin of hers, loves Lavinia. He wants to marry her but she won't marry him because:

"I can't marry anyone, Peter. I've got to stay home. Father needs me"

Well, her father returns home just to die at the hands of her mother; Christine poisons her husband. Lavinia is full of loathing for her mother but she can't prove anything. Christine confuses the doctor so that no investigation is instigated. Upon the news of father's death, Orin returns from war. We have another shock in store for us because Orin seems to love his mother like Lavinia loves her father. Lavinia tries her level best to convince Orin of her mother's act of murder but he would not believe her.

Soon, Lavinia finds out details about Adam and takes advantage of the feelings of Orin's jealousy. Orin kills Adam and Christine commits suicide. This leads to another dirty situation wherein Orin is in lust of his sister, Lavinia. He wants Lavinia not to marry Peter and stay with him to fulfil his incestuous lust but Lavinia insults him to the extreme that he is guilty and shoots himself. This leaves Lavinia to a lonely situation where she is in deep psychological fixations. She wants Peter to marry him instantly and love her. But while Peter loves her deeply and passionately, she feels caught in the memory of the dead. The dead seem to haunt her mind and her feelings. She decides to remain alone in the house of the dead to pay for her sins:

"And there's no one left to punish me. I'm the last Mannon. I've got to punish myself! Living alone here with the dead is a worse act of justice than death or prison! I'll never go out or see anyone!"

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