Home Coming: Act I, Detailed Summary of Mourning Becomes Electra: "Mourning Becomes Electra" by O Neil



The play opens with the chorus like local folk talking about the Mannon family. They are all full of praise for General Ezra Mannon:

"This town's real proud of Ezra".

They discuss how he made all his wealth. While they all like Ezra, none of them seems to be of a good opinion about his wife, Christine. They find her queer and unworthy of Ezra. Seth, the gardener of the Mannon family has been showing them the Mannon house. Lavinia is inside the house. Peter and Haze, her cousins come to meet her. Hazel inquires about Orin, Lavinia's brother who has been on the front fighting for the country. Peter is also a soldier. Peter is interested in Lavinia while Hazel likes Orin. Lavinia is a queer girl who was not given any attention by her mother during her childhood. Now she is turned indifferent to the social, ethical and normal behaviour of the human mind. She is a caught up in "Oedipus Complex" and cannot just get rid of that state of mind. When Peter asks her if Orin really loves his sister Hazel, she simply replies:

"I don't know anything about love! I don't want to know anything! (intensely) I hate love!".

Later Peter proposes her but she refuses him saying: "I can't marry anyone, Peter. I've got to stay home. Father needs me". Peter counters her "He's got your mother" and she "sharply" reacts: "He needs me more!" She feels sorry for Peter and tells him that she has no such feeling for him. He asks her about Adam and her relations which she curtly denies. She says good bye to Peter. . Shortly she comes across her mother and the playwright comments:

"For a moment, mother and daughter stare into each other's eyes. In their whole tense attitudes is clearly revealed the bitter antagonism between them".

We come to know that Mr. Mannon, Christine, has just returned from New York where she had gone to attend her sick father, a doctor. Lavinia tells her mother in a harsh tone that she wishes to talk to her over something. Seth directs Lavinia's attention to the physical resemblance of Adam Brant with her father, brother and her uncle. She is in disbelief. He tells that Adam is also a Mannon hiding his lineage. Adam calls upon her in the afternoon. She again reveals her feelings for her father:

"I love Father better than anyone in the world. There is nothing I wouldn't do--to protect him from hurt!". Adam, interestingly, praises her mother instead of her saying: "You're so like your mother in some ways. Your face is the dead image of hers". He tries to flirt with her when she asks him "Did mother tell you, you could kiss me?". This is shocking for Adam. She calls him the son of a "a low Canuck nurse girl!". Adam defends his mother and warns her not to insult her. He says his father "was a coward--like all Mannons". Attributes the fall of his family to Lavinia's father. He even blames her father "deliberately let her die! He's as guilty of murder as anyone he ever sent to the rope when he was a judge!". She says to Adam that he has been playing with her mother to take revenge from her father.




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