Article Title

Masking Becomes Electra: O'Neill, Freud, and the Feminine


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

O'Neill's detailed stage set for Mourning Becomes Electra describes the Mannon mansion with its Greek "temple portico like an incongruous white mask fixed on the house to hide its somber gray ugliness." We might characterize the trilogy itself with a reversal of this image: O'Neill's work affixes a projecting fayade of Freudian concepts to an underlying structure derived from Greek tragedy. Freudian theory would seem to offer the playwright a means of illumining the psyche of the Electra figure. Instead, O'Neill uses Freud not to reveal but to mask a darkness, specifically "the dark continent" of feminine sexuality. Overtly, Mourning Becomes Electra seems to be about unresolved Oedipal attachments. These, however, are so overt as to lack Freudian resistance and repression altogether. Something else, however, is systematically repressed in the trilogy-namely, non-Oedipal sexual relations and particularly feminine desire and sexual activity.

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