Desire under the elms is a play set on a Connecticut farm in the mid 19th century. We encounter Cabot three sons of which Simeon and Peter are from his first marriage while Eben is from the second marriage. All of them work and live on the same farm. They all resent their father and yearn to own his farm. Cabot later marries a woman who is half his age and with this; Simeon and Peter leave the farm for California to seek gold. They exchanged their rights of the farm with money they needed to head west. This leaves Cabot’s wife Abby to compete for the farm with her step son Eben.
Abby then seduces Eben who accepts the relationships as he views it as his mother’s revenge against his father. Abby later gives birth to Eben’s child but Cabot neglects to notice. Questions of love, hate, greed, revenge and trust are paramount in this play. The play is fashioned with much detail and overpowering emotional intensity. Oneil presents intricate psychological issues and examines in detail the drive behind the act of incest and infanticide which are relevant even today. (Eugen, 1995. 87)
Cabot tells Ebben that he will leave the farm to Abbie and her son partly due to the jealousy he feels for the young man. This causes Ebben to reject her love and their son as well but Abbie had fallen desperately in love with him. Eben is presented as a cunning character who bribes his brothers with money stolen from their father so that they could sign their shares of the farm to him. he believes that the farm belongs to him since his mother’s family had contested Cabot’s ownership of the farm.
He had vowed that he will one day take back this land that had belonged to his mother. According to him Cabot intentionally overworked his mother so that he could cause her death and be left to decide who will be that heir to the farm. (Eugen, 1995. 96) We are exposed to the greed that the characters have. On the part of Abby, she had decided to kill the child that she had bore with Ebben since she feared that it would come between her and Cabot thus loosing on her inheritance for the farm.
Eben was also madly in love with her and therefore he played a role in the infanticide(Eugen,1995. 117) Another play that portrays sibling rivalry is True West by Sam Shepard. The play is a traditional narrative that is inspire by the myths of American life and popular culture. The play is about two brothers: Austin who is a thriving Hollywood screen writer and Lee who is a Hobo thief. Conflict then arises after a film producer gives Lee an opportunity to write a True Western and the two brother’s head toward the Western movie showdown. (Charles, 2002. 6) This play explores the live of competition and violence in the American consciousness. Lee and Ausin hate each other leading to fights which could have led to them killing each other though the mother just arrived in the nick of time .
Austin is the younger brother who is an Ivy League educated writer and is married with children. He was working at his mother’s house in a bid to write a screenplay he was obliged to by a Hollywood produce. Lee, a petty thief was also there after spending three months in the desert and had no place to go. (Charles, 2002. 113) The competition between the two came to a peak when Lee employed charm to con movie Tycoon into choosing between producing his western story or his brother’s love story. He then bullied is brother into writing his screenplay in exchange of taking him to the desert. Chaos then ensured until their mother returned. In the play, the image of the West is portrayed as having a double nature. Austin argues that the West does not exist yet he longs to go there.
It is also said to have a double nature in that the industrialized West contrast with its other side which is a desert. Austin represents the corrupted West which is made so by the Hollywood movie business while Lee represents the pure talent since he talks out of his own experience. (Charles, 2002. 115) The play explores the theme of quest for identity and roots. Both Lee and Austin want something more deep and real than what is offered to them by culture in that both criticize the other then later become what he criticizes in the other.
Austin’s responsibility and middle class aspiration are seen as being as irrational as his brother’s wandering adventurous lifestyle. Shepherd explores their search for identifying yet at the end there does not seem to be a satisfying one. The west is depicted as a place where lack of roots is more widespread and almost a life condition for may whereas it is the same place where there is most notable success , personality and fame which hence make up for the lack of roots whether consciously or unconsciously(Charles,2002. 33)
The story suggests that the urbanized or wild West are both an indication of frustrated desire and the myth of the West is not true. Lee’s desire to come to grips with the expectations in the society is seen as internalizing media myths and so are Austin desires. Lee is forced to think that his wild personality is simply a sham and that he is driven to go to the desert due to failure of not being able to make it in the affluent world but not by choice. (Charles, 2002. 245)
For Shepard, the West is much of a state of mind than it is a place. The landscape is internalized through the depiction of the kitchen setting and the shaky relationship between Lee and Austin. The condition of the room reflects the sibling rivalry which spirals to psychological warfare. The play portrays a society which has ignored its own history in support of a constructed myth derived from cinemas such that the American society can reduce the vagueness of modern life.
The past is seen to catch up at the individual, family and by extension societal level. . (Charles, 2002. 310) The two brothers seem to have bonded completely and uncomfortably in a society that offered them few opportunities to extend relationships beyond family and small community having carried their sibling rivalry into adulthood. Sheperd uses sibling rivalry to portray the issues that need to be addressed in the society hence making it something deeper and richer. (Charles, 2002 . 349)