Mourning Becomes Electra

by Eugene O’Neill
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What is the significance of the title "Mourning Becomes Electra?"

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The title is intended to remind the reader of the ancient tragedies by Aeschylus and Euripides about the children of the House of Atreus. The plot evokes the Atreides' story by both its tragic construction and its themes of the effect of adultery and absence on families.

In the story of the House of Atreus, Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter Iphegenia in order to obtain favorable winds for the fleet sailing to Troy. When Agamemnon is away, his wife Clytemnestra has an affair with Aigisthos. Agamemnon finally returns with the woman Cassandra as a war prize. Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon and Cassandra with the help of her lover.

Orestes and Electra are the children of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Orestes kills his own mother, and is then hunted by the Furies until the curse is finally resolved in Athens. Electra, during this, lives away from home, and mourns the destruction of her family and its effect on her chances at a normal marriage.

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