Who are the main characters in Desire Under the Elms?

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juneamy007 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Desire Under the Elms, there are five main characters. In chronological order, there is Ephraim Cabot (75), Simeon (39), Peter (37), Abbie Putnam (35), and Eben (25).  Though it is not a person, the family farm also plays an important role in the story. 

Ephraim is the patriarch of the family. Simeon and Peter are half-brothers to Eben.  Abbie is Ephraim’s latest bride and Eben’s lover.

The main point of interest is who will inherit the family farm.  It came into the picture with Eben’s mother, who is deceased.  Ephraim, being her widower, has inherited it.  Eben feels it is his by birthright.  Simeon and Peter feel at least part is theirs from having worked it all their lives.   However, with the marriage to his newest, young bride, Simeon, Peter, and Eben appear to never be in line to inherit the farm to which they’ve devoted their lives.

Abbie and Eben have fallen in love at first sight.  This feeds Eben's desire for revenge on Ephraim, who had mistreated Eben's mother.  It also opens a way for Eben to inherit the family farm.  Eventually, Abbie gives birth to a son. Ephraim, through senility or denial, thinks the child is his. Eben knows that he is actually the father.  That further cements his claim on the homestead. However, Ephraim feels differently.  He proclaims his newest offspring to be the sole heir to everything.

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Desire Under the Elms

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