Why doesn't Ephraim Cabot want to give his land to other people (even to his children) in Desire Under the Elms?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first few lines Ephraim Cabot speaks in Part I, Scene Four show tath he is grasping and greedy; rude, demanding, demeaning and disrespectful; hateful and bitter; and cold-hearted, selfish and unloving.


CABOT--(sharply) Yewr'n? Mine! (He stares at her penetratingly....)
CABOT--(exploding) Why hain't ye wukin'? [working]
CABOT--(with a contemptuous sneer) Ye needn't heed Eben. Eben's a dumb fool--like his Maw--soft an' simple!


Because this is his personality and these are his character traits, he has no room in his mind or feelings for family ties or for ideas of right or fairness.

Ephraim is said to have worked his second wife to death in order that he might take sole possession of her farm. A person who would do such a thing would not have desires of sharing it with anyone else, especially not sons whom he views as nothing more than built-in slave or animal substitute labor. [Some people (happily few and far between), like Ephraim Cabot, are simply horrible, hollowed out, beastly specimens of human nature that has curdles and turned rancid, greedy, grasping and hateful, like a mummified corpse.]

[For further information about the characters and themes, refer to the eNotes Study Guides links below.]

amelina | Student

Because all his life people around him have been trying to take his land away from him, and even his own sons only hunger for his death to grasp this land. He can't just give it away to people who hate him. He wants love in return.

Read the study guide:
Desire Under the Elms

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