Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Mannon mansion

Mannon mansion. Home of the Mannon family, on the outskirts of a small, unnamed New England village near the sea, that is the setting for twelve of the thirteen acts of the trilogy. As each of the three plays progresses from act to act, the settings move from the mansion’s exterior to its interior. Gradually, the house’s study, Ezra’s bedroom, and the sitting room are revealed. O’Neill’s description of the surrounding area, with its woods, orchard, garden, lawn, and greenhouse, are carefully detailed. The position of the mansion on a hill above the town suggests the assumed power and assumed superiority of the Mannon family. O’Neill describes the house in such detail that it is clear he considers it integral to the action of his plot.

Clipper ship

Clipper ship. The only setting other than the exterior and interior of the Mannon mansion is the stern of a ship and the wharf to which it is moored. This is used only in the fourth act of The Hunter, the second play in O’Neill’s trilogy, when General Mannon’s son, Orin, kills the ship’s captain.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

Born in 1888, Eugene O'Neill's life spanned some of the most important events of contemporary history. While he played no actual role in the...

(The entire section is 592 words.)

Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

Traditionally in Greek tragedies, the chorus consists of masked actors who dance and chant. Generally, they do...

(The entire section is 351 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

1931: America is in the midst of a severe economic depression, known as the Great Depression. Led by President Franklin...

(The entire section is 222 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Consider how setting the play after the Civil War and in New England impacts the play's themes and meaning.

Several times during...

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Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

In 1947, RKO Pictures released an adaptation of the play, which starred Raymond Massey, Rosalind Russell, and Michael Redgrave. The film...

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What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

Aristophanes' Lysistrata (411 BC) is a comic—and perhaps the first—anti-war play.


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Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Brustein, Robert. "Eugene O'Neill," in The Theatre of Revolt: An Approach to the Modern Drama,...

(The entire section is 156 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Berlin, Normand, ed. Eugene O’Neill, Three Plays: “Mourning Becomes Electra,” “The Iceman Cometh,” “Long Day’s Journey into Night”: A Casebook. Basingstoke, England: Macmillan, 1989. A good introduction. Includes excerpts from O’Neill’s working diary, tracing the play’s development from inception to second galleys. Contains four reviews of the original production, and seven critical studies dealing with character, theme, and style.

Bogard, Travis. Contour in Time. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Provides detailed comparison between Mourning Becomes Electra and Euripides and Aeschylus, noting the shift from theological to psychological emphasis. Discusses importance as historical drama, focusing on Calvinist tradition and Puritan repression in New England.

Floyd, Virginia. The Plays of Eugene O’Neill. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1985. An excellent introduction. Includes brief biography and interpretive analysis of each play, identifying themes, key words, and ideas. Relates Mourning Becomes Electra to its Greek source and to O’Neill’s life.

Gelb, Arthur, and Barbara Gelb. O’Neill. New York: Harper & Row, 1962. Comprehensive study of O’Neill’s life and work based on his writings and over four hundred interviews with family members, friends, and critics. Begins with his ancestors and traces his growth as a man and an artist. Follows the development of Mourning Becomes Electra from idea to production.

Moorton, Richard F., ed. Eugene O’Neill’s Century: Centennial Views on America’s Foremost Tragic Dramatist. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. Presents essays from a variety of perspectives, theatrical arts, psychology, philosophy, classics, which analyze and psychoanalyze character and theme in O’Neill. Includes detailed comparison between The Haunted and Eumenides.