Desire Under the Elms

Desire Under the Elms by Eugene O’Neill | Characters | Summary

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Desire Under the Elms Character List

Ephraim Cabot:

Ephraim Cabot is the owner of the farmhouse. He worked hard to establish the farm. However, he marries three times. Simeon & Peter his sons by his first wife, on the other hand, Eben by his second wife. We also know he brings Abbie Putnam as his third wife.


Eben is the central character in the play. He is the handsome young man and son of Cabot by his second wife. He declares revenge against his father in order to satisfy his mother soul. For this, he falls in love with Abbey & having physical relation with her.

Abbie Putnam:

She is the villain of the play. This thirty-seven years old lady decides to marry Cabot only getting ownership of the land. When she is informed that Cabot is impotent then she starts flattering Eben for having a child by him. But finally, she loves Eben truly and kills her newborn child.


Simeon is the older son of Cabot by his first wife. After knowing that his father is getting married once again, he decides to leave the firm. Ultimately he intends to go to California in order to hunt gold to change his fortune.


Peter is the second son of Cabot by his first wife. He also has the same dream as Simeon. For this reason, both of them wish to change their fortune and go to California’s goldfields.


Maw is the mother of Eben. She is not seen as on stage because she is dead by the time of the play’s action. But she plays a significant role in the play. We see her presence in the house especially in the parlour where Eben and Abbey made the significance of love.

Read more: Nun’s Priest’s Tale summary

Desire Under the Elms summary

The drama “Desire under the Elms” centred around the ownership of the farmhouse. In this drama, we will find that most of the characters are extremely greed to get the farmhouse. Eben the central character of the play lives with his two half brothers Simeon and Peter. Ephraim Cabot (seventy-five years old man) their father left from the house for two months. In the absence of Mr Cabot, Eben makes a plan to get the property for himself because he strongly believes that his mother worked hard and died for the farmhouse.

In the meantime, the brothers are informed that their father Mr Cabot married the third time & taking her new wife (named Abbie Putnam) into the home. Simeon and Peter predict the farmhouse goes to Abbie the thirty-five years handsome bride. That’s why they decide to accept Eben’s buyout of their existing shares and go to California in order to seek golds to change their fortune.

After a while, Mr Cabot arrives with her new wife Abbie. However, Abbie Marries Mr Cabot only to get the property to secure her future. When she sees Eben, she falls in love with him immediately. This love, at first sight, makes Abbie weak towards Eben. She continuously flirts him to get the positive signal from Eben. But Eben refuses all her flirtatious advances.

As time goes on, Eben fails to control his emotions and feelings towards Abbie. Abbie intensionally blames Eben and accuses him of flirting herself. Mr Cabot becomes very angry and intends to kill Eben. However, Abbie managed to control Mr Cabot’s aggressive intension. She persuades him and tells that she wants a baby which makes them happy and stops the quarrelsome activities.

One night Cabot falls asleep deeply. Abbie thinks this is the perfect time to seduce Eben and having sex with him. She offers her lust towards Eben in his mother parlour and he accepts it. Eben thinks this may be the revengeful approach against Mr Cabot to satisfy his mother soul. After completing sexual intercourse with Eben, Abbie becomes conceive and later give birth to a son.

Mr Cabot arranges a dance party to celebrate his newborn baby. He invites his neighbours and friends to celebrate the party. All of them are dancing in the kitchen room of the farmhouse. But many of doubt whoever is the father of the son? Mr Cabot bothers to hear this type of question and requests them to enjoy the party.

Mr Cabot goes to meet Eben. They quarrel with each other over the possession of the land. After a while, Cabot becomes angry and confesses that Abbie persuades him to have a son who would inherit the land.

Eben never controls his anger and goes to the sheriff to arrest Abbie. A few moments later he realizes his love for her. To prove that too as Abbie he decides to confess his crime and share the punishment with Abbie. They both are arrested and punished for their sin. At the end of the play, Mr Cabot left alone in the farmhouse.

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