Interesting Symbols in “Desire Under the Elms”

When I first read the title Desire Under the Elms, I automatically highlighted the word ‘desire’. I predicted that this play tell about big passion and ambition. In my opinion, the Elm trees itself is a symbol of the play because it interestingly leads me to deeper meaning. Therefore, I want to highlight several symbols that are significant in play in my perspective.

The word ‘desire’ actually can represent each desire of several characters in the play. For instance, in Eben’s case, it can be a desire to take the farm and the house. In Simeon and Peter’s case, it represents their desire to go to California for having a better life because the gold was founded there. In addition, the desire itself also can represent lust between Eben and Abbie, and how they create the play so sensual and lustful.

In the beginning of the play, there is a description saying, “The sky above the roof is suffused with deep colors, the green of the elms glows, but the house is in shadow, seeming pale and washed out by contrast.” We can imagine that there are elm trees that cover the house, so the house is in shadow. This is why the title is ‘Desire Under the Elms’. It is because characters’ desires appeared under the elm trees, which is the farmhouse. Furthermore, the Elm itself also represent connotation. In my opinion, the Elm trees symbolize feminine quality or ‘goddess’ and somehow it related to both Abbie and Eben’s Mom. Through the play, Abbie has great feminine quality as a woman. She is so pretty and seductive; therefore, she can influence Ephraim and lure Eben at the same time. In Eben’s Mom case, she contribute to the play with Eben’s saying that she will be angry or she will haunt the whole house. Although, she does not directly involve, Eben’s saying about her portrays her big influence to Eben. She is also pictured like goddess who can hear Eben and Abbie’s conversation, and the only person who will remain in the house when everybody is gone form that farmhouse.

Another symbol is the stonewall that surround the farmhouse. It can symbolize how hard to live inside the farmhouse because Ephraim repetitively say “God is hard, not easy” in several scenes. He also said that he always feel lonely whenever he stay in the house. Another possibility is the stonewall represents a ‘cage’ that make the house is so remote. In fact, in the first part there is a description about Eben which say “Each day is a cage in which he finds himself trapped but inwardly unsubdued.”

The sky also play significant role in the play. In several scene, we can find that Eben and Ephraim are looking at the sky and always say the sky is pretty as if they are looking at something beyond it. It leads me to interpret that the sky can symbolize the possibility of future. I think this is the part which create dramatic irony while they always expected something good in the future, but we know that in the end their life is such miserable.

Overall, the symbols of the play have important role in creating the meaning of the play and enrich the dramatic irony of the play. No wonder, the tragedy is success.


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