Desire Under the Elms

Desire Under the Elms Imagery

The elms

The elms are one of the most evocative images in the play; they are tall, brooding, oppressive, and heavy. They are maternal in their gesture, and represent Maw.

Cabot's dancing

Cabot's dancing to the fiddler's tunes is a wild and grotesque capering that disturbs the partygoers and contrasts with the old man's often-stony exterior. It reinforces his strength and power.

The sky

O'Neill constantly reminds his readers of the gorgeous sky that stretches over the farmland. It suggests the heavenly and the peaceful, which is what all the characters desire but seem to be unable to attain.

The parlor

The parlor is a powerful space in that it evokes Maw and her embracing, claustrophobic spirit. It is the site of Abbie and Eben's consummation of their desire. This room, like the elms, is an image of Maw.