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Literature Study GuidesMourning Becomes Electra

Mourning Becomes Electra | Study Guide

Eugene O'Neill

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Eugene O'Neill

Year Performed






About the Title

It was traditional for 19th-century women to wear only dark colored clothing, mourning attire—sometimes simply called mourning—for a time following the death of a family member. As the play chronicles many deaths in the Mannon family, Lavinia is often wearing mourning, becoming forever "bound ... to the Mannon dead."

The title can have two interpretations. Mourning may become Lavinia/Electra in the sense that she looks attractive in mourning attire or mourning suits her. The character of Lavinia/Electra, in fact, becomes more and more attractive as the play wears on, contrary to what would usually happen to someone who has experienced multiple tragedies. A second meaning also applies, which is to change into or transform into something else—for example, a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Lavinia transforms into a personification of mourning as she devotes herself to the Mannon dead.


This study guide for Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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