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Mourning Becomes Electra에 나타난 폭력의 문제 - 지라르의 이론을 중심으로

The Violence in Mourning Becomes Electra


The purpose of this paper is to examine violence in Eugene O"Neill"s play, Mourning Becomes Electra, in light of Ren?Girard"s concepts of "mimetic desire," "reciprocal violence," "sacrificial crisis," and "scapegoating." Mourning Becomes Electra, a modern variation of Greek tragedy, has thus far been interpreted by Freudianism or by the comparison with the Oresteia myth which the play originally derived from. Girard"s critical insight, however, offers a new interpretation on the play in the following two ways. First, Girard"s theory of violence demonstrates that the greatness of O"Neill"s tragedy is based on the repetitive archetype of "mimetic desire-violence-scapegoating," which human beings try to escape from but always fail to. This incomprehensible mechanism is similar to O"Neill"s "Force Behind," in which he describes that there is a definite force behind human destiny. Second, Girard"s point of view situates the play in the context of social history, therefore opening up the possibility of social criticism in O"Neill"s literature. The cyclical violence in the play is originally triggered by mimetic desire, and accelerated by jealousy and rivalry between the two major heroines, Christine and Lavinia. In the process of the mimetic struggle between the two rivals, they come to mirror each other, becoming "just same" both physically and mentally. This struggle brings about "reciprocal violence" as well as "collective violence" coined by Girard to explain the desire to single out an individual to act as scapegoat for the social crisis. In order to break up the chaotic situation caused by Christine and Lavinia, a scapegoat is needed to take the blame. Lavinia is targeted as the one who is fully responsible for the chaos and thus becomes the ritual scapegoat. In addition, violence is further enhanced by social and religious problems, especially Puritanism and the Civil War. O"Neill shows that religion is not the solution to stop the continuous process of violence, nor is Civil War which functions as a social crisis, bringing family destruction and an obsession with "death." Although Girard reveals that a scapegoat takes the responsibility to help eliminate social crisis and brings back social order through his studies of Greek tragedy, myth and the Bible, scapegoating in this play does not result in the positive roles of order, reconciliation and purification. According to O"Neill, the chain and the circulation of violence is the continuous process in modem society. In comparison, Girard, a scholar, suggests a Christian way to overcome the closed structure of violence through love and reconciliation; whereas O"Neill, a playwright, just leaves the audience to answer the problems without suggesting a moral solution. Therefore, the gloominess and anguish in O"Neill"s tragedy are deepened.

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