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Does Lavinia’s self-imposed punishment show an unbalanced mind or a
genuine feeling of remorse for her crimes?
On surface level these both unbalanced mind or genuine feeling of remorse
for her crimes are looking true. If we observe Lavinia's character from the very
beginning of the play, we will feel that her character is unbalanced one. Her Mannon
pride, puritan thinking and Electra complex make her too possessive. But at the end
her self-imposed punishment was the result of strong feelings of remorse for her
crimes. This sense of guilt overcomes her all other senses and due to this
unbalanced personality, she proposes such a bitter punishment. So unbalanced
mind and strong sense of guilt are chief characteristics of Lavinia's character.
Lavinia's appearance shows that she has all Mannon qualities:

“She is twenty-three but looks considerably older. Tall like her

mother, her body is thin, flat breasted and angular, and its
unattractiveness is accentuated by her plain black drers. Her
movements are stiff ..........she has a flat dry voice Above all, one
is struck by the same strange life-like mask impression her face
gives in response."
Unconsciously she loves Peter but apparently, she doesn't give any
response to him. A person with balanced mind can never hate 'Love'. All normal
people are in quest of it but Lavinia says to Peter:

"I don't know anything about love! I don't want to know anything. I
hate love."

The main complexity of Lavinia’s character is Electra complex. She loves her
father so much that according to Christine:
“You've tried to become the wife of your father and the mother of
Lavinia herself declares:
"I love father better than anyone in the world".
And she tells her father about this love:
"You're the only man I'll ever love”.
When her father returned home, she tries her best to spent more time with
him than her mother. This love shows her unbalanced mind when it comes before
the readers that Lavinia hates her mother in the same intensive way. She says to her
“So, I was born of your disgust ............... Oh I hate you, it's only
right I should hate you."
Indirectly she becomes the cause of her father's murder. On her insistence
Orin kills Adam Brant and his murder becomes the cause of Christine's suicide.

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Lavinia has powerful puritan spirit. Puritans always give importance to form.
Feelings have no value near them. They are proud people too. So, Lavinia's strong
faith on Puritanism shows her unbalanced mind too. She believes that her mother is
ng wrong and is deceiving her father. So, she punishes her. But when she comes on
the same level, she was wearing the same shoes. She loves Peter and haves just
like her mother whom she hates too much.
"She now bears a striking resemblance to her mother in every
In the same way of her mother now she is interested in her brother's
marriage. In the end of the play she is talking with Peter about her marriage but she
Want me! Take me, Adam.
This slip of tongue shows her unconscious unbalanced mind and that's why
she decides to imprison herself in home.
So, if we judge her character from beginning till the end we come to know
that it is not difficult for the girl like Lavinia to decide this imprisonment. No doubt she
is a normal girl with sharp intellect but sometimes due to her Mannon background
she shows her unbalanced mind. But only her thinking and ray of unconscious
revelation are not responsible for this decision. It was her deep sense of guilt too that
enables her for such decision.
With Lavinia's slip of tongue, she comes to know that dead is coming
between them. She wants to get. rid of her family curse but she cannot. A strong
sense of guilt comes between Peter and Lavinia. She says in this guilty sense:
"I can’t marry you. Peter. You mustn't see me again ......... Marry
someone else. Love isn't permitted to me. The dead are too
Here the dead are too strong is the most important line in this respect that
Lavinia's sell-imposed imprisonment shows her genuine feeling remorse for her
crime. In her mother's death this sense does are because at that time she doesn't
know about feeling. To her protection of Mannon's name was a scared thing and she
has done her duty. After her both she along with Orin visited south sea Island Where
she comes to know about love and feelings that's why after Orin's so death feelings
over power her and she admits her crime:
"Orin suspected I'd lusted with him. And Ihad!”
She further admits that:
"I wanted him. I wanted to love learn love with him_ love that
wasn't a sin! And I did, I tell you. He had me. I was his fancy
So, this was her deep sense of guilt that leads her towards this
imprisonment. No doubt she doesn't feel anything after her mother's death but her
visit to island makes her woman with feelings and emotions. So, these feelings sting
her at the time of love. As Eugene M. With says about O’Neill’s characterization:
"He was never content to catch the surface of a character”.

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So, on surface level Lavinia's character has unbalanced mind but in her
subconscious high sense of duty and guilt are present that makes her real Mannon,
a cursed Mannon. John Howard Lawson says:
"O'Neill has made a consistent and impassioned attempt to
dramatize subconscious emotions”.
At the end of the play song in the background, also shows the same sense:
Oh, Shenandoah: I can't get near you wayay, I'm bound away
Lavinia is bound to her guilty conscious. She Very calmly and scrupously
announces her own punishment.
“That's escaping punishment. And there's no one left to punish
me. I'm the last Mannon. I've got to punish myself! Living alone
here with the dead is a worse act of Justice than death or prison”.
Here again along with the dead shows her passion and feelings. Edwin A.
Engel says about O'Neill's sense of Tragedy:
“In Mourning Becomes Electra, O'Neil exemplified what
Schopenhauer declared to be the true sense of tragedy. That is
not his own individual sins the hero atons for but original sin i.e.
the crime of existence itself".
So here Lavinia gives her self-punishment of not only her own crimes but the
all curse and punishment of her family because she is the last Mannon and her self-
imposed punishment makes effect of tragedy too deep.
Another thing in Lavinia's case is very important. She in the beginning of the play is a
true Mannon girl with deep puritan thinking and life style. Her surroundings and
death of parents have an effect on her life and behavior. Her visit to south sea island
is responsible for a resolution in her character. She comes very near to reality and
normal life. When s overpowers her unbalanced mind them and become aware of
emotions and feelings. A strong sense of over powers her. When she comes towards
life, and hope, guilt, darkness and death come near to her and she has to give
herself a punishment because according to D.H. Lawrence feeling is above thinking:
“The more you know the less you are. The less you know the
more you are".
When Lavinia comes to know about her own self, her subconscious caught
her and she has to wear her life like mask again. And she orders her servant that:
"And tell Hannah to throw out all the flowers.”
She closes the door behind her which means that Lavinia has linked herself
with past. It was the worst punishment that was not due to any unbalanced mind. It
was the result of her awareness of feelings, emotions and life.
To conclude, we may say that Lavinia self-imposed punished is partially due
to her unbalanced mind. But in fact, it is her own sense of guilt that is
responsible for all this decision.

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