Notably, the ghost Small supposedly sees is that of Ezra in his judge's robes—the implication being of course that he simply came upon the portrait in the study. This apparition once again introduces the tropes of judgment, accusation, and punishment that recur throughout the trilogy. As in the previous plays, the father continues to make himself felt in his symbolic form, such as statues and portraits. Here, however, the dead also come home to the Mannon manor in the form of the living. Chillingly, brother and sister arrive from their trip East as the reincarnations of their mother and father. Lavinia has acceded to femininity in taking her mother's place. She has become beautiful and seductive in identification with Christine, an identification involving the murder and incorporation of the maternal other. Similarly the haggard Orin appears the spitting image of his father, bearing his military gait and statue-like stiffness. Mother and Husband/Son have returned anew, ready to rehearse the fate of those who precede them.

In their new incarnations, Orin and Lavinia are substitutes for the Mother-Son pairs that appear throughout the trilogy. Their status as substitutes partially explains why O'Neill continuously describes them through series of correspondences to aesthetic objects—masks, portraits, statues, and automata—objects that substitute for the human form. Substitution is the necessary effect of Lavinia and Orin occupying the Mother and Son's places in an Oedipal drama that precedes and determines them.

As substitutes for the lovers who precede them, they will similarly take substitute love objects to complete the narrative they are doomed to repeating. Thus, as O'Neill begins to intimate here, Peter will come to figure as Lavinia's Brant and Hazel as another of Orin's maternal "lost islands." What O'Neill describes in his work diary as Peter and Hazel's "characterlessness" likely facilitates the Mannon children's projective fantasies.

Lavinia leads her brother to the house under the guise of confronting the ghosts that await them. This confrontation, however, involving an almost mantra-like recitation to ward off evil, is more an exorcism than an effort at remembrance or mourning. Lavinia brusquely insists that there are no ghosts and demands that Orin put his memories in the past. Orin, on the other hand, transfixed by the memory of his mother's last moments, has returned to repay the debt to the dead and fulfill the Mannon destiny.