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The Iceman Cometh

The Iceman Cometh


by Eugene O’Neill

The Iceman Cometh Theme of Defeat

It’s the championship game. The buzzer beater drops without even touching the rim. Half the crowd erupts, and the other half collapses. There are losses, and then there is true defeat. True defeat kicks you in the gut and leaves you down for the count. In The Iceman Cometh, defeat is so cruel you never want to get up again. Welcome to Harry’s where the defeated go to die. Or at the least where they go to get really drunk and give up on ever doing anything ever.

Questions About Defeat

  1. Does Larry’s true defeat take place before the play opens or during the play?
  2. Who is responsible for the destruction of Hickey?
  3. What would have to happen for Larry to bounce back from his defeat?
  4. Can a person find peace when defeated?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Larry talks as though he’s defeated from the top of the show, but he still finds himself engaging with Hickey and even Parritt in some pretty intense arguments. It’s not until Hickey goes off to jail and Parritt kills himself that Larry sees the truth and finally knows he has been beaten.

Hugo’s outbursts seem to be the only things keeping him going. His final song rises above the songs of the others and all of their singing swirls into a cacophony. The final scene is like the Babylon that Hugo loves to talk about, a place where no one listens to anyone and they all speak their own languages.

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