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The Iceman Cometh
The Iceman Cometh
by Eugene O’Neill
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The Iceman Cometh Theme of Language and Communication

Hickey wields words like a knife or one of those crazy awesome swords that can like chop bricks in half. His skills at reading people and his unrelenting ability to talk and talk and talk enable him to get people to do what he wants. Anybody who's listened to a great speaker, or who's been bored out their minds by someone jabbering on for thirty minutes about what they had for lunch, knows that words and language can have a real effect on people. Hickey and the others in The Iceman Cometh know this, too, and they use language and communication for all it’s worth.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. How did Hickey acquire his superior language skills?
  2. Why does O’Neill include so many different dialects?
  3. What is the significance of the repeated use of “Babylon”?
  4. What other forms of communication, besides verbal, play a big role in Iceman?

Chew on This

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

While many characters gain power from speaking, Larry often achieves power through listening. Even when he tries to block things out from the overly-anxious, incredibly-annoying Parritt, he still takes things in. Larry’s listening skills give him a read on people just as Hickey’s language skills give him the bead on people. And yes, that did totally rhyme.

Hickey draws from his background as a salesman and his youth with his father the preacher. Bringing these skills together, he creates both customers and a congregation out of those at Harry’s.

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