Study Guide

The Iceman Cometh Manipulation

By Eugene O’Neill

Manipulation

MOSHER: Poor Willie needs a drink bad, Harry—and I think if we all joined him it’d make him feel he was among friends and cheer him up. (1)

This serves as a solid example of just how easy people think it is to manipulate Harry. Sometimes, when someone wants to be liked a whole lot they’re easy to sway.

HICKEY: No, don’t tell me, Jimmy. I know all about tomorrow. I’m the guy that wrote the book. (1)

One of the reasons Hickey is so good at manipulating people is because he finds ways to relate to everyone’s problems. This is kind of his gift. He’s kind of an actor (played by an actor—whoa meta…)

CORA: Nobody’s kiddin’ him into it, nor me neider! And Hickey’s right. If dis big tramp’s goin’ to marry me, he ought to do it, and not just shoot off his old bazoo about it. (2)

Within the span of two sentences, Cora claims she and Chuck won’t be manipulated, but then clearly shows that Hickey has already manipulated them. Man, he’s good.

PEARL: It’s champagne! Jees, Hickey, if you ain’t a sport! (2)

Even when everybody is mad at him, Hickey finds the perfect little way to get people back on his side. It might be a free bottle of champagne or a quick line. In the end, it’s these things that they’ll all remember Hickey for, not for almost ruining their lives or killing his wife.

HICKEY: But I do know a lot about him just the same. I’ve had hell inside me. I can spot it in others. (2)

This one’s gained some fame, because it sums up Hickey’s ability to read people and his dark past in the matter of a couple of short sentences. For a guy who writes four-hour plays, O’Neill can still boil things down to their essence pretty neatly at times.

MCGLOIN: I’m telling you, Ed, it’s serious this time. That bastard, Hickey, has got Harry on his hip. (2)

Ah, a manipulator complaining about someone else manipulating his target. That’s classic stuff. That’s an “I don’t really want this ice cream but I’m going to lick it so no one else will eat it” type move. It’s perfect for manipulators and six-year-olds.

CORA: Hickey just told us, ain’t it time we beat it, if we’re really goin’. So we’re showin’ the bastard, ain’t we, Honey? (3)

Hickey’s so good he convinces people they’re showing him up by doing exactly what he wants them to do. Sure, he might be a messed up guy with some serious issues, but he’s kind of like a wizard, too.

HICKEY: Because I know exactly what you’re up against boys. I know how damned yellow a man can be when it comes to making himself face the truth. (3)

How is this similar to earlier tactics Hickey has used to manipulate the group?

HICKEY: Jimmy made the grade. It’s up to you. If he’s got the guts to go through with the test, then certainly you—(3)

When all else fails, create competition and subtly imply that someone is a coward. Works every time. Seriously, though, don’t do that. It’s not cool at all.

PARRITT: I wish it was decided for me. I’ve never been any good at deciding things. (4)

Parritt lacks Hickey’s style, but he still manages to get Larry to tell him what he wants to hear. He came for one reason and one reason only. He annoys Larry and the others, he tells stories that people don’t believe, but in the end he’s able to manipulate the situation to achieve his goal.

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