Waiting for Hickey

Edited by John Patrick Diggins

in Eugene O'Neill's America

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780226148809
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226148823 | DOI:
Waiting for Hickey

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  • Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)


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Eugene O'Neill began writing The Iceman Cometh in 1939. Whatever the postwar optimism of the Left, the play suggested that revolution and radical politics must be seen as a misplaced dream, especially when activists themselves cannot tell the horrible truth about their own political motives. It also indicts people who are quick to judge and convert others and reluctant to face themselves. The character Theodore Hickman, or Hickey, the play's long-awaited protagonist, represents a nihilism so complete that it is oblivious of itself. The Iceman Cometh is about betrayal and deception toward others and toward one's self. It promises to lay bare the “secrets of the soul.” In this play, the characters prefer to sleep and pass out rather than to listen and learn. They also oblige the audience to think about politics in regard to political agency. O'Neill's entire oeuvre cries out for America to take freedom seriously.

Keywords: Eugene O'Neill; The Iceman Cometh; Theodore Hickman; Hickey; America; revolution; radical politics

Chapter.  12446 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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