Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Reader's Diary #1109- Eugene O'Neill: The Iceman Cometh

It was over a week and a half ago that I read Eugene O'Neill's play The Iceman Cometh and nearly, even in such a short time, forgot that I'd even read it. Not that I'd fault the play for being forgettable, but I was somewhat unsure what I thought of it. I enjoyed it, certainly, but unclear what I thought the message was. I ended up in a bit of a philosophical corner and I think my defense was to simply put it out of my head altogether.

A very brief synopsis: a bunch of rather miserable people, pining over "pipe-dreams," drink away their regrets at a bar. One of their own, Hickey, comes back into the bar, advising them to accept their failures, to give up hope, and they'll finally be happy. This new outlook wreaks havoc on everyone and threatens to upset their status quo. Hickey, however, turns out to have murdered his wife and the rest of the barflies pounce on this: if they can brush Hickey off as crazy, they can also write off his advice as the musings of a madman, and return to their happily miserable existence.

And it's that oxymoron that sends my mind veering. If hope is what truly has made these characters unhappy, believing that shedding oneself of hope will make them happy is a form of hope in itself, is it not? Now we're out of oxymoron territory and into paradox country. Fun.

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