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TitleLarry Slade in the light of the worship of Dionysus in Eugene O'Neill's ironic tragedy, The Iceman
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Page 1

LARRY SLADE IN THE LIGHT OF THE WORSHIP

OF DIONYSUS IN EUGENE O'NEILL'S

IRONIC TRAGEDY, THE ICEMAN COMETH

by

FRED RIBKOFF

B.A. (Philosophy), University of Western Ontario, 1984

A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL

FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR

MASTER OF ARTS

in the Department

of

English

@ Fred Ribkoff

SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY

April, 1991

All rights reserved. This thesis may not be
reproduced in whole or in part, by photocopy

or other means, without the permission of the author.

Page 2

APPROVAL

NAME: Fred Ribkoff

DEGREE: Master of Arts

TITLE OF THESIS: Larry Slade in the Light of the Worship
of Dionysus in Eugene O'Neill's Ironic
Tragedy, The Iceman Cometh

Examining Com mittee:

Chair: Kathy Mezei

I Stephen Black
USenior Supervisor

Professor of English

Mason Harris
Associate Professor of English

Errol Durbach
External Examiner '

Professor, Department of Theatre
University of British Columbia

Date Approved:

Page 46

tortured words, I1But no one pays any attention1*--no one in

the bar, that is. In the stare and cry of this likeable,

little, grotesque, old man the audience is intended to see

the horror of a man whose soul is stripped Itstark naked."

Hugo stares into space and ineffectually pounds on the

table. He is like a maenad during the worship of Dionysus,

Itwhose shrill exultation we think we have just heard,

frightens us with her rigid stare, in which we can see the

reflection of the horror which drives her madm (Otto 93-94).

The final visual image of Act Three is staged so that the

deathly effects of the Dionysian as exhibited in Hugo and

the devastated Harry Hope (who has returned from the outside

world without a pipe dream) are juxtaposed against the

effect of those same forces at work on Larry--the man whose

eyes have been l1fixed with fascinated horror on Hickeyt1

(679) while the stranger has had "his eyes on Larryw (680)

throughout the final moments of the Act. Larry's time is

coming.

Like the young king of The Bacchae whose palace is

razed l1to the ground where it lies, shattered/in utter ruinw

(182), Larry witnesses the shattering of the home he calls

the wdumpll (611) and IvPalace of Pipe Dreamsf1 (611) .
Pentheus and Larry are reduced to being "A man, a man, and

nothing morett (The Bacchae 182) in their war with this

paradoxical god. Their curiosity makes them vulnerable to

the seductive powers of the god. In Act Two Larry asks

vindictively: Itwhat it was happened to you [~ickey] that

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converted you to this great peace you've found. I notice

you didn't deny it when I asked you about the iceman..."

(648). This jab prompts vengeful laughter from the victims

who have been l8Listenint to his [Hickeyts] crazy bullw

(625). Captain Lewis then breaks in on a series of jokes

made at Hickey's expense, with the comment: "...Hickey, old

chap, you've sprouted horns like a bloody antelope!" (649).

General Wetjoen then puts in his two cents, adding that the

horns look "Like a water buffalols!~ (649). It seems as

though Larry's questions have enabled the bums to come close

to seeing Dionysus in his traditional form as the bull. It

is at this point that Hickey first reveals that his beloved

wife Evelyn is dead. Larry then makes a comment about

Hickey bringing "the touch of death on himH (649), only to

feel "More ashamed o f h i m s e l f than t h e o t h e r s m (649).

Humiliated, Larry is under the god's power. Hickey will

exploit Larry's curiosity and sensitivity to loss from now

on.

In The Bacchae a similar process of seduction takes

place. Pentheus questions the "god incognitom and the god

capitalizes on the young man's lustful curiosity and

voyeuristic tendencies. Having already humiliated other

characters, Dionysus charms the young king into dressing in

the feminine garb of a Bacchante, thus humiliating him,

although Pentheus is unaware of his compromising position

while possessed by the god. Looking "like one of the

daughters of CadmusI8 (195), as Dionysus says, Pentheus

Page 92

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