full title · The Iceman Cometh
author · Eugene O'Neill
type of work · Drama
genre · Tragedy
language · English
time and place written · Written in New York, 1939
date of first publication · 1940; first Broadway production in 1946
publisher · Random House, Inc.
narrator · None
point of view · Not applicable
tone · Tragic
tense · The play unfolds in the time of the present
setting (time) · Summer, 1912
setting (place) · The bar and back room at Harry Hope's saloon in the West side of downtown New York.
protagonists · Larry Slade
major conflict · Hickman has come to Harry Hope's saloon preaching a gospel of salvation. His drunken, washed-up friends should divest themselves of their "pipe dreams" of tomorrow and make peace with themselves. The demystification of these dreams, however, only brings ruin.
rising action · The Iceman Cometh does not adhere loyally to the Aristotelian model of plot and thus does not involve a structure of rising and falling action, climax, and catharsis. It does, however, gradually move toward the quasi-climatic confession of two crimes and their motives: Hickey's vengeful murder of his wife and Parritt's hateful betrayal of his mother.
climax · Hickey's confession to Evelyn's murder toward the end of Act IV.
falling action · Hickey's arrest and Parritt's suicide.
themes · The pipe dream, judgment, ambivalence
motifs · The chorus, Death and sleep, the refrain, the feast
symbols · The Iceman, the vessel
foreshadowing · The characters' respective falls upon the demystification of their pipe dreams as well as Hickey and Parritt's final confessions are prefigured from the beginning of the play.
Hickey is the personification of alcohol in The Iceman Cometh. If you are not well-versed in the traits of the disease of alcoholism, you will miss this plot device. It takes Hickey a long time to arrive (not until the 2nd Act), because the barflys are dying for a drink, and they are all too broke to afford to buy booze themselves, so the wait seems interminable. When Hickey arrives, he is fresh and clean, and full of promise of a better future. He promises freedom from failure and a complete change of mind so that ... Read more→