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The Iceman Cometh

Eugene O'Neill


Act I: Part three

page 1 of 2

Act I: Part three

Act I: Part three

Act I: Part three

Act I: Part three


Rocky turns on the lights and opens the bar. Margie and Pearl, Rocky "tarts" appear. Margie attempts to seduce a passed-out Parritt. The girls joke with Rocky and hand over the night's earnings. Rocky hardens when Pearl teases that he is their pimp. They quickly make up. Rocky is no pimp and they are certainly no whores.

They chat about their friends Cora, another "tart," and her pimp Chuck, who have long nursed a pipe dream about getting married and buying a farm. Pearl jokes that Cora does not even know which end of the cow has horns. The lovers appear. It quickly becomes apparent that Cora's professional history and Chuck's habit would be a point of contention in their marital life. Parritt remarks aside to Larry that if he had know whores would be about, he would not have come: he hates every woman who has ever lived. Cora tells how she rolled a sailor that evening. She and Chuck also saw Hickey earlier this evening. He seemed changed and mentioned something about saving the gang and bringing them peace. The group assures itself that Hickey has devised some new gag.

Hickey makes a grand entrance. Strangely enough, he is sober and wants to grab a quick snooze; for whatever reason, he walked to the bar this evening after bidding his wife farewell in Astoria. When the drinks come around, he only takes his chaser; Hickey has given up alcohol. He has finally found the guts to face himself and ditch the pipe dream that was making him miserable. He has come to offer the group the same happiness and freedom. The residents become defensive and eye him suspiciously.

Hickey exhorts Hope to take his walk finally, and pledges to help Jimmy get his old job back. When Larry cheers him sardonically, Hickey swears he will make an "honest man" out of the supposed grandstander too. Parritt sneers at the stung Larry in satisfaction. Hickey pauses before the stranger in their midst: he has the sense that they are somehow "members of the same lodge" and promises to help him as well. Parritt withdraws uneasily.

Yawning with growing drowsiness, Hickey continues to pontificate, trying to rouse the despondent crowd with his promises of "real peace." "Let yourself sink down to the bottom of the sea" he urges. "Rest in peace. There's no farther you have to go. Not a single damned hope or dream left to nag you." Abruptly he falls asleep in exhaustion.

The residents size him up defensively. Larry warns that anyone who takes Hickey up on his sales pitch should make sure his peace is not poison. The least impressed by Hickey's talk, Mosher recounts a comic anecdote about his old friend the snake oil doctor, who successfully identified sobriety as a leading cause of premature death and dreamed of filling the nation's cemeteries with his miracle cure. Eager to lighten the mood, the crowd receives Mosher's story with a great guffaw. It breaks Hickey's slumber, and he drowsily cheers the group on. The laughter stops abruptly.

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Alcohol personified

by jmjohnso, January 11, 2015

Alcohol Personified
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


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