Hickey directs the final preparations for the party. At his request, Cora tries to bang out "The Sunshine of Paradise Alley" at the piano. Willie enters in a pitiable state and declines Cora's offer a drink. Hickey is loaning him the money to get his suit out of hock. Tomorrow he plans to visit the District Attorney, an old friend of his father's, and get himself a job.
Parritt enters furtively and sits beside Larry. Hickey has dragged him down to the party. He fears Hickey has something on him and makes another appeal for his help. After all, he says, he and Mother loved each other. His mother was always convinced Larry would return to the Movement—and her. He recalls their parting argument, in which Larry, unable to brook her being a "free woman," declared her a whore and stormed out. Parritt shudders at the memory of his mother's other lovers. Their home was effectively a "whorehouse."
Larry repulses Parritt anew. The latter begs him to let him confess what Larry must have already guessed, otherwise he will tell Hickey. Though Larry refuses to listen, he continues. Parritt admits to having progressively developed a patriotic love for his country: it was his duty to betray his cohorts. Larry tries to withdraw into himself, and asks what it matters, as he has retired from life. In any case, he does not believe Parritt at all.
Pearl and Margie enter from the bar, and instantly Parritt subsides. The noise of a scuffle is heard: Lewis and Wetjoen are fighting over some remark of Hickey's. They reconcile in deference to the occasion. McGloin and Mosher appear discussing the threat in Harry's imminent trek through the ward. Bess's relations are sure to denounce them. Regardless, they both resolve to return to their respective occupations on the morrow. When they mock each other's aspirations, another fight almost breaks out.
Hickey begins the festivities, and the crowd half-heartedly follows. A frightened and drunk Jimmy appears with Harry. Bristling and pugnacious, he rails at the crowd for raising such a ruckus. Immediately ashamed of himself, he moves to apologize and get into the celebration but cannot raise his spirits. Hickey makes a toast to the birthday boy. Its sincerity touches the crowd. Immediately, however, Hickey begins preaching anew, returning the guests to their defensive and apprehensive postures. Larry tauntingly asks about Hickey's supposed conversion experience, and asks whether his wife finally ended up with the iceman. The party vindictively seizes on this opportunity to revenge themselves, their chorus of taunts culminating in Willie's bawdy sailor song.
Hickey remains unmoved. With a simple, gentle frankness, he announces that his wife Evelyn is dead. What is more is that he feels no grief. Evelyn is finally free of her no-good, cheating drunk of a husband. She is finally at peace. The crowd stares at him in incredulous confusion.
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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