Act III opens in the barroom on the morning of Hope's birthday. Joe sullenly saw dusts the floor and slices loaves of bread; Rocky cleans the bar; Larry, Hugo, and Parritt sit at the tables.
Rocky complains that Hickey spent the entire night hopping bedrooms to spread his gospel. Larry defiantly insists that Hickey does not have his number; indeed, Hickey fears what he himself might ask him. Parritt attempts to ingratiate himself to Larry anew. Parritt increasingly fears Hickey. His suggestion that they are somehow mixed up with each other made him think that his mother has died from his betrayal, on the inside, he means. An undercurrent of satisfaction resonates in his pitying tone. Parritt swears once again that he never thought the cops would get her. He admits that he lied earlier about his patriotism; he ratted on the group for some money to blow on a whore. He offers his sordid confession in a tone that would somehow exonerate him from real guilt. Larry recoils.
A drowsy Rocky then asks Larry what Parritt would fear in his questions. Larry notes he has not explained Evelyn's death and it would not surprise him if she committed suicide. Parritt speaks up from his own preoccupation, insisting that "she," that is, his mother, would never kill herself. Before he can stop himself, Larry suggests that Parritt should take a jump off the fire escape. Parritt moves to another table broodingly.
Complaining of Hickey further, Rocky recounts how his two whores have stormed off to Coney Island as a result of their argument. Chuck enters in his Sunday's best; Cora wants a sherry flip for her nerves. They have continued to fight over his drinking and her past. When Rocky jeers at him, a fight almost breaks out. Chuck raises his fist, and Rocky reaches for his gun.
Joe attempts to break up the fight, and the two men immediately turn on him, saying, "Stay where yuh belong, yuh doity nigger!" cries Rocky. Joe springs forward with his knife in hand. Suddenly Larry laughs, urging the men to murder each other with Hickey's blessing. The trio's fury dies out, and each man sheepishly withdraws. A giggling Hugo wakes and complains that Hickey has accused him of wanting to be an aristocrat. He loves the proletariat: he wants to lead them, to become their God. Bewildered by his own confessions, he insists to Larry that he is drunk and does not know what he is saying. Larry concurs in pity. A brooding Joe then slams his key on the bar, breaks his glass, and defiantly announces that he is leaving the saloon to re-open his gambling house. He storms out.
A miserably, well-dressed Willie enters from the street. He refuses offers of a drink; today he plans to make it to the DA's office. Lewis and then Wetjoen enter. Both have put on a forced swagger despite their sick and feeble state. Each declares how they plan to get jobs today and begin readying for their returns home. As they maligning each other, their shameful histories come to light. Wetjoen has been disowned by his country for cowardly advising retreat during the war; Lewis has been disowned for gambling his regiment's money away while drunk. They lunge at each other viciously. Prevented from a scuffle, they both move to go but guiltily decide to bid farewell to Hope and Jimmy first.
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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