The Iceman Cometh

by: Eugene O'Neill

Harry Hope

Characters Harry Hope

The owner of the saloon, Harry is a "bag of bones" in his sixties with the face of an old, balky family horse. He wears spectacles so misaligned that at times one eye peers over one lens while another looks half under the other glass. Likable to all, he hides his vulnerability behind a "testy truculent manner" but fools no one. Hope has not ventured outside the bar in twenty years. His pipe dream is that he has remained inside out of respect for his dead wife Bess.

The demystification of his pipe dream forces him to confront the reality of his desires: his hate for Bess and his fear of the world outside. This demystification condemns him to a sort of living death. As he remarks upon returning from his abortive venture into the neighborhood, it leaves him feeling like a corpse. If Harry's flights of fancy seemed, like those of the others, vaguely mechanical, their demise truly makes him into an automaton attempting to benumb himself to the world. Harry's fall prefigures the analogous metamorphosis of the saloon's residents upon the ruin of their pipe dreams. Similarly does his revival of his delusions, what he aptly describes as a second birthday, lead the group in their return to their own.