The Iceman Cometh

by: Eugene O'Neill

Theodore Hickman

Characters Theodore Hickman

Hickey is the saloon's anxiously awaited guest. Immediately likable, Hickey speaks like a salesman with an "easy flow of glib, persuasive convincingness" and always promises merriment. However, this time the group's messiah, so to speak, comes bearing a different gospel of salvation, urging them to divest themselves of their pipe dreams and finally make peace with themselves. Hickey's murder of the tomorrow dreams will bring ruin to the bar, thus Hickey's advent is the advent of the "Iceman" or Death.

As Larry notes, Hickey has also brought death to his own house, murdering his wife. We learn of this murder in the course of Hickey's doubling with Parritt. In the stage directions, O'Neill indicates that Hickey's shrewd eyes can take in anyone at a glance, and his immediate intuition is that he and Parritt have something in common. They double each other in their ambivalent, love/hate relationships with their love objects, in Parritt's case, his mother, in Hickey's, and his wife Evelyn. For both, the hatred they cannot admit to themselves manifests itself quite violently, impelling Parritt to betray his Anarchist mother to the police and Hickey to murder his wife.

Upon his confession this murder, Hickey's gospel of salvation will reveal itself as its own pipe dream, a delusion that allows him to elude his guilt over his crime. By killing his wife, he imagines that he has freed them both from her pipe dream of his ultimate reformation as a drunken adulterer. Thus Hickey has come to insist on the murder of the pipe dream as the path to salvation. The hate that motivates this killing, a revenge for driving Hickey mad with guilt, will only make itself known to Hickey in his final scene. As with the others, the demystification of his pipe dream will then lead him to relinquish life. Thus he delivers himself to the authorities and begs for his execution.