full title The Iceman Cometh
author Eugene O'Neill
type of work Drama
time and place written Written in New York, 1939
date of first publication 1940; first Broadway production in 1946
publisher Random House, Inc.
point of view Not applicable
tense The play unfolds in the time of the present
setting (time) Summer, 1912
setting (place) The bar and back room at Harry Hope's saloon in the West side of downtown New York.
protagonists Larry Slade
major conflict Hickman has come to Harry Hope's saloon preaching a gospel of salvation. His drunken, washed-up friends should divest themselves of their "pipe dreams" of tomorrow and make peace with themselves. The demystification of these dreams, however, only brings ruin.
rising action The Iceman Cometh does not adhere loyally to the Aristotelian model of plot and thus does not involve a structure of rising and falling action, climax, and catharsis. It does, however, gradually move toward the quasi-climatic confession of two crimes and their motives: Hickey's vengeful murder of his wife and Parritt's hateful betrayal of his mother.
climax Hickey's confession to Evelyn's murder toward the end of Act IV.
falling action Hickey's arrest and Parritt's suicide.
themes The pipe dream, judgment, ambivalence
motifs The chorus, Death and sleep, the refrain, the feast
symbols The Iceman, the vessel
foreshadowing The characters' respective falls upon the demystification of their pipe dreams as well as Hickey and Parritt's final confessions are prefigured from the beginning of the play.