Analysis

A new permutation of the pipe dream emerges in the course of Parritt's second confession to Larry. The pipe dream here does not so much appear as political ideology or "tomorrow movement," as the fantasy of a better day to come, but as an evasion of guilt. As he moves through his pipe dream, Parritt appears subject to a number of delusions regarding to the motive of his crime: that he betrayed the Movement out of a sense of patriotism or for money to blow on a whore. What remains unacceptable to him is his hate for his politically pipe-dreaming mother, a hate clear from the outset that nevertheless torments his conscience and impels him to seek punishment from his most immediate father figure, Larry.

This hatred kept in abeyance is precisely what twins Parritt and Larry. As the audience already might suspect, Larry similarly harbors a secret hatred for his deluded wife Evelyn, a hatred he cannot admit to himself. Though in the final scene Hickey will suddenly disidentify from Parritt, claiming that he carries love where Parritt only holds hate, this attempt only makes their similarity clearer. Notably, as if sensing the analogous relationship between them, Parritt will thus begin to conflate Evelyn and his mother from the depths of his brooding. Almost madly will he rouse himself when the group speculates on Evelyn's fate: "she" could not have killed herself; "she" could not be dead; "she" still haunts him with her eyes.

Hickey's evasion of guilt is more elaborate than Parritt's, implicating his gospel of the peace in the dream destroyed. As he notes simply in the act previous, Evelyn's death has released her from a terrible husband; it is her freedom, just as his liberation from her pipe dream is his. As will become clear, Hickey's demystification of the pipe dream as "tomorrow movement" reveals itself as its own pipe dream, and is a means of evading guilt. As with the demystification of the tomorrow movement, the destruction of this pipe dream also forces a confrontation with the reality of the dreamer's desires, which in this case is the desire to kill. This demystification forces the dreamer into seeking a punishment that ends in his own death.

The remainder of this scene elaborates Hickey's "revolution." As we have seen, O'Neill play moves accordingly to a tightly wrought choreography involving various clusters of characters: Chuck and Cora, Rocky, Margie, and Pearl, all five of them, Joe, Chuck, and Rocky, Mosher and McGloin, and Wetjoen and Lewis. These characters uniformly move through the raising and demolishing of their pipe dreams. They come to blows when at their at their lowest, and they cling to each other desperately for support. Everything takes place in direct action, that is, action depicted on stage, and nuances of affect are spelled out in the stage notes. In appearing so unified, the action takes on an inexorable aspect. The audience already knows each character's imminent fall. As Hickey will remark later, that failure is to some extent the point of the action. Hickey and Parritt's terrible revelations progress according to a similar logic, the gradual accumulation of hints making their inevitable revelations proper no surprise at all.