Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Harry Hope, the proprietor of a saloon and rooming house on the Lower West Side of New York City. He has been afflicted with agoraphobia since the death of his wife many years earlier. He hated her but cannot admit that he did, even to himself. With pretended reluctance, he gives his roomers free rent and free liquor. Like them, he is an alcoholic.
Ed Mosher, Hope’s brother-in-law, a former circus man and a roomer at Harry Hope’s.
Pat McGloin, a former police lieutenant and a roomer at Harry Hope’s.
Willie Oban, a Harvard Law School alumnus and a roomer at Harry Hope’s.
Joe Mott, formerly the proprietor of a gambling house with a black clientele.
Piet Wetjoen, known as The General, a former leader of a Boer commando and a roomer at Harry Hope’s.
Cecil Lewis, known as The Captain, a former captain of British infantry and a roomer at Harry Hope’s.
James Cameron, also known as Jimmy Tomorrow, a former Boer War correspondent and a roomer at Harry Hope’s.
Hugo Kalmar, a former editor of anarchist periodicals. His name suggests Karl Marx.
(The entire section is 700 words.)
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Hickey is a hardware salesman who comes to Harry's Hope's saloon twice a year for a drinking binge. The roomers look forward to his arrival. He buys them drinks, tells them jokes, and allows them to forget the bleakness of their lives. They especially like the running gag in which he says he has left his wife, Evelyn, in bed with the iceman. When Hickey arrives this time, however, he has changed. He claims to have finally found peace, having let go of his pipe dream. He wants the roomers to find peace the same way. To that end, he harasses the roomers, endlessly nagging them, eventually persuading them to realize their pipe dreams. His belief is that they will recognize that they can never achieve these dreams, give them up, and be happier.
The roomers do as Hickey advises, but to his surprise, they become even more miserable. After prodding from Larry to reveal the reason for his change, Hickey first says only that his wife has died. Finally, however, he admits that he has killed his wife, whom he describes as the perfect loving and forgiving woman. She believed that he would one day be a good and faithful husband to her. He initially claims he killed her to end her pipe dream and bring her peace. While describing the murder, however, Hickey calls her a bitch and is horrified at his words. His real pipe dream, unbeknownst to him, is that he truly loved his wife. Rather than face his hatred of Evelyn, however, Hickey says that he must have been insane to...
(The entire section is 318 words.)
Slade is considered by many to be the protagonist in The Iceman Cometh. He is a former anarchist who became disillusioned with the Movement and abandoned it after years of involvement. He sees himself as having no pipe dreams. He simply sits in the grandstand, observing life and waiting for death. Parritt and Hickey, however, prove him wrong. He was once friends with Parritt's mother and may be the young man's father, but when Parritt arrives, Larry insists that the troubled man means nothing to him. As Parritt exposes more and more about himself, slowly revealing that he betrayed his mother, Larry's continued insistence in his lack of interest in Parritt seems more and more desperate, suggesting that Larry is involved in spite of himself.
Eventually it is Larry who tells Parritt that suicide is his only choice and thus becomes Parritt's executioner. Hickey's belief that Larry's vision of himself as an observer, no longer involved in life, is a pipe dream is shown to be true. At the end of the play, Larry is the only one of the roomers who is truly changed by Hickey's anti-pipe-dream campaign. Larry calls himself "the only real convert to death Hickey made." Deprived of his illusion as a mere observer, for the first time, Larry truly does wait for death.
(The entire section is 218 words.)
See Jimmy Tomorrow.
See Cecil Lewis.
Cora is a prostitute. Chuck Morello is her pimp, but the two of them fantasize about someday getting married and moving to the country. After Hickey's arrival, she and Chuck leave to get married but are ultimately unable to do so. She believes that Chuck will hold her past against her, and he wonders why he should marry her when he can get her money anyway. At the end of the play, she and Chuck return to their pipe dream of a future marriage.
See Piet Wetjoen.
Harry Hope is the proprietor of Harry Hope's saloon, the setting for The Iceman Cometh. Although he has a gruff manner and tries to act tough, he is a softhearted sort, and the roomers depend on his kindness when they can't pay their bills or afford another drink. He has not left the bar since the death of his wife, Bessie, whom he idealizes as the perfect wife. The truth is that she was a terrible nag. Hope's pipe dream is that he will one day leave the safety of the bar and go out into the world again, but his effort to do so ends in failure.
Kalmar was once the editor of anarchist periodicals. He knew Parritt's mother...
(The entire section is 1137 words.)