Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 700
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.
Larry Slade, a syndicalist-anarchist and a roomer at Harry Hope’s. He considers himself to be a withdrawn observer of the others who lacks their pipe dream of someday returning to the real world and a former life. The events of the play finally make him recognize his involvement with the others, especially with a newcomer, Don Parritt, who might conceivably be his son. As a result of Parritt’s continual pleading, Larry finally orders him to commit suicide. At the play’s end, Larry is the only one unable to return to his pipe dream and therefore will be alone in the saloon until he dies.
Rocky Pioggi, a night bartender.
Don Parritt, a roomer at Harry Hope’s. He is a young wanderer seeking Larry and trying to escape from his mother’s rejection and from his responsibility for her imprisonment. Realizing the hopelessness of escape, he finally commits suicide by jumping off the fire escape.
Pearl, a roomer at Harry Hope’s and a streetwalker.
Margie, a roomer at Harry Hope’s and a streetwalker.
Cora, a streetwalker.
Chuck Morello, a day bartender and a roomer at Harry Hope’s. He and Pearl have the pipe dream of marrying and buying a farm in New Jersey. Like the others, they come to realize that the dream is false.
Theodore “Hickey” Hickman
Theodore “Hickey” Hickman, a hardware salesman. He periodically goes to the saloon for drinks and is heartily welcomed because he treats all the others and is full of jokes and good cheer. When he shows up for Harry’s birthday party, however, his personality has changed, and he tries to force the others to see themselves as they really are, with impossible pipe dreams. He thus ruins the birthday party. The others finally learn that the personality change was caused by his killing his wife. He thinks of the murder as an act of mercy but finally realizes that it was an act of hatred; for this reason, he turns himself over to the police. He psychologically forces almost all of them (except Larry) to go into the real world and to try to fulfill their pipe dreams, in the belief that the realization that they will never fulfill them will make them more content with life as it is. To his dismay, they all return desolated. When Hickey, on realizing that he killed his wife out of hatred, says that he must have been crazy, they accept this eagerly as an explanation of what he has done to them. With the exception of Larry, they can return to their pipe dreams. Hickey’s given name ironically means “love of God.” His surname suggests that he is a “hick” (from small-town Indiana), and his nickname suggests “blemish.”
Lieb, the policemen who come to arrest Hickey. Their names suggest, ironically, “death” and “love.”
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