Pipe Dreams: The Lifeblood of Ruin and Despair in "The Iceman Cometh".

Essay by hebrewhammer502High School, 11th grade January 2006

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"The Iceman Cometh" by Eugene O'Neill centers on drunks in a skid row bar in 1912. The bar dwellers spend their time drinking rotgut whiskey and reminiscing about yesterdays and idolizing tomorrows, the fantasies of the future, which are shattered by the reformed salesman, Hickey. In the play, these pipe dreams keep the bar's populace alive.

All of the residents of Harry Hope's bar thrive on pipe dreams, except Larry and Parritt, but the effects still take hold. Larry is considered the philosopher of the bar, which is proved by this statement from Rocky, one of the characters, to Larry; "'De old Foolosopher, like Hickey calls yuh, ain't yuh" (O'Neill 9). He sits back and observes everyone else's pipe dreams while waiting for death. He believes himself to be the only one without a pipe dream; "'Oh, I'm the exception. I haven't any left, thank God'" (O'Neill 20). Parritt comes to the bar in search of Larry, maybe looking for a friend; "Parritt arrives at Hope's bar searching for Larry, hoping to end his isolation" (Galens 148).

Apparently, Parritt wants Larry to judge him on his betrayal towards his mother in the Anarchist movement. Despite Larry's strong belief, he did have a pipe dream, his wanting for death. After Hickey's attempted conversions, Larry is the only one to truly face his pipe dream; however, the death that came to him was not his own, but Parritt's, when Larry finally judges him, and tells him to go ahead and kill himself, which Parritt in his melancholy obliged happily or unhappily; after which, David Galens says, "Larry has become an active participant in life" (144). Larry and Parritt are different from the rest of the group, but they still are affected in a very significant way by the acrimony pipe dreams...