Iceman Cometh

Quick Reference

Play by Eugene O'Neill, produced and published in 1946.

Harry Hope's run-down New York saloon and rooming house harbors a group of guiltridden, unsuccessful alcoholics, who eagerly await a visit from Hickey, a cheerful salesman they consider one of them, though he is outwardly more successful. Upon his arrival Hickey's traditional joke about his wife and the iceman is not forthcoming, and he threatens the men's pipe dreams with talk of bringing to others the peace he claims to have found through having given up drink and discarded all illusions. With hard, humorless cynicism he confesses that he killed his wife out of hatred and summons the police. The idea that Hickey is insane slowly develops as a new pipe dream, allowing the others to resume their old relationships, banter, and illusions, although one of them, who perceives Hickey as the “Iceman of Death,” remains truly and despairingly aware of reality.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »


Eugene O'Neill (1888—1953) American dramatist