Menu Bar

 

Character Analysis
by Margaret Loftus Ranald

HOPE, Harry. Proprietor of a saloon and rooming house. He is sixty, white-haired, extraordinarily thin, horse-faced, a very likable fellow, "a soft-hearted slob, without malice, . . . a sinner among sinners, a born easy mark." He tries to hide his vulnerability "behind a testy truculent manner" that fools no one. He is a little deaf, sometimes pretending to be more so, wears dime-store spectacles which are badly out of alignment, and his ill-fitting false teeth click when he is angry.

 

Harry's name is an ironic comment on the situation of the denizens of his bar, for they have lost all hope. Harry rents upstairs rooms to them and often allows them drinks on the house, though he claims that he is going to stop this privilege "tomorrow." Harry's wife, Bessie Mosher, died twenty years ago, and Harry has almost sanctified her, forgetting her shrewish disposition. Since her death he has become a recluse, staying inside his bar all the time but continually saying that one of these days he will "take a walk around the ward" and look up his old acquaintances in politics, for he had once been a small-time Tammany Hall politician.

 

When Theodore Hickman ("Hickey") arrives to help Harry celebrate his birthday, he persuades Harry to take this much-promised walk, but Harry finds himself totally scared. He gets to the middle of the street and bolts back to the security of his tiny world with its pipe dreams, manufacturing another for himself as a support—that he had nearly been run down by an automobile. He is a character for whom the saving lie is essential for existence, and he does not wish to face the truth about himself. After the disaster of the birthday party, when Hickey tells of murdering his wife, Evelyn, and is arrested, Hope and his friends seize on his plea of insanity, a pipe dream explanation which discredits what Hickey has taught them. However, they speedily get drunk once more in a wish to forget the outside world and to try to regain their old illusions.

 

Harry Hope's bar is a combination of places Eugene O'Neill frequented in his early New York years: James J. Condon's Saloon, The Golden Swan (The Hell Hole), and the bar of the Garden Hotel (near the old Madison Square Garden). Harry Hope himself is based on both Tom Wallace, a recluse who lived above The Hell Hole after his wife's death, and Condon, who was also known as Jimmy-the-Priest. [For this and other identifications, see in "References": Sheaffer (1973).]

 

MOSHER, Ed. A former circus worker. He is around sixty and "looks like an enlarged, elderly, bald edition of the village fat boy. . .congenitally indolent, a practical joker, a born grafter and con merchant . . . essentially harmless," dressed in flashy, worn clothes. He is the brother-in-law of Harry Hope, the saloon proprietor, and the friend of Pat McGloin, the ex-police lieutenant dismissed from the force for graft. He knows that Bessie, Hope's late wife, was really a shrew, but he goes along with Hope's near-sanctification of her memory, partly because Harry allows him booze on the house. Mosher rents a room from Harry, and his pipe dream is that he will go back to the circus and get his old job again. Under the influence of Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Harry's birthday, Mosher attempts to translate the dream into reality, but he cannot go through with it. After Hickey's arrest on the charge of murdering his wife, Mosher and other denizens of the bar seize on his plea of insanity, a pipe-dream explanation which discredits what he has taught them. They then gladly get drunk as a means of forgetting the outside world and of regaining illusions.

 

McGLOIN, Pat. A big, paunchy ex-police lieutenant dismissed from the force for graft. He is the friend of Ed Mosher, the brother-in-law of the saloon proprietor, Harry Hope, who allows them free drinks. McGloin rents a room from Harry, and his pipe dream is that he will get himself reinstated on the force—and look for more graft. Under the influence of Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Harry's birthday, McGloin attempts to translate the dream into reality, but he cannot go through with it. After Hickey's arrest on the charge of murdering his wife, McGloin and other denizens of the bar seize on his plea of insanity, a pipe-dream explanation which discredits what he has taught them, and they gladly get drunk to forget the outside world and to regain illusions.

 

OBAN, Willie. A Harvard Law School alumnus in his late thirties who rents a room above the saloon kept by Harry Hope.  Oban, the son of a former criminal, is a dissipated alcoholic who wears the worst clothes the pawnshop has to offer because he has pawned and repawned everything down to the very lowest value in order to get money for drink. Harry is currently refusing Oban his usual free drink, and as a result Oban is suffering from the d.t.'s: "the Brooklyn Boys" are after him. His pipe dream is that someday he will spruce up, give up drinking, and get a job with the district attorney, a position commensurate with his brilliance as a student. Under the influence of Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Harry's birthday, Oban attempts to translate the dream into reality, but of course that is impossible. After Hickey's arrest on the charge of murdering his wife, Oban and other denizens of the bar seize on his plea of insanity, a pipe-dream explanation which discredits what he has taught them. They then gladly get drunk in order to forget the outside world and to regain illusion.

 

MOTT, Joe. A light-skinned black man about fifty years old. He is one of the roomers at the saloon kept by Harry Hope, doing odd jobs to get money for liquor. Mott is the former proprietor of a "colored" gambling house and is dressed in worn sporty clothes which still "preserve an atmosphere of nattiness." His pipe dream is that someday he will be able to open up a gambling hall again, with the help of his old connections with the chief of police and with Harry's influence with Tammany Hall. Under the influence of Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Hope's birthday, Mott attempts to translate the dream into reality but, realizing its impossibility, becomes angry against what he perceives as racial discrimination from among the other bar room inhabitants. After Hickey's arrest on the charge of murdering his wife, Joe and other denizens of the bar seize on his plea of insanity, a pipe-dream explanation which discredits what he has taught them. They then gladly get drunk in order to forget the outside world and to regain illusions.

 

WETJOEN, Piet. A Boer ex-general in his fifties. He is the Dutch-farmer type, now run to fat and drink but with "a suggestion of old authority lurking in him like a memory of the drowned." His name is a conflation of those of two famous Boer guerrilla generals, De Wet and Viljoen. He is the friend of Captain Cecil Lewis, a former British army officer who fought on the opposite side in the Boer War (1899-1902). The two met at the St. Louis World's Fair. Wetjoen is running from a reputation for cowardice, which he sees as caution, and rents a room over the saloon operated by Harry Hope. His pipe dream is that someday he will be able to return to South Africa and be welcomed there. Under the influence of Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Hope's birthday, Wetjoen tries to translate this dream into reality, and as a result he temporarily breaks off his friendship with Lewis and insults the black man Joe Mott, calling him a Kaffir. However, he realizes the impossibility of his dream and returns to the bar to get drunk in order to forget the outside world and to try to regain old illusions. Like his companions, he wants "to pass out in peace" but willingly accepts Hickey's insanity plea—a new pipe dream which discredits Hickey's message.

 

LEWIS, Cecil, a sixty-year-old former British army captain in the Boer War (1899-1902). He rents a room above the saloon operated by Harry Hope. He is still trim, with white hair, military mustache, blue eyes, mottled complexion, and an old wound scar on his left side. He has struck up a curious friendship with Piet Wetjoen, a former Boer general whom he met at the St. Louis World's Fair. Lewis has been forced out of the army for peculation and misappropriation of funds, but he tells a tale about finding his wife Marjorie in bed with a fellow officer, thus denying the truth about himself. His pipe dream is that one day the family estate will be settled in England and he will return; and on one occasion he offers to take Wetjoen with him. Under the influence of Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Hope's birthday, Lewis attempts to translate the dream of returning home into reality, by getting a job, but he cannot go through with it and temporarily breaks off his friendship with Wetjoen. However, he realizes the impossibility of his dream, and after Hickey's arrest for the murder of his wife, Lewis seizes on Hickey's plea of insanity, a pipe-dream explanation which discredits what he has been shown about himself. Then, along with the others, Lewis gladly gets drunk in order to forget the outside world and to regain illusion.

 

CAMERON, James ("Jimmy Tomorrow"). A former Boer War correspondent. He is a small man in his late fifties, dressed in black, with "a face like an old well-bred, gentle bloodhound's." He looks intelligent and speaks in an educated manner with a slight Scottish rhythm; his manner is prim. He is said to be based on the personality of James Findlater Byth, former publicity man for James O'Neill, Eugene O'Neill's father. Cameron rents a room above the saloon operated by Harry Hope.  His pipe dream is that someday he will lay off the booze and will go back to his job in publicity. Under the influence of Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Hope's birthday, he toys with the idea of translating the dream into reality but then recognizes its impossibility. After Hickey's arrest for the murder of his wife, Cameron and other denizens of the bar seize on his plea of insanity, a pipe dream explanation which discredits what he has taught them. They then gladly get drunk to forget the outside world and to regain illusions. Cameron's nickname is important because he is always saying that he will spruce up and get a job "tomorrow." Larry Slade calls him "the leader of our Tomorrow Movement."

 

KALMAR, Hugo, "one time editor of Anarchist periodicals." He rents a room over the saloon operated by Harry Hope.  "Hugo is a small man in his late fifties," with a big head, black hair, walrus mustache, thick spectacles, dressed in clean, threadbare black. He looks like the stereotypical bomb-throwing anarchist. He is said to have been based on the real life character of Hippolyte Havel. Hugo has done ten years in prison for his beliefs, much of it in solitary confinement in his own country, but "the Movement" now sees him as a drunken has-been. He spends most of the play passed out at one of the tables of the back room, waking occasionally to declaim a few anarchist speeches and once to complain that the champagne is not iced. His pipe dream is that capitalism will someday be destroyed, though he does nothing about it nowadays. He is frightened by Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Hope's birthday, because Hickey makes him have bad dreams and questions his commitment to the Movement. Hugo perceives that Hickey has brought death with him this year. After Hickey's arrest for murdering his wife, and the assertion by other bar denizens that they will support his plea of insanity, which is a new pipe dream, Hugo starts to sing his revolutionary songs as the merriment gets more drunken. The curtain falls on his favorite quotation: "The days grow hot, 0 Babylon! 'Tis cool beneath thy willow trees." He is treated with good-natured jeering by the rest of the bar, and because he is continually sleeping off a drunk, he is not really affected by Hickey's pleas for an end to illusions.

 

SLADE, Larry. A sixty-year-old disenchanted anarchist. He is "tall, raw-boned, with coarse straight white hair, worn long.... He has a gaunt Irish face" and is unshaven and dirty. He has "an expression of tired tolerance giving his face the quality of a pitying but weary old priest's." He is one of the roomers above Harry Hope's saloon. Theodore Hickman, a salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Hope's birthday, has characterized him as "the old foolosopher" in recognition of the total detachment from life that Larry has tried to cultivate. He acts as chorus for the entire play and assesses Hope's establishment as "the No-Chance Saloon. It's Bedrock Bar, The End of the Line Cafe, The Bottom of the Sea Rathskeller!" He also understands that "The lie of a pipe dream is what gives life to the whole misbegotten mad lot of us, drunk or sober." He was once active in "the Movement" and was the lover of Rosa Parritt, a leader recently imprisoned on the West Coast for complicity in a bombing incident as the result of information furnished by an insider. Larry, along with the other denizens of Hope's saloon, is waiting for Hickman's annual visit and blowout.

 

However, the long-time camaraderie of the saloon population has been disrupted this year by the arrival of Don Parritt,  the eighteen-year-old son of Larry's former lover, Rosa Parritt. He latches on to Larry as the only friend he has in the world, even suggesting that Larry was his father, a statement the older man denies, but the truth is left ambiguous. Parritt sneers at Larry's philosophical detachment and world-weariness, maintaining that he still has a commitment to the movement and that the only reason he doesn't take that suicidal hop from the fire escape is that he is basically afraid. Hickey also suggests that Larry is more committed to living than he would care to admit. This similarity of understanding is underscored when Hickey meets Parritt and recognizes that "you're having trouble with yourself." Larry is suspicious of Don Parritt from the first, and their relationship throughout the play is one in which Parritt is continually trying to confess his complicity in the capture of Rosa, his mother, and asks Larry's advice on how to deal with his guilt. But Larry wants to keep his uncommitted stance—his belief in his philosophical detachment is his pipe dream, the only way he can deal with life. His awareness of his situation is shown by the way he locks his door against Hickey when he comes selling his new line of facing the truth, destroying pipe dreams, and thereby achieving peace.

 

As commentator on the characters and action of the play, Larry is quick to realize that Hickey has killed his wife, just as he is fairly sure quite early that Parritt has betrayed his mother and "the Movement." However, he does not want to get involved and tries to prevent bar room speculation about Hickey. Similarly, he refuses to be drawn into Parritt's life when the young man insists on confessing to him. In their confessions, both Hickey and Parritt lie to them-selves, Hickey claiming at first that he killed Evelyn, his wife, to bring her peace, and Parritt that he informed in order to get the money for a prostitute. Finally each admits that his true motivation was hatred. In the case of Hickey, Slade hopes that he will find peace in his death in the electric chair, and for Don he sees suicide as the only possible way of overcoming his guilt. He has been forced into a judgmental position and into abandonment of his philosophical detachment. When he turns on Parritt, "his quivering voice has a condemning command in it," as he orders him, "Go! Get the hell out of life, . . . before I choke it out of you." With this, Parritt is transformed, "suddenly at peace with himself," and departs to jump off the fire escape. Larry sits waiting until he hears the sound of a falling body almost masked by the merriment in the bar made by the other denizens who are drinking to forget.

 

Larry alone of the group concludes the play without illusions and without looking for any. Hickey has adopted the pipe dream that Evelyn's murder was an act of insanity; Parritt believed that in suicide he would be rid of his mother, yet his last words indicated an interest in what her reaction will be. Larry, however, realizes that "there's no hope!. . .I'll be a weak fool looking with pity at the two sides of everything till the day I die! May that day come soon." And with that comment he realizes that he is "the only real convert to death Hickey made here." He now seems to believe the couplet from Heine's poem to morphine which he had earlier quoted sardonically to Parritt:

Lo, sleep is good; better is death; in sooth

The best of all were never to be born.

PIOGGI, Rocky. Night bartender and pimp. "He is a Neapolitan-American in his late twenties, squat and muscular, with a flat, swarthy face and beady eyes." He rooms above the saloon operated by Harry Hope and runs two prostitutes, Margie and Pearl. He treats them like per-forming animals, and his pipe dream is that he is really a bartender and not a pimp. Under the influence of Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Hope's birthday, the girls admit they are really whores, not "tarts," and taunt Rocky with being "a Ginny pimp." This enrages Rocky, who does not want to face this truth. He reacts with violence, drawing his gun on Chuck Morello, another pimp, and later threatens to punch him. At the end of the play, after Hickey's arrest for murdering his wife, Rocky and other denizens of the bar seize on his plea of insanity, a pipe-dream explanation which discredits what he has taught them. They then gladly get drunk in order to forget the outside world and to regain illusion.

 

PARRITT, Don. Eighteen-year-old son of Rosa Parritt, the former lover of Larry Slade. He is a good-looking, gangly, blonde young man with an unpleasant personality: "There is a shifting defiance and ingratiation in his light-blue eyes and an irritating aggressiveness in his manner." He is a recent addition to the roomers above the saloon operated by Harry Hope. Parritt has just come from the West Coast where his mother has been arrested for complicity in a bombing incident on information given by someone inside "the Movement." He has come to seek out Larry Slade, his mother's former lover, whom he remembers as the only person in the movement who treated him well. In fact, Don once suggests that Larry might be his father, an assertion the older man, now disenchanted with anarchism, vehemently denies, but the truth remains ambiguous.

 

Don is an abrasive personality who does not seem to belong among the hopeless misfits in the saloon, partly because of his new clothes and his possession of a considerable amount of money, which he is not ready to spend treating others to a drink. He sneers constantly at Larry, maintaining that despite his protestations of being through with the Movement, he still cares greatly for it. Larry, in turn, wonders how Parritt has managed to elude the police he claims are looking for him. When Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Harry Hope's birthday, meets Parritt, he detects some subliminal similarity between them. This later becomes clear when Hickey reveals that he has killed his wife. Parritt, who has been excessively concerned with the fate of his mother in prison—"she's always been so free"—finally confesses that he is the informer who is responsible for her arrest, and his reason is the same as Hickey's: "I don't give a damn about the money. It was because I hated her." This statement is echoed by Hickey's confession just before he is arrested.

 

Left in the bar room with the rest of Harry Hope's companions, Larry has a wish for Hickey, "May the Chair bring him peace at last, the poor tortured bastard," a comment which brings Parritt to a full confession of his guilt in his mother's imprisonment. "It was the tart the detective agency got after me who put it in my mind," but, like Hickey, he realizes that he, too, has been full of hate. His mother has made all the decisions: "She doesn't like anyone to be free but herself." And now he is utterly guilty of her betrayal, and "You're the only one who can understand how guilty I am.... Because she is dead and yet she has to live. But she can't last long in jail," and he will live in guilt knowing that she will never have any peace knowing what he has done to her. Then, in total despair, he blurts out the hatred that led to his betrayal: "You know what you can do with your freedom pipe dream now, you damned old bitch!" This statement brings Larry to take a judgmental stance, "Go! Get the hell out of life, ... Before I choke it out of you! Go up—!" and his unfinished sentence recalls Parritt's sneer that Larry was too yellow to commit suicide, to "take that hop off the fire escape" he had always talked of. Larry's words seem to transform Parritt: "Thanks Larry. I just wanted to be sure. I can see now it's the only possible way I can ever get free of her." But even then he leaves with a jeer: "You know her, Larry! Always a ham!" As he walks out with a certain "dramatic bravado," he promises to buy Hugo a drink "Tomorrow! Beneath the willow trees." As the merriment in the bar increases, Larry sits alone listening for the inevitable, the sound of a falling body which passes almost unnoticed in the noise of revelry from those trying to forget and to regain illusions.

 

The character of Don Parritt may be based on that of Don Vose, who informed on the anarchists in the McNamara Case of 1910 which concerned the bombing of the Los Angeles Times. Rosa Parritt is based on the character of Emma Goldman.

 

PEARL. A dollar streetwalker, just over twenty years old. She and Margie are whores who are run by Rocky Pioggi and are roomers at Harry Hope's saloon. They both have the remains of youthful freshness. Pearl is stereotypically Italian in appearance and is "sentimental, feather-brained, giggly, lazy, good-natured and reasonably contented with life." Her pipe dream is that she is a "tart," not a whore, and her attitude toward Rocky, who insists he is a bartender, not a pimp, is that of a sister "toward a bullying brother." Under the influence of Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Harry's birthday, the girls finally admit they are whores, treat Rocky like a pimp, then go on strike and take the day off to visit Coney Island. After Hickey's arrest on the charge of murdering his wife, they, along with other denizens of the bar, seize on his plea of insanity, a pipe-dream explanation which discredits what he has taught them, and then gladly get drunk in order to forget the outside world and to regain illusions.

 

MARGIE. A dollar street walker just over twenty years old. She and Pearl are whores, roomers at Harry Hope's saloon, and are run by Rocky Pioggi.  They both have the remains of youthful freshness. "Margie has brown hair and hazel eyes, a slum New Yorker of mixed blood," and is "sentimental, feather-brained, giggly, lazy, good-natured and reasonably con-tented with life." Her pipe dream is that she is a "tart," not a whore, and her attitude toward Rocky, who insists that he is a bartender, not a pimp, is that of a sister "toward a bullying brother." Under the influence of Theodore Hickman,  the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Harry's birthday, the girls finally admit that they are whores, go on strike, and take the day off to visit Coney Island. After Hickey's arrest on the charge of murdering his wife, they, along with other denizens of the bar, seize on his plea of insanity, a pipe-dream explanation which discredits what he has taught them, and gladly get drunk in order to forget the outside world and to regain illusions.

 

CORA. A thin, peroxide-blonde prostitute in her mid-twenties, whose pimp is Chuck Morello. She is a roomer at Harry Hope's saloon, and her pipe dream is that she will someday marry Chuck, who will lay off the drink, and they will move to a farm in New Jersey or Long Island, despite the fact that they know nothing of farming. Under the influence of Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Harry's birthday, she attempts to translate the dream into reality. But she gets drunk and Chuck leaves her, realizing the impossibility of the dream. After Hickey's arrest on the charge of murdering his wife, Cora and other denizens of the bar seize on his plea of insanity, a pipe dream explanation which discredits what he has taught them. Then she is happy to get drunk in order to forget the outside world and to regain illusions.

 

MORELLO, Chuck. "A tough, thick-necked, barrel-chested Italian-American, with a fat, amiable, swarthy face." He is Cora's pimp and a roomer at Harry Hope's saloon. His pipedream is that he will lay off the booze "tomorrow," marry Cora, and move to a farm in New Jersey or Long Island, despite the fact that he knows nothing of fanning. Under the influence of Theodore Hickman, the salesman who comes to the bar annually to celebrate Harry's birthday, Morello attempts to translate the dream into reality, but Cora gets drunk and Chuck realizes its impossibility. After Hickey's arrest on the charge of murdering his wife, Chuck, along with other denizens of the bar, seizes on his plea of insanity, a pipe-dream explanation which discredits what he has taught them, and then he is happy to get drunk in order to forget the outside world and regain illusions.

 

HICKMAN, Theodore ("Hickey"). A stout salesman of about fifty. He visits Harry Hope's bar annually to go on a monumental binge himself and to treat the denizens of the saloon to a celebration in honor of Hope's birthday. "He exudes a friendly, generous personality that makes everyone like him on sight" and is obviously very good in his line. "His clothes are those of a successful drummer whose territory consists of minor cities and small towns." He has a good sense of humor and can play jokes on others and laugh at those played on himself. His continual jokes about finding his wife, Evelyn, "in the hay with the iceman" give one meaning to the title of the play.

 

This year, however, the Hickey who appears at the bar is different. He is sober and does not mention his wife. Also, he has given up drinking, though he still treats his friends and tells them, "The only reason I've quit is—Well I finally had the guts to face myself and throw overboard the damned lying pipe dream that'd been making me miserable, and do what I had to do for the happiness of all concerned—and then all at once I found I was at peace with myself and I didn't need booze any more."

 

The rest of the play shows his attempt to teach this new philosophy of existence to the inhabitants of the bar, and Hickey is a persuasive salesman. He manages to get some of them to test out their pipedreams so they can shape up, spruce up, give up the drink, and translate their illusions into reality. He also tries to make others look at themselves without euphemisms. Of course, Hickey is well aware that the dreams are impossible of fulfillment, but he believes that through this facing of the truth his friends will find a peace which is the result of going beyond all hope. Three people do not follow this new doctrine of salvation: Hugo Kalmar, the old anarchist, who remains drunk most of the time but who fears the questions Hickey is making him ask himself; Larry Slade, a disenchanted anarchist whom Hickey calls "the old foolosopher"; and Don Parritt, the eighteen-year-old informer son of an imprisoned anarchist mother. Hickey particularly wants to convince Larry of this discovery of truth because in the "foolosopher's" pipedream of detachment and announced detestation of life, Hickey sees the greatest challenge.

 

As the play progresses, the other bar-friends fail to convert their dreams into reality, but they do not find the peace that Hickey expects, and the same is true for those who are forced to see other truths about themselves. The result of Hickey's campaign is to sow dissension and bring misery, something he cannot understand. The group gathers to murmur against him, wondering why he has not mentioned his wife. At his birthday party, Hickey delivers another speech, attempting to convince them of the joys of truth. Then he tells them, "my dearly beloved wife is dead," but then continues that he must feel glad for her sake because she was "married to a no-good cheater and drunk" but now is at peace. This devastates the group, and the next day Larry, Rocky, and Parritt speculate on what happened. Larry perceives the truth and tries to stop the conversation, but that evening Hickey makes a full confession, after having called the police—he had killed Evelyn with a bullet in the head. In a long monologue Hickey tells the story of his life: the ne'er-do-well son of a minister; he loved Evelyn from childhood, and she loved him. He went away and told her to forget him, but she did not. Finally, she married him, still believing in his ultimate goodness, no matter what he might do. She never wavered in this belief and forgave Hickey for every act of drunkenness and infidelity, even when he infected her with venereal disease. "Love always won," and Hickey began to feel more and more guilty. This year he kept swearing to her that he would not come to Hope's bar, but as the day came closer he knew he would have to come, even though this time he would not be able to bear her forgiveness. That would mean he could not return to her, and that would break her heart because to her it would mean he no longer loved her. Therefore he killed her—to give her peace.

 

Hickey talks on, trying to convince himself of the truth of this statement, but inadvertently reveals everything when he repeats what he had said over the body of his dead wife: "Well, you know what you can do with your pipe dream now, you damned bitch!" This is his true motivation. Now his assertion of the necessity of truth, of facing oneself, is shown as the true pipedream for him. This is underscored by his immediate adoption of an excuse: "I couldn't have said that! If I did, I'd gone insane!" He pleads with Harry Hope for confirmation, and the barroom denizens quickly seize on this as an acceptable, if illusory, explanation. Even as the policemen he had telephoned move to arrest him, he pleads insanity, but Larry alone sees that he may find his peace only with expiation in the electric chair. The iceman of death has indeed come for him.

 

Theodore Hickman, whose name has resonances of God "Theo" and "Hick" man, represents the bankruptcy of his preaching of salvation. He comes to the bar-microcosm with the aim of selling the ideal of life without the saving lie, but Larry Slade well knows that "the lie of the pipe dream is what gives life to the whole misbegotten mad lot of us." When Hickey comes, he brings death with him, as Hugo understands and therefore retreats into drunkenness. It has been suggested by Cyrus Day (1958) that Hickey is an antichrist and Parritt a Judas Iscariot; hence they recognize each other, but in another sense they are both betrayers, and thus their recognition is perhaps even more explicable. But the irony of Hickey is that his dream of peace is a pipe dream which he himself is unable to recognize for what it is. Further, he is a salesman, a drummer, and, as Arthur Miller later pointed out in commenting on his own Death of a Salesman, all his character sold was himself. In a sense, this is also true of Hickey, but what he has to sell is a philosophy of pessimism—of suicidal annihilation which only Parritt puts into practice (out of despair rather than understanding) and only Larry can comprehend. Everyone else at the bar gladly gets drunk in an attempt to forget the world and regain illusion.

 

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