Study Guide

The Iceman Cometh Act 4

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Act 4

  • Everyone who said they were leaving for good is back at the bar, and everybody is pretty miserable. The booze isn’t working for anyone.
  • Chuck’s left Cora.
  • He and Rocky want to quit working for Harry.
  • Parritt continues to beg Larry to help him.
  • Hickey enters. He’s been taking care of something that needed taking care of. Hmmm...
  • Hickey doesn’t understand why they’re all so upset. He thought he could help them by disabusing them of their pipe dreams.
  • Here it is: the moment that turns the play on its head. Hickey admits he killed his wife.
  • The others beg Hickey to stop talking, but instead he launches into one of the most famous monologues in the history of American theater. While it’s broken up by interjections here and there, Hickey talks for like twenty-five minutes about why he killed his wife. He says it’s because it was the only way she could be at peace and free from him, but his final words to his wife were, “Well, you know what you can do with your pipe dream now, you damned b****!” (4).
  • It turns out Hickey gave himself up to the police. 
  • As the cops drag him off, he tells his old friends at the bar that he must have been insane or he never would have talked to his wife like that.
  • The realization that Hickey is a murderer and probably crazy turns everybody around. They yell oaths of support to Hickey as the police lead him away. The booze has its kick back. Instantly, they remember him fondly. 
  • As the others drink and celebrate and convince themselves that everything they did was just to try to help Hickey out, Parritt and Larry have it out one more time. Larry tells Parritt to get out of his life.
  • Parritt thanks Larry for finally telling him what he needed to hear and exits. 
  • The drinking and singing keeps everyone except Larry from paying attention to the horrible thud that comes from outside. 
  • Parritt killed himself. Only Larry knows. 
  • Larry realizes he is the only convert Hickey truly made. He stares off blankly as the rest drink and sing.
  • Curtain.

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