Denial in The Iceman Cometh
Denial is the refusal to admit the truth. It is the refusal to accept or acknowledge the reality or validity of a thing or idea. Many characters in The Iceman Cometh suffer from denial and false hope. O'Neill places these characters in the appropriate setting in which they are able to fantasize about their dreams. Amidst the drunken and misguided characters, O'Neill presents a few that the reader builds hope and sympathy for. Each character uses a pipe dream in order to be able to become blind to their downfalls and to reality. In the bar setting, characters in Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh portray the theme of denial by embracing pipe dreams.
Harry Hope is the elderly owner of a saloon and rooming house. The narrow five-story structure presents the ideal setting for self-destruction. The characters come here in order to "drink away their problems" (O'Neill 597). All of the characters in the novel come to Harry Hope's bar as an escape. They manage somehow to "remain drunk and delude themselves"(Gagey 332), "with a few harmless pipe dreams about their yesterdays and tomorrows" (O'Neill 620). They feel sheltered and protected from the real world while in the bar. They do not have to face reality here. "The dreamers have come to Hope's because, ostensibly, they are failures in the outside world. What lies outside is a world without value, a hostile society to which no man can possibly belong, and from which they must take refuge" (Bogard 54). The characters deny the fact that there is a real world out there, in where they may succeed. They are much more content taking refuge in the bar, where they do not have to strive for or work at anything. They can just wallow in their sorrows and drink them all away.
Each character has a separate pipe dream to face. The pipe dream allows the character to live in a state of denial. It is a false belief or a false hope that the character holds on to. This is in order to blind them of reality. By embracing a pipe dream, the characters feel they do not have to face the bitter reality that confronts them. The pipe dreams make life tolerable for the time being (55). Rocky, the bartender at Hope's bar, denies the fact that he is a pimp. Because he is a bartender, he believes he cannot be a pimp. He blatantly disregards the fact that he takes money from two prostitutes and protects them as well. He says to one of the prostitutes, "'What would you do if I wasn't around? Give it all to some pimp'" (O'Neill 603). The sad fact that O'Neill presents is that Rocky truly believes that he is not a pimp. He has fooled nobody but himself, and doesn't even realize it. He also holds a pipe dream of being able to open a bar of his own someday. Margie and Pearl, the two prostitutes, have pipe dreams of one day getting married. They are also living in a state of denial. Margie says, "'Anyway, we wouldn't keep no pimp, like we was reg'lar old...