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'The Iceman Cometh' by Eugene O'Neill - Essay Example

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'The Iceman Cometh' by Eugene O'Neill

That which separates them paradoxically joins them, suggesting the principle of complementary opposition uniting yin and yang. The relationship of Harry Hope and Jimmy Tomorrow is more complex; for the focus on past and future they respectively symbolize takes us closer both to the pipe dreaming that is the thematic core of Iceman and to the Taoist manner in which ONeill structures the plays thematic oppositions.
In a sentimental monologue halfway through act one, Harry Hope remembers the time he almost ran for alderman, and vows to renew his political involvement; moments later Jimmy Tomorrow, in counterpoint, dreams about regaining his former position in public relations. For both, however, pipe dreams for the future rest on self-deceit about the past. With no chance of winning twenty years ago, Harry used his wifes death as an excuse to withdraw from the race and the world; Jimmy conveniently forgets being fired for drunkenness. The close proximity of their speeches, however, allows Larry Slade to articulate their symbolic connection. Harrys maudlin reminiscences about Bessie prompts Larrys remark, "Isnt a pipe dream of yesterday a touching thing?" And when Jimmy vows to spruce up his appearance for a future interview, Larry sardonically comments, "The tomorrow movement is a sad and beautiful thing, too." While Hope focuses on illusions about the past and Jimmy leads the "tomorrow movement," they actually form another complementary couple who represent the interdependence of false memories and empty ambitions--the neurotic state of mind that afflicts virtually all the barroom derelicts. As Larry laughingly crows to Jimmy, "Worst is best here, and East is West, and tomorrow is yesterday. What more do you want?" The identity of "yesterday" and "tomorrow," apparent opposites, again resembles that of yin and yang: past and future interpenetrate at Harry Hopes saloon.
Iceman also mingles another pair of ...Show more
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Summary

For Lewis and Wetjoen, and Harry Hope and Jimmy Tomorrow, form complementary pairs that resemble yin and yang in their dynamic. The relationship of Lewis…
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