Eugene O'Neill invoked the phrase “stripped stark naked” to describe the desired effect in The Iceman Cometh, but he actually used that same phrase, and several other similar iterations, in the immediately preceding Cycle plays, A Touch of the Poet and More Stately Mansions. Although the Cycle plays seem to set up what happens in O'Neill's “dive” play, they function differently. Sara Melody Harford, the protagonist, sinks almost as low as the derelicts at Hope's bar, but she does not stay sunk. Her husband, Simon, strips her naked, literally and figuratively, but she rejects the humiliation and transforms the violence into a purification rite. Sara sins against herself and her husband due to her passionate and greedy nature, but, unlike the characters in The Iceman Cometh, she redeems what she has done in the act of love. The Cycle dramatizes compulsive behavior, The Iceman Cometh showcases the art of denial.

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