Eddie nearly always gets his way, consequently when he realises that Catherine won’t back down on this he tries another approach, appealing to her heart and making her feel guilty: “Katie, I promised your mother on her death bed, I’m responsible for you.” Eddie is trying to make it appear as if he is not saying it for his own benefit but instead for Catherine’s and his promise to her mother, trying to convince her that he is a selfless and charitable man. Once again Eddie starts with “listen”, underlining how forceful he is, and how he wants to emphasise its importance. Overall this scene portrays Eddie in a positive, happy light, as he does finally compromise: “you’re gettin to be a big girl now, you gotta keep yourself more”, and the scene shows the family to be quite stable, unlike by the end if the play.
The scene where Eddie teaches Rodolfo how to box and Marco lifts a chair over Eddie’s head is climactic as it brings into the open and raises the problems and tensions, which up until now have been latent. At this point Rodolfo and Catherine are getting closer and closer, and Eddie angrier and angrier about it. He has already tried to warn them off each other by speaking to them, but in vain. So he adopts another tactic: “Just put your hands up, like this, see?” This is teaching Rodolfo how to box with an ulterior motive. Eddie is showing Rodolfo that he’s not a push over but he can stick up for himself and will fight for Catherine.
Rodolfo, who is respectful of Eddie as his host and Catherine’s “father” says, “I don’t want to fight you, Eddie”. In other words Rodolfo’s is indicating that he does not want to fight him for Catherine – instead he just wants to get on with him. Eddie, who has always had his own way, won’t leave it at that, so pushes Rodolfo, “Don’t pity me, come on”. Eddie wants to see what Rodolfo is made of, perhaps how manly he is as we know Eddie thinks Rodolfo is gay. After Rodolfo does finally hit Eddie, Eddie tells him to hit him again: “Come on kid, put sump’m behind it, you can’t hurt me”, implying that the original punch wasn’t much good, as he is trying to show that he is stronger than Rodolfo. It is brutal, like in the animal world, where two males will fight each other to be able to lead the herd and mate with the female.
The language he is using, however, is slyly quite light-hearted and cheerful. The whole purpose of this boxing is so that Eddie can punch Rodolfo, which he does, and to add insult to injury he says, “Did I hurt you kid?” Calling him “kid” is another way for Eddie to prove his strength and importance to Rodolfo, who he thinks is immature, and should do what Eddie tells him. Boxing is obviously Eddie’s way of warning Rodolfo off Catherine. In defiance Rodolfo takes Catherine to dance with him, showing Eddie that it will take more than that for him to obey him and leave Catherine alone.
Marco, who obviously doesn’t like to see his brother being bullied by Eddie, now steps in, asking Eddie, “Can you lift this chair?” In Sicilian culture it is very important for Marco to stick up for his family to save face. Marco now comes out of his shell, and we see his devotion to Rodolfo. Eddie Carbone is a man who, within his family, is the patriarch who is treated like a god. Therefore for Marco to warn Eddie off Rodolfo with the chair gesture must have totally shocked him. In the long run it would either stop Eddie from persecuting Rodolfo or aggravate him more into doing something more extreme.
In this scene, the gestures speak more eloquently than the words. The first image is of Eddie knocking down Rodolfo, a man of much slighter build than himself, an image of aggression. The second is of Rodolfo dancing with Catherine, a woman not much younger than himself, an image of romantic love that puts Eddie in his place as a father figure of an older generation. The third is of a mature man of even stronger build than Eddie, towering over him with a chair to indicate that any threat to Rodolfo will lead to a confrontation with his protector. As the first act ends, the lines have been drawn, leaving the audience to wonder how this stalemate will be resolved.
In the final scene, Catherine at last stands up to Eddie, a big step and she finally breaks free from Eddie and becomes a woman: “Who the hell do you think you are?” she shouts at Eddie. For the whole play we have seen her running errands for Eddie and hanging on his every word. Now that Eddie has betrayed Marco and Rodolfo to the Immigration Bureau, she sees him for what he really is: “How can you listen to him? This rat!” Catherine, since she has been like a daughter to Beatrice, is obviously irate that Beatrice is so weak that she won’t stand up to Eddie. When Rodolfo arrives Eddie is as stubborn as ever, asking: “Who said you could come in here? Get outta here!”
He is so sure he’s in the right he won’t even talk about it. Rodolfo unlike most Sicilians doesn’t feel the need for revenge. He’s very gentle and placid, and after all that’s happened he tries to apologise to Eddie, even though he isn’t the one in the wrong,: “It is my fault, Eddie, everything, I wish to apologise.” Rodolfo is much more mature and a better person than Eddie; Rodolfo does not hold grudges and is willing to forget all that has happened. Eddie won’t even accept the apology. The only thing he is interested in is getting his “name” and respect back: “You can run tell him kid, that he’s gonna give my name back to me in front of this whole neighbourhood”. This statement shows that Eddie does not care about Catherine or Beatrice but only his respect, and image in the community as the head of the family.
Beatrice sees that her husband is being totally unreasonable and realises that getting his respect back won’t solve anything: “You want something else, Eddie, and you can never have her.” It is tragic that Beatrice can only bring this truth into the open now, and she did not say it to him earlier, before Eddie’s obsession with Catherine got out of control. Throughout the play, Beatrice has always been wise and sensible. It’s tragic that Eddie never listened. He is so in denial he can’t see or admit his feelings for Catherine: “Is that what you think of me?
That I would have such thoughts.” Eddie is very good at lying to himself. When he betrayed Marco and Rodolfo, he convinced himself so much of his innocence that the audience could feel his anger at being accused: “Wipin the neighbourhood with my name like a dirty rag.” Eddie hates anyone in the neighbourhood to think ill of him; he sets great store by being socially accepted and making his family proud of him. When Eddie is stabbed his last words are, “My B”, which is very moving, as when on his deathbed a man is converted to the true way of life and shown the light. These last words show it was Beatrice who really mattered to him, and not Catherine, which emphasises what a waste of his life his illusions had cost.
In conclusion the play was a tragedy, through Eddie’s fault and weakness for Catherine. His inappropriate feelings for Catherine made him act out of character, such as betraying and shopping Marco and Rodolfo to the Immigration Bureau. At the beginning of the play Eddie told the story of the boy who betrayed a family member to the immigration and was killed for it. At that time he believed that he would never do such a thing even if his life depended on it. Eddie also forcefully kissed Catherine and Rodolfo, shattering his image as a father-figure to Catherine. His character completely changed from the once caring father figure to an obsessive fanatical monster.
As in classical tragedies the main character started off at his peak, with a loving wife, lots of friends and a devoted daughter. By the end of the play he had lost everything including his life, through nothing but his own fault. His downfall began with a kind deed, giving a spare room to two people he’d never seen in his life. Eddie did not fully realise his feelings for Catherine until Rodolfo came on the scene. The prospect of losing Catherine to Rodolfo made him realise deep down that he loved her. The tragedy obviously could have been avoided if Rodolfo hadn’t come; nevertheless Eddie would have reacted like that to any boyfriend Catherine would have had. Eddie would not take advice from anyone, not Beatrice, Catherine nor even Alfieri. He was completely oblivious to the fact that as a woman Catherine had a right to make her own decisions about her life.
The tragedy of the common man is convincing, as we can relate to the family, unlike a tragedy of kings and queens. Usually a tragedy with royalty or the upper class would mean that they had further to fall, from their peak at the beginning. However Eddie manages to have an enormous fall from his peak of ordinary happiness and respect nonetheless, partly because he is killed, partly because the community has such strong values and partly because he denies the truth until the moment of his death. Eddie tried to live the American dream, not in his own life but through Catherine.
We saw in the first scene that he was very ambitious for her, and was dubious about her becoming a secretary, since he hoped she would achieve more. He probably hoped she would achieve more in getting a better husband; perhaps he hoped she would marry someone rich and leave the slums of New York. Such a tragedy in the developed world might not occur so easily today, because women have more power. Beatrice would have been more forceful and insisted that her husband stop interfering in Catherine’s life. Beatrice would have been more worried about Eddie’s abnormal feelings for Catherine and probably would have threatened to leave him, or that he no longer saw Catherine.
Catherine would have felt more confident and less inferior to Eddie; she would not have cared so much about what Eddie thought, and would have carried on with Rodolfo regardless of Eddie’s disapproval. Eddie himself would not have behaved like that either, as he would have been condemned for patriarchal attitudes that show so little consideration for women. Thus in his starkly realistic play, Miller puts effectively into action his belief that in his society tragedy was possible for the common man.