In this play, Alfieri has identified Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman who lives in Red Hook, as the hero in this play. Eddie is a very straightforward and hard-working man who ”worked on the piers when there was work, he brought home his pay, and he lived”. He is seen as a dominant figure in the Carbone household and I respected by his wife Beatrice and daughter-like niece Catherine. He is also very generous and feels that ‘it is an honour’ to keep the Italian cousins of Beatrice at their house. However he is repressed and hides his feelings.
This can be noticed by the stage direction – ”is please and therefore shy about it” which appears after Catherine greets him. This gives an insight into their relationship and suggests that a hidden emotion is involved. He is also extremely over protective of his niece and this in the process leads to squabbles with Beatrice and creates problems in their sexual relationship that has broken down. His reason for his possessive nature is a vow he gave Catherine’s mother on her deathbed to take care of her, but Beatrice is aware of the real and disturbing reason of his behaviour.
This extreme love for Catherine expressed by Eddie is didactic as it teaches us that love, if used in a level above the limit can lead to conflict. Alfieri respects Eddie and describes him as ”as good a man he had to be in life that was hard and even”. This also suggests that Eddie is very dedicated to his work and works hard to make ends meet. The above dialogue suggests that Eddie wasn’t a famous figure, but had the potential to be distinguished amongst the domestic crowd of Red Hook.
He is very manipulative and repeatedly pauses to show that his mid is working to create a counter-argument to discourage the other person. Catherine, Eddie’s niece is a maturing young woman, who is longing for independence but at the same time determined to show gratitude for Eddie. But he fears losing her and instead of being pleased of her growing, is worried about her emerging womanhood. She knows Eddie well and is aware of his possessiveness, which can be seen when she tries to ”[joke him out of his warning]”.
Beatrice is a strong women and she holds the household together by neutralising Eddie’s mistakes. She is angered when Eddie disapproves of Catherine working despite the fact that she was chosen for this job because she was the ”best in her class” and despite he fact that she is happy. He is very selfish and doesn’t think about his niece’s happiness, which triggers off an argument that sees a switch in character, as Beatrice suddenly is the dominant figure. She explains to Eddie ”[with sympathy but insistent force]” that Catherine has grown up now and ”she no baby no more”.
This in the process leads to Eddie feeling insecure and his relationship with Beatrice deteriorating, who longs to ‘be a woman again’. Beatrice’s excitement suppresses as her cousins from Italy, Marco and Rodolfo finally arrive. She warmly welcomes them and immediately tries to make them feel at home. Eddie and Beatrice are very hospitable and seem very pleased to welcome the visitors- ”You’re welcome Marco, we got plenty of room here”, who are both different in their own ways. Marco is a mature young man, who is responsible and concerned about work and his family of three children and wife who he terribly misses.
Rodolfo on the other hand is younger and less mature than Marco. He is carefree and is looking forward to being a typical American that can be noticed when he says ”when I am rich, I will buy a motorcycle. ” He is blonde and is fairer than brother Marco. Everything seems fine until Eddie’s attitude takes a twist for the bad, when he notices that Catherine is clearly attracted to Rodolfo and is very interested in him. This totally changes Eddie as he feels very insecure now and fears that his ”Madonna” will leave him.
So he once again begins to use manipulative behaviour and he first tries to lure Catherine away from the handsome Italian by repeatedly asking her to check the coffee – ”How’s the coffee doin’? ”. In the process he distracts Catherine, which also links to an earlier incident where he put down his friend Louis in order to create a bad impression on Catherine so that she leaves him. But he still can’t hold in his feelings and now uses rudeness to express his anger. His impoliteness is expressed when he asks Marco ”you gonna stay here in this country or you wanna go back?
” This also suggests that his manhood and his dominant status in the household is under threat by the male visitors, which again leads to his manipulative behaviour. This time Eddie uses the emotional image of his children to remind him of home. Then, when Beatrice asks Marco gently about his future plans of living in America, Eddie interferes and says ”She don’t mean the house, she means in the country”. He then embarrasses Rodolfo and refers to him as a ”kid” when he shows his singing talents. He is ”[flushing]” with anger, and he tries to control his rage and hide his feelings by giving a false smile.
He then embarrasses Catherine when she is wearing high-heels and refers to her as ”Garbo” and asks her to change. Notice that he humiliates them in front of each other so that he can discourage both of them and put them down in front of each other. These gestures symbolise how paranoid Eddie is feeling with the visitors around and his fear of losing Catherine and his position. Beatrice now can no longer bear the threat that her sexual relationship is facing and when alone with Eddie two weeks after the arrival of her cousins Marco and Rodolfo, she reveals her problem to Eddie.
He wants to know when she will ”be a wife again”. Eddie tries to back off and avoid her, which can be seen by the subtext- ”[He can’t speak then]”. His excuse is that the visitors have disturbed him, but the truth still is that their sexual bond hasn’t been active for three months while Beatrice’s cousins have just been around for two weeks. He reasons with Beatrice that his concerns for Catherine and her future with Rodolfo has been eating him away and he is very worried about her. But Beatrice is aware of the real thing that is disturbing Eddie and was also troubling her a lot.
The truth was that Eddie was incestuous, he was attracted to Catherine and since the arrival of Rodolfo, Catherine hasn’t been spending any time with him. Catherine also plays some part in this unusual fling that Eddie had for his niece. Eddie has yet another argument with Catherine after she and the blonde Italian return from a film. Eddie undermines Rodolfo and privately reveals to Catherine what he felt about him. In order to totally discourage his niece, he uses the way of dishonesty as he tells Catherine that Rodolfo was just ”bowin’ to his passport”, that is he just wished to gain citizenship in America.
But when Catherine replies that denies any such plans for Rodolfo and reveals that he loves her, Eddie is terrified. This fear can be noticed by the subtext ”[with deep alarm]”. Then they enter the apartment where Beatrice is. She looks at Eddie right in the eye, who responds with ”an awkward gesture of eroded command”. This suggests Eddie’s vulnerability because of his love for Catherine and his dishonesty. When Eddie again claims that Rodolfo isn’t good for Catherine, Beatrice suddenly with ”[open fright and fury]” asks Eddie to leave Catherine alone.
She does this because she fears that Eddie might reveal his secret love for Catherine. Eddie, ”[striving to retain his dignity]”, leaves with guilt. Beatrice then explains to Catherine that she is ”not a baby anymore” and that she can’t act the way she does. They have an argument between themselves where Beatrice points out the mistakes that Catherine is making and Catherine in turn making excuses for them. For instance, Beatrice points out that Catherine ”still walks out in front of him in her slip”. Catherine responds by saying that she ”forgot”.
This dishonesty of Catherine comes to an end, and she is ”[strangely moved at the prospect]” of turning into a woman now. Beatrice though almost reveals her immense jealousy of Eddie putting his niece before his wife, which astonishes Catherine. But Beatrice quickly denies this with a ‘quiet sad laugh”. Eddie, now sick of Rodolfo, goes for legal help to lawyer and family friend Alfieri. Tension builds up when Alfieri, as the hours, says that ”his (Eddie’s) eyes were like tunnels; my first thought was that he had committed a crime. ” This acts as a precursor and was a clue/signal for the coming events.
Eddie explained the situation to Alfieri, but to his anger, the lawyer revealed that there was ”nothing illegal about a girl falling in love with an immigrant. ” But Eddie persists and tries to lure Alfieri into going against Rodolfo by discouraging him. This time his narrow-minded nature is revealed as he tells Alfieri that he feels that the Italian ”ain’t right” and is ”platinum”. His claim of the innocent Rodolfo matches the sudden nervousness and agitation that takes him over, this can be seen by the subtext ”[shifts to another position in the chair]”.
His support for this totally wild claim was the fact that he sings and that he ”hits a note”. But Alfieri verifies this and assures Eddie that is it just a ”tenor”. He then says that Rodolfo’s female side could also be seen when he made a new dress from an old small one for Catherine. But now Alfieri explains totally to Eddie that there was absolutely no law that punished a guy who ”isn’t right” to marry a girl and that the only thing related to the legal law here was the fact that they were immigrants.
But of course Eddie wouldn’t have liked to go into that aspect, as he too was involved in the illegal entrance of Beatrice’s cousins. Alfieri then explains seriously to Eddie that, when ”there’s too much” love for someone, ”it goes where it mustn’t. ” He understands that Eddie has worked had all his life, but now he had ought to ”wish her luck, and let her go”, as there was nothing else he could do. Eddie feels helpless now, and can no longer hold in his feelings. He feels that he has been set-up, which can be seen by the dialogue and says that he is a ”patsy”.
He tells Alfieri that he had worked so hard all his life because he had made a promise. His true feelings come out now and he refers to Rodolfo as a ”son of a bitch punk”, which is a true image of his immense anger. He says that despite helping Rodolfo and giving him a place to live and assurance, the Italian acted like a ”goddam thief” and put his ”filthy hand on her (Catherine)”. Then Alfieri asks Eddie that she couldn’t possibly marry him, to which Eddie ”furiously” replies that he wasn’t talking sense. The truth though is that he can’t admit his secret love for his niece and so he leaves.