The opening scene of Act Two marks the dramatic turning point of the play. In this scene, Catherine confronts Rodolfo over Eddie’s allegation that Rodolfo only wants to marry Catherine to be an American. However it is soon revealed that Rodolfo truly loves her. The two characters sleep together for the first time, a fact that Eddie finds out when he returns home drunk, which results in a devastating confrontation between the central characters.
The seriousness and the intense emotions displayed in this scene, plus Arthur Miller’s use of dramatic devices, make this scene very dramatically effective. It is a turning point in the play because it is the first time Catherine and Rodolfo sleep together, symbolising Catherine’s transformation from a “little girl” to a grown woman; and Catherine’s ties with Eddie have finally cut as she chooses Rodolfo over Eddie. In this scene, Eddie also confronts his feelings towards Catherine as he kisses her in a fit of rage, passion and desire.
This scene opens up with Alfieri’s narration. He tells the audience that Catherine and Rodolfo are “alone” in the apartment for the first time. The fact that they are alone suggests something is going to happen and sets the scene and create tension because the two characters are alone in a cramped flat without anyone to interfere and no other witnesses except the audience. The cramped apartment is dramatic device which is more obvious on stage ? the dining room is the focus of the actions, the small, claustrophobic space increases tension between the characters.
The character of Alfieri serves two functions. In the play, Alfieri is the narrator, who tells the audience the story of Eddie Carbone in flashbacks, and therefore constantly reminds the readers of the tragedy that is yet to come. However he also acts as an actual character in the play ? the role of the wise lawyer, whom Eddie seeks advice from. A narrator is a typical dramatic device used often in plays, dating back to Greek tragedy, which is the style this play is written in.
Catherine asks Rodolfo is he is hungry, instead he replies “not for anything to eat”. This suggests Rodolfo’s desire for Catherine and further emphasis what might happen now they are alone together. This makes the audience wonder and curious, about Rodolfo and Catherine, and also about Eddie’s reaction when he finds out. Catherine starts to ask Rodolfo a series of questions about the options of the two of them living in Italy. At first Rodolfo thinks Catherine is joking as he is smiling, as he does not know the real question Catherine is asking him.
However, we as the audience understand she is testing him to see if he only wants to marry her to be an American. This is an example of dramatic irony which Miller uses to create tension and suspense as the audience wonder how Rodolfo is going to react and whether he will figure out Catherine’s true intention. We are also kept in suspense as we wait to see if Rodolfo really loves Catherine. As Rodolfo realises Catherine’s seriousness, stage directions describes that his smile “vanishes” and he is “astonished” at Catherine’s request and he walks to her “slowly”.
From here, it is clear that Rodolfo recognizes something is wrong and the tension is heightened as his previous joking mood has gone and is moving onto a more unpleasant topic. Rodolfo tries to persuade Catherine by commenting Italy as having “no money”, “no business ” and “nothing” and though Italy is beautiful, “you can’t cook the view”. This quote shows Rodolfo’s maturity and his understanding of reality and that he is not blinded by a mere pretty surface. As Catherine continues to pursue the idea of living in Italy, Rodolfo becomes increasingly frustrated: “There’s nothing!
Nothing, nothing, nothing. ” We see the characters are more emotionally charged as the argument continues; Rodolfo becomes more angry and irritable as the tension builds up, and the audience tense up as the calmer atmosphere is now disturbed by something more exciting. Finally, Catherine confesses she is “afraid of Eddie” here. This is the first time she admits her fear of Eddie and his actions to the audience, which marks another turning point of the play ? she no longer sees Eddie as a non-threatening, kind man she thought he is. There is a slight pause after Catherine’s admission.
This creates tension and allows time for Catherine’s confession and is a hint to the impending tragedy sink in. However, even after this, Catherine persists with her questioning, which eventually leads to Rodolfo’s realisation: “This is your question or his question? ” Therefore the penny drops as the truth comes out. From this point on, the characters confront their true feelings and give the audience further insight into the characters’ inner emotions. This quote also shows that Rodolfo is not the naive, innocent boy portrayed and seen by other earlier in the play?
He is quite witty and intelligent and knows when something is going on. Rodolfo is “furious” at Eddie’s accusation of him and explains that the only reason he wants to “be an American so I can work”. This shows Rodolfo is realistic and is not just an impressionable, young, starry-eyed boy who loves America so much. This corresponds with earlier in the play with his “you can’t cook the view” speech. From here, we see another more mature, responsible side of him.
This also touches on the theme of family and responsibility? two of the things that are significant in the Italian traditions. These are shown through the way Rodolfo says that he cannot bring Catherine from a rich country to a poor one; otherwise he would be a “criminal” “stealing” her face when he cannot afford enough food for her as he would be responsible for her well-being. Catherine is “near tears” and Rodolfo is “furious” as the argument progresses. This makes the scene more dramatic as we see the characters’ emotions are displayed so raw and vividly in this scene, as indicated in the stage directions.
Catherine describes Eddie as “mad all the time and nasty”, which contrasts with her earlier comments of “the sweetest guy” and “good”. This reveals that Catherine loves Eddie very much but at the same time is afraid of him as she admits herself.
This paradox illustrates Catherine’s emotional turmoil and complex feelings. It also suggests that she too, knows something is wrong with Eddie’s over-the-top rage and fury about the idea of her and Rodolfo together, further emphasised by Rodolfo’s suggestion that Eddie will “spank” Catherine if she disobeys him ? that there is something dark and primal in Eddie’s feelings for Catherine.
Catherine denies she is a naive “baby” like everyone thinks, which reminds us that Catherine is caught in the crossfire and has to do what everyone else’s expectation of her. However, she continues to defend Eddie as she criticises Beatrice of not being a good wife and woman to Eddie, unlike the way she can because she can “tell” and “know” what Eddie wants and needs. This almost peculiar comment deepens the audiences’ sense of unease as we suspect that something inappropriate is going on between Eddie and Catherine and that Eddie’s feeling may possibly be reciprocated.
Rodolfo does not seem to realise this as he persuades Catherine to leave Eddie. Catherine then tries to change the topic and instead tells Rodolfo to “hold” and “teach” her. This shows Catherine is inexperienced. However alternatively, it can mean that she is manipulative ? when the conversation is not turning out the way she wants to, she cunningly changes the topic using her sexuality. This contrasts with the previous impression the audience have of her and suggests that she is not the saint that we think she is.
She cries “softly” as Rodolfo gently leads her to the bedroom ? thus completes Catherine’s transformation from a “little girl” to a woman. It signifies Catherine’s choice of Rodolfo over Eddie as she loses her virginity to Rodolfo ? something she can never claim back, parallel to the fact she can not go back to Eddie anymore. Her ties have finally been cut. This significant event also means tragedy is inevitable as the audience know all hell will break loose when Eddie finds out.
There is a little pause between the part when Rodolfo leads Catherine to the bedroom and Eddie’s confrontation with them. During this part, no speech is spoken; it only shows Eddie’s return. This gives the audience some breathing space as tension slows down a little and to give time for the audience to prepare for the revelation Eddie is about to find out.
Eddie returns home “drunk”, which creates tension as the audience anticipate trouble, and the fact that he is drunken means his behaviour would be even more aggressive and unpredictable and then making his confrontation with Rodolfo and Catherine more dramatic.
Eddie sees Catherine first; the situation appears to be calm, though awkward and uneasy because the audience know that a huge thing has just happened and the calmness is just the calmness before the storm and we wait anxiously for the dreadful truth to dawn on Eddie. According to the stage direction, Rodolfo comes out of the bedroom second.
Eddie sees him and his arm “jerks slightly in shock”. Rodolfo nods to him “testingly”. Eddie jerks his arm in shock implies he realises what has happened. He is in astonishment and disbelief. Rodolfo reminds the audience that Beatrice is out, which means there is no one to act as the peace-maker? there are only three of them alone in the small, claustrophobic apartment where the atmosphere is tense and uncomfortable.
There is a pause as Eddie let the revelation to sink in. the pause creates suspense as the audience wait for his catastrophic reaction. Instead, however, Eddie just tells Rodolfo to “get outa here”. A simple, short command without any explanation or discussion. This amplify the uneasiness in the atmosphere as his reaction seems strangely still to the awful knowledge he just learned, the audience are surprised by this and wonder what will happen next. Eddie grabs her arm as Catherine starts to go.
This is the start and a hint to the conflict that is yet to come. Catherine starts to go. Catherine is “trembling with fright”, shows that she is really scared. She “frees her arm”, suggests that she is standing up to Eddie finally. She speaks in short sentences, creating a fast pace and urgency atmosphere Eddie tries to regain the control of the situation by commanding Catherine: “You ain’t going anywheres. “
He desperately tries to make Catherine stay by use the last bit of his power to control her. When Catherine disobeys, he “draws her to him” and “kisses her on the mouth” as Eddie finally confronts his desire and feeling for Catherine.
The kiss suggests there is something of a sexual desire in Eddie’s feelings, not just the simple possessiveness some fathers have of their daughters. Eddie asks Rodolfo what he is “gonna be”, thus challenging him, with Catherine as the winner’s price. Rodolfo squares up to Eddie and accept the challenge “with tears of rage”, suggesting his ego has been bruised badly.
He “flies at him in attack”, which shows Rodolfo’s extreme rage at the fact Eddie has just kissed Catherine and his challenge of his manliness. However, Eddie humiliates him further as he “pins his arms, laughing, and suddenly kisses him”.
This kiss is very sudden and unpredicted, so it is very shocking for the audience and we are incredulous at Eddie’s actions. This kiss is a very extreme action and we slowly realise that it is used to humiliate Rodolfo, questioning his manliness and an attempt Eddie makes to confirm his suspicion of Rodolfo’s sexuality. Catherine “tears “at Eddie’s face, while Eddie stands there with “tears rolling”. This is the point where Eddie realises he has lost and this is the point where he realises Catherine is gone from him.
The audience sympathises with him because we know he truly loves Catherine and he has just lost everything he holds dear. However, he still tries to gain the control of the situation and he and Rodolfo are almost frozen with anger:
“They are like animals that have torn at one another and broken up without a decision, each other waiting for other’s mood” This description compare Rodolfo and Eddie as “animals”, suggest something dark, terrifying and primal in the situation, which makes the audience feel uneasy and uncomfortable.
When Eddie breaks the silence, he tells Rodolfo to get out and tells him to “watch your step, submarine. ” “Submarine” is slang for an illegal immigrant. This is a warning to Rodolfo and a hint to what is going to happen. From this point on, it is clear to the audience that tragedy is inevitable because it seems that Eddie will go as far as to betray his family and report the brothers to the Immigration Bureau. We also know that if Eddie does do that, the consequence will be devastating, as foreshadowed by the Vinny Bolzano story from the very earlier on of the play.
Eddie ends this act with a dreadful warning, which create suspense as to what he is going to do and grabs the audience’s attention as we wait to see his next actions even though we already suspect what he is going to do. In conclusion, the opening scene of Act Two is one of the most important and dramatic points of the play. Throughout the first act, Arthur Miller tells us of Rodolfo and Marco’s arrival and sets up the steps leading to the play’s climax ending. In Act One, the audience see the growth of Eddie’s paranoia and jealousy, slowly accumulating to his final outburst.
The incident in this scene: Rodolfo and Catherine sleeping together is the final push that sends Eddie over the edge and promote him to report the cousin to the Immigration Bureau. It is in this scene Eddie’s patience runs out and in this scene he realises he has lost Catherine to Rodolfo. He confronts his feelings by kissing Catherine and humiliates Rodolfo with the shocking kiss.
This scene is full of emotions which are displayed vividly to the audience through the characters’ actions and speech. The emotions grab the audience attention because we care about the characters and curious about what is going to happen.
Courtney from Study Moose
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