Arthur Miller wrote this play in 1955. He has written many other plays including All My Sons, which was a success at Broadway. Miller was born in 1915, in New York City, but both his parent had emigrated to the US. This play revolves around emigration, so Miller has had a lot of personal experience.
This play is based in the late 1940’s, just after the Second World War, when many people were emigrating to the US, looking for a better life. In the play, which is located in Brooklyn, which is a community full of dockworkers, we have a picture of Eddie, Beatrice and Catherine’s lives when Rodolfo and Marco illegally emigrate to the US from Italy.
When Catherine (Eddie’s niece) falls in love with Rodolfo, Eddie loses his cool, and reports Marco and Rodolfo to immigration. The drama ends with the death of Eddie, as he tried to kill Marco; Marco turned the knife, and stabbed Eddie.
There are three leading male characters in the play; Eddie, Rodolfo and Marco, and each of them play different roles and have different types of roles.
The first of these men we meet is Eddie. The first impression of any character is very important, and the first impression we get of Eddie is that he is a real family person. He talks very complimentarily towards Catherine, “Beautiful! Turn, around, lemme see in the back. Oh if your mother was alive to see you now! She wouldn’t believe it.” This gives the reader the impression that he is a family person, who is close to his niece.
Then when he hears that Beatrice (his wife) is cousins have arrived he tells her “Don’t worry about it B., there’s nothin’ to it. Couple of hours and they’ll be here.” This gives us the impression that he is also very caring towards B’s family, even though they come in illegally. This also enhances the impression that he is a family man. We are made to believe generally that he’s a good man, who values his family very high.
When we hear that Catherine has got a job, she wanted to ask Eddie if it was all right with him if she took it. This shows us that he has a lot of status in the house. If he hadn’t any status, Catherine would have gone behind his back, and wouldn’t have asked permission. Eddie then replied by saying “Sure she’s the best.” This shows us that he cares for his family and wants the best for his niece.
A little later we hear from a lawyer called Alfieri. We are believed to trust him because of his wisdom, and position in the community. He is the voice of the community. He then tells his thoughts towards Eddie. “He was a good man as he had to be in a life that was hard and even.” The important word here is “was”, this shows us that Eddie’s personality is on the verge of changing.
When we are introduced to Rodolfo and Marco, there is a huge difference between them, first there is their appearance. The impression that we get of Marco is that he’s a strong man, and is focused, because Miller describes him as “Square-built peasant of thirty-two, suspicious, tender and quiet voiced.” when he is first introduced. This gives us the impression that he is a very quiet person, but his awareness is very good, he is very alert of what’s around him. During the first scene where he’s introduced, when he talks it’s usually very short answers, e.g. “Thank you” and “Are you my cousin?”
On the other hand, Rodolfo’s manliness is totally different to Eddie’s and Marco’s. Rodolfo is an extremely attractive young man, who is very sensitive. Where Eddie and Marco are much more macho than Rodolfo, unlike Eddie and Marco, Rodolfo sees sewing, cooking and singing as manly. We are made to believe that Rodolfo is quiet intelligent, because the language he uses is very flowery, “The horses in our town are skinnier than goats.”
One of the most notable features that Rodolfo has is his “so blond” hair. Immediately Eddie goes on the defence, and say’s that is hair is like a “chorus girl or sump’m.” Then Eddie goes on to imply that he dyes his hair, which in Eddie’s eyes is unacceptable. Without ever saying it, Eddie’s implying that Rodolfo is gay. Another factor that goes against Rodolfo is that he is a very keen singer, and we hear his version of “Paper Doll”, and in Eddie’s eyes, only homosexuals sing.
Due to the difference in physique between both characters, it was inevitable that they wouldn’t be able to work effectively. Marco is full of muscle, so he is adapted very well to work in a shipyard, but because of his slight physique, Rodolfo is not as well adapted. In my view, he would have been much better in the entertainment business, because he is a natural joke teller. However, Eddie tells Rodolfo that “But as long as you owe them money, they’ll get you plenty of work” that tells us that there are plenty of work in the docks, and Rodolfo is very clever and takes the work just to get some money in. This shows us that Rodolfo has a good brain, and is more concerned so he can get some money in to establish himself as an American.
After coming home from work, Eddie goes on the attack, and undermines Rodolfo’s work rate, because he hasn’t taken at all to Rodolfo, He doesn’t see things like sewing, cooking and singing as manly. First of all he complains that “he sings.” Eddie is very embarrassed of this, because many of his friend e.g. Louis work there, and knowing that Eddie gives a roof to the “Canary” might under mind his street cred, because it’s like Rodolfo’s giving out “regular free shows”.
Even at home Rodolfo sings, and this really goes under Eddie’s skin, as he says “if you came in the house and you didn’t … know who was singin’, you wouldn’t be lookin for him you be lookin’ for her.” This shows us that Rodolfo isn’t shy about singing. He wants to make the most of his magical voice. Nevertheless, Eddie realises if someone was to come to the house, to ask, “who was singing?” he would be extremely embarrassed to say it was a man’s voice. This is extremely ironic, because most of the famous Italian singers are tenors. Although by now a man singing tenor is totally acceptable, back in the time that this play was written, people were less sophisticated, and in my opinion much more prepared to stereotype people.
Although Eddie isn’t the biggest fan of Rodolfo, we learn at the end of the first act that Rodolfo is the kind of man that Beatrice and Catherine are looking for. When Marco says that “everybody gets fat” when Rodolfo’s cooking, Eddie tries to make this count against Rodolfo, but the girls see through this. Catherine then goes on to glorify the fact that he could cook, and say’s that “all the big hotels (chefs) are men”. This shows that she thinks that there’s different ways to be a man, either through cooking or dancing.
Straight afterwards, in my opinion Eddie feels very vulnerable because two men have arrived, and he’s afraid he would be toppled as king of the castle. So Eddie goes out to win some honour back, and tries to humiliate Rodolfo and Marco. His first target was Rodolfo. He went for one of Rodolfo’s weaknesses, in his opinion his manliness; he isn’t strong enough in Eddie’s view so he decides to teach Rodolfo how to box. Eddie encouraged Rodolfo to “put sump’m behind it, you can’t hurt me.” and “Come on show me! What’re you gonna be? Show me!” In my view, Eddie is trying to show that he’s a better and stronger man than Rodolfo; he wants to prove to Beatrice and Catherine, that Rodolfo isn’t the man they think he is. Just to rub the salt into the wound, Eddie “feints with his right and lands with his right.”
Afterwards he asks Rodolfo “Did I hurt you?” In my opinion, Eddie is waiting for Rodolfo to reply “Yes”, so Catherine and Beatrice sees such a weak person he is, but Rodolfo replies “No, no.” This shows the toughness that belongs to Rodolfo that we haven’t seen before in the play. This shows the reader that Eddie hasn’t succeeded in humiliating Rodolfo, but rather he succeeded to humiliate himself. Just to make the situation worse for Eddie, Rodolfo and Catherine continue with their lives and go to dance, they didn’t dwindle on the situation.
After seeing his younger brother being treated so horrid by Eddie, Marco decides to challenge Eddie’s masculinity, and bring him back down to earth with a bang. All Marco asked is “can you lift this chair?” It sounds like a pretty easy thing to do. When Eddie went down on his knees to pick it up, he fails. “He tries again, and again fails.” Then when Marco goes down to pick it up, he “raises the chair over his head.” He raised the chair as it was a weapon, and as a word of warning to Eddie. This shows us that Marco is looking after his close family, and wants to make sure that nobody gets the better of them.
This lift was more of a warning to Eddie not to mess with Rodolfo, than anything else in my opinion. He did this as his felt quite a strong responsibility towards Rodolfo. This is a clear sign that Marco is looking for justice, and he isn’t as quiet a character as Miller first portrays him. This is a clear similarity between Marco and Eddie, because both want to protect their families. Although Mike does portray him as a “regular bull”, that shows that Marco’s strength has been seen through out the community.
Catherine is extremely important to the whole plot of the drama, because it’s because of her that the entire feud between Eddie and Rodolfo has erupted.
At the beginning of the play we get the idea that Eddie’s extremely protective towards Catherine because he says “I promised your mother in her deathbed. I’m responsible for you.” At this point we get the idea that Eddie’s like any other caring uncle, but as the drama unfolds, we are made to think that Eddie’s is becoming overly attached to Catherine. When Eddie learns that Rodolfo has extremely strong feelings towards Catherine, he quickly tries to distance Catherine away from him, by saying that “He don’t respect you.”
This is a cry of a desperate man, it’s as if he doesn’t want her to grow up, this is a very strong weakness of Eddies. We learn earlier on in the play that Eddie isn’t a good husband, because Beatrice asks, “When am I gonna be a wife again, Eddie?” I think that Eddie is confused with the state of his relationship with Catherine as she’s growing up, and because of this it’s stopping him from completing his duties with Beatrice.
When Rodolfo sing or dances with Catherine, the song “Paper Doll” is often used e.g. When Rodolfo tells Catherine to “Dance” the phonograph “plays ‘Paper Doll’”. In my opinion this is a very clever use of song because it describes the nature of Rodolfo, he like a news paper. First of all Rodolfo isn’t extremely strong, nor is paper. One of the similarities between Marco and Eddie’s that they’re both very strong. Also you can read Rodolfo’s thoughts by looking at his face, just as if you’re reading a newspaper.
One of the differences between Eddie and Marco is that Marco cares for his wife. In my opinion, to be a good man you must look after your wife. Where Eddie forgets to do his duties in bed, Marco sends some of the money he has won back to his family in Italy, so they can have a better life. As I’ve said, both men want to look after their families, but both do this is different ways. Marco is prepared to leave his family to earn money, whereas Eddie hangs on to his family too tight in my opinion.
One of the turning points is the drama, is when Eddie goes around kissing everybody. When Eddie sees Rodolfo and Catherine together, Eddie “suddenly, draws her to him, and as she strives to free herself he kisses her on the lips.” This is Eddie getting what he wants, that is Catherine, because we know that Eddie doesn’t want Beatrice. Although Eddie gets Catherine in a very brutal way, it shows his dominance in the house. Not just content with this, “Eddie pins (Rodolfo’s) arms, laughing, and suddenly kisses him.” This is a rather odd gesture, because many times during the play Eddie describes Rodolfo as “The guy ain’t right.” He uses it many times either because he feels that this is true, or even because he is trying to convince himself that this is right. This kiss doesn’t follow with Eddie’s behaviour during the rest of the play, because by kissing him, he brings himself down to the same masculinity as gays. During the end we learn a lot about the characters real thoughts and feelings, and what sort of men they really are.
There is a lot of discussion during the play, asking is Rodolfo just looking after himself, by wanting to marry an American. This is thrown more into doubt when Catherine asks him telling him “Suppose I wanted to live in Italy. At first he tries to push away the idea by replying “Forever?” At this point you start to believe that he’s a selfish little Italian that just wants to be an American. But then he goes on and says that “there’s nothing…I would be a criminal stealing your face”. This tells us that he’s as caring as Marco, he only wants the best for Catherine, and that all of Eddie’s doubts seem wrong.
As the plot unfolds, Eddie’s masculinity seems to grow weaker and weaker. He has finally cracked when he “wants to report something”. Illegal immigrants. Two of them.” This shows us that Eddie has finally gone for the big one. He isn’t enough of a man to throw Rodolpho and Marco on to the street; he phones to get others to do his dirty work. This is a sign of a coward. Although he thinks it’s the right thing to do, because he is protecting Catherine.
After two officials catch the illegal immigrants, “Marco suddenly breaks from the group and dashes into the room and faces Eddie”. This shows us that Marco is a growing threat during this play. He’s becoming more and more important as the plot unfolds. By standing up to Eddie it shows that he’s ready to match him. But instead of attacking him verbally or physically, he “spits into Eddie’s face”. This is the point where Eddie loses all his dignity and manliness. The Italian community in Brooklyn is extremely close together, and they watch out for each other, and having one of their own betraying them is a sin, so Eddie will be looked down at now by the rest of the community.
Not even Louis, one of Eddie’s close friends turn around to look at him when Eddie shouts, “Louis! Louis!” Even Catherine his own niece says that “he bites people when they sleep!” This shows us now that nobody will ever be able to trust him again, not even his own family. Just to rub the salt into the wound, Marco shouts, “That one! He killed my children! That one stole the food from my children!” This shows that the relationship between Eddie and Marco has hit an all time low. This also throws away the scraps of dignity that Eddie had left. It also enhances the fact that Marco is a loving father, who’s desperate to help his family back in Italy.
In the very last scene, we start by seeing Catherine one again stealing his manliness away from him, by saying that “he’s a rat! He belongs in the sewers!” This shows us by now, not even his closest family can bear to be close to him after the unforgivable sin that he’s done. Only one character keeps faith in Eddie, and that’s Beatrice. She ironically stands by him all the time.
But when Eddie sees Marco, he loses his mind, and starts to attack him verbally and physically. Eddie is blind to the fact that he is wrong, he isn’t enough of a man to face up to the fact, so he Marco to tell the people that “what a liar you are!” This shows that Eddie is confident that he can have one successful blow at Marco, but he is wrong. Marco attacks back by calling Eddie an “”Animal! You go on your knees to me!”!” And he does this twice. This is one of the worst insults that a man in that time could call another. It shows us that Eddie is below the level of dignity shown by human beings, and is down there in the dumps, and by going on his knees shows that he’s at the same level as animals.
Then both of them get ready to fight. Eddie at this point has nothing to lose, so he takes out a knife and at this point and “Louis (Eddie’s friend) halts and steps back from trying to stop the fight. This shows the power and status Eddie has just won by cheating. But in the end, Eddie had no chance of beating Marco, due to his strength. Marco managed to turn the blade around and stabbed Eddie. Eddie died, as a cheat, but he regains some dignity as he dies in Beatrice’s arms. This shows although all the horrid remarks and actions Eddie has made, Beatrice is there until the very end. Marco’s manliness during the play just grows and grows until this climax.
Without a doubt, Miller has many different views on masculinity. You have Eddie and Marco, who are two extremely strong men, and you have Rodolfo, who is extremely keen on more feminine activates. In my opinion, there isn’t a lot of difference between these. All three are men in their different ways, but one thing in my view is a must is respect. And Eddie had lost it, all of it by the end. He used to be the king of the household before Marco and Rodolfo came along, and during that time, he was losing his respect due to the treatment he gave them, an example of this is when Eddie phoned the immigration office. In my opinion, Eddie knew he was losing respect from Beatrice because he demanded her “I want my respect, Beatrice.” This shows us that he worries what people think of him.