Compare the way Miller presents the relationships between Beatrice, Eddie and Catherine, before and after the arrival of the cousins in Act one. In 1915 America was seen as the land of freedom for many Italians and they fled from the poor, grimy streets of Italy. America was there only hope and they came in there thousands to earn money for there starving families and find a new life. The Carbone family as presented by Miller is one such family.
The Carbone household conceals a web of mixed feelings and from the start you can feel the tension brewing under the false smiles and unspoken conflict.
We are introduced to Eddie Carbone, Beatrice Carbone and Catherine at the start of the play yet we are not told of there relationships with each other until later. At first it seems that Eddie and Catherine are together and we have no idea that they are uncle and niece. Beatrice knows of Eddie’s feelings yet says nothing.
This all adds to the tension and we know its all going to explode, the only question is when. The cousins arrival aggravates this or and even adds more conflict and tension.
The first impression we get of the relationships in the house is that Eddie and Catherine are lovers. There actions towards each other are sexual and flirtatious yet they are trying to hide it. This is shown when Eddie refers to Catherine’s skirt as ‘beautiful’ he could have been talking about the skirt or maybe Catherine as a whole. The relationship between Eddie and Beatrice on the other hand is one of duty rather than love.
Beatrice is silent to what is going on around her. This shows the power Eddie holds over her. This is displayed throughout the play, by the lack of respect given to her and by how he speaks to her. For example ‘you lived in a house all your life, what do you know about it?’ this shows he doesn’t respect her and thinks she has an easy life. Catherine and Beatrice’s relationship is quite innocent at first and there doesn’t seem to be much between them, it later appears that Beatrice holds a deep jealousy of the relationship she has with Eddie. This is shown by miller when Beatrice confronts Catherine about her behaviour around Eddie. ‘Like when he comes home you throw yourself at him like when you was twelve years old’
Although it is apparent to us that the relationship between Eddie and Catherine one of a sexual or desiring nature. Catherine appears to be oblivious to it, for example ‘she strikes a match and holds it to his cigar’ this is a very up-close and personal act and then ‘she blows out the match’, this seems a very sexual act, with them being so close and her blowing out the match so close to his face, yet Catherine does not make anything of it and carries on.
Catherine sees Eddie as a Father figure and is always seeking to impress him. Her actions are often mistaken to be flirtatious when they can also be seen as innocent behaviour of a young girl looking for her father’s approval. One such instance is when Catherine starts ‘running her hands over her skirt’ this can be seen as flirting or it can also be seen as though she is nervous because she does not know if Eddie approves. This is also apparent when Eddie says ‘you aint all the girls’ this shows that he considers her to be special either because he is in love with her or because he sees her as his daughter
Beatrice Knows of Eddie’s feelings towards Catherine however she cannot say anything because she fears Eddie and she holds it in, taking the anger out in her actions. For example when she is mad ‘she gets up, clearing the dishes’ this shows that she doesn’t want to confront Eddie therefore she occupies herself with other tasks. Beatrice is also jealous of Catherine; she wants the same relationship that Catherine has with Eddie.
Eddie holds the power in the house, with him being the only man. Both women look up to him and never contradict him. Miller clearly shows this throughout the start of Act 1. An example of Eddie’s power is when it says ‘Eddie is standing facing the two seated woman’ this shows the women look up to him and it also forms a triangle with him being the top point, showing his power over them. This can also be seen as though both women are competing for Eddie.