Eddie is portrayed by Miller in the play as somewhat of a tragic character, and the end of play revolves around Eddie’s catharsis, and the revelation of his fatal flaw, that he always desires total control. He is portrayed as a stereotypical figure of masculinity, who cannot cope with other forms of masculinity, such as the of Rodolpho, and he is also seen to be a perpetrator of McCarthyism, who accuses other people for not complying to his views.
Initially, Miller portrays Eddie as an avid perpetrator of McCarthyism, and Miller uses Eddie as a symbol of the negative impacts of McCarthyism. For example, Eddie’s main reasoning to persuade Alfieri to deal with Rodolpho is that Rodolpho ‘ain’t right’. This phrasing suggests that Eddie has no real evidence to back up his presumptions about Rodolpho, and is simply accusing Rodolpho due to him being what Eddie would possibly perceive as ‘homosexual’, due to his ‘singing, cooking and making dresses’. In fact, Alfieri as a symbol of authorial intrusion is seen to describe Eddie as having ‘eyes like tunnels’.
This description could possibly portray Eddie as having ‘tunnel vision’, and this could be used by Miller to portray Eddie’s closed-minded thinking and non-progressive views. In fact, this McCarthyist behaviour could very well be one of Eddie’s, as a tragic hero, fatal flaws, and the image of ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ could be metaphorically used to suggest that Eddie’s catharsis can only occur when this McCarthyist outlook is abandoned. In fact, Eddie’s indecisiveness is portrayed when he describes himself as a victim of McCarthyism, saying ‘What’re you, accusing me?’, which goes to show how Eddie himself is very self-aware, yet not aware of his own actions.
It is in fact this McCarthyist attitude which leads to Eddie seeing Rodolpho as a ‘punk’ – a derogatory term which could be used to insult homosexuals in the 1950s – and his disapproval of Rodolpho’s relationship with Catherine which causes him to call immigration and results in his downfall. Miller himself was a victim of McCarthyism, being branded as a Communist, and so, it is possibly only natural that he tries to highlight the various issues with McCarthyism to the contemporary audience.
Eddie is also portrayed as a symbol of stereotypical 1950s masculinity. He is initially described as a ‘husky, slightly overweight longshoreman’ and this job which requires great physical strength further displays this image of masculinity. Furthermore, the fact that Eddie is seen to have his own ‘rocker’ and ‘cigar’, which Catherine willingly lights for him further strengthens Eddie as a ‘leader of the household’, and he is essentially the breadwinner of the family, and duly, he is treated with respect by his wife and family, and so, fulfils the role of a 1950s American. However, Rodolpho goes against all of Eddie’s thoughts about manliness, and because of Rodolpho’s effeminate behaviour, such as ‘helping set out the coffee things’, Eddie instantly takes a disliking to him, branding him as a ‘punk’ who ‘ain’t right’.
However, the fact of the matter is that Rodolpho, although possibly perceived as a homosexual by Eddie, or even the audience, is in fact the most romantically successful character in the play, and through this, it is possible that Miller is trying to portray that in a developing society, stereotypical manliness is no longer the sole desired trait in a man. Furthermore, Marco, being a ‘square-built peasant’, being described by the locals as a ‘regular slave’ essentially challenges Eddie’s position as the alpha male. Marco’s physical dominance is seen when he is said to ‘hold the chair like a weapon over his head’, and it is Eddie desire to have control, and be the alpha male of household that causes him to call immigration, eventuating in his downfall. Through this, Miller is possibly trying to convey how contesting masculinity is ineffective and has negative consequences.
Eddie is also portrayed by Miller as having a need to have total control, and this is most likely Eddie’s fatal flaw, which makes him the tragic hero of this Greek-tragedy style play. His desire for control can immediately be seen at the start of the play, where he states ‘that ain’t what I wanted’, and ‘I don’t like that neighbourhood’, which goes to show how Eddie is displeased by Catherine’s growing up, and is clearly afraid of Catherine’s behaviour becoming out of his control. Eddie’s desperation and indecisiveness is further shown when he calls Catherine ‘one of them college girls’ and ‘only a baby’ in quick succession, which further displays how Eddie is unsure of his relationship with Catherine, yet wants her to stay under his control.
This control is threatened by the arrival of Rodolpho, and one of the reasons why he calls Rodolpho a ‘punk’ who ‘ain’t right’ is because of his ability to take Catherine away from him, and he is clearly distraught when Catherine and Rodolpho come home late after a night out, and Eddie proclaims ‘He’s only bowing’ to his papers’ and ‘He don’t bless me’ which shows how Eddie sees Rodolpho as someone who challenges his control. The fact that this desire for total control is what causes Eddie to call immigration, resulting in his downfall goes to show the negative consequences of his fatal flaw and it is evident that Eddie is unable to ‘settle for half’, as he is not able to survive without total control, and the end of the play is brought about by Eddie’s catharsis, resulting in his death. Through this, Miller portrays the need to settle for half, in order society to ‘like it better’, and progress.
Overall, Eddie is used by Miller as the perfect example of the consequences of not being able to settle for half. He is not able to settle for half, to allow Catherine and Rodolpho to be in a relationship, or to accept that Marco is a more dominant male than him, or to accept that masculinity is changing, his downfall occurs only because of this.