All the events of the play are set in about in Red Hook, New York roughly during the 1950’s, a time where equal rights were not an issue and before the feminist era was in full swing. Most men saw it as their duty to look after their wife and family and saw it as unmanly to do anything other than that. A lot of men found they have to prove they could look after themselves and their family by using their fists rather then their mind. Eddie Carbone was one of these men. Eddie from the start has a fixed idea on how a ‘real man’ should be. He thinks that men should be the provider and look after family.
He is very protective of his family especially Catherine. He sees himself as a father figure to Catherine and comments on her “walkin’ wavy! ” which shows his over-protectiveness towards her growing up. When Rodolpho and Marco arrive you can notice that Catherine has taken a liking toward Rodolpho and you can see Eddies not to pleased about this. When Rodolpho sings Eddie stops him abruptly, he is then embarrassed about this and quickly cover’s it up with a feeble excuse. Eddie is uncomfortable with the thought of Catherine being attracted to Rodolpho so he role as the head of the household to stop him.
Eddie likes to be right and hates being told otherwise. When Eddie comments on how he heard in Italy they paint oranges orange, Rodolpho corrects him. Eddie resents being corrected by Rodolpho so he replies by saying: “I know lemons are green, for Christ’s sake, you see them in the store they’re green sometimes. I said oranges they paint, I didn’t say nothing about lemons. ” I think Eddie finds it irritating that “a kid” like Rodolpho is correcting him. Eddie starting to show his dislike for Rodolpho when he continually addresses Marco only.
Eddie is extremely hostile towards Rodolpho and whenever Rodolpho comments, Eddie corrects him whether he is right or wrong. Marco sees what’s going on and when Eddie asks him whether he’s right Marco cautiously answers as if not knowing what Eddie would do if he replied no. Marco tells Beatrice that Rodolpho can cook and Eddie makes a comment on this “He’s a cook, too! (looking at Rodolpho) He sings, he cooks…… ” Rodolpho smiles thankfully at the compliment, but I don’t think Eddie meant it as a compliment. I think Eddie meant it as a question of his sexuality because he emphasises this comment by repeating it second’s later.
I think Eddie finds Rodolpho very unmanly because he enjoys doing things, which at the time were thought of as women’s work. This is not the only time he question’s Rodolphos sexuality, many times he has commented on “high voice” and how if “you heard it you’d be looking for a her not him. ” He also old Beatrice that he gave him “the heeby-jeebies. ” On the twenty-third of December he really question’s this by coming home drunk and violently kissing Rodolpho to humiliate him in front of Catherine. Eddie deliberately induces a confrontation, he pretends to teach Rodolpho how to box.
He use’s this excuse to hit Rodolpho. He pretends he’s playing around however deep down Eddie wanted to hurt him, Marco sees this and then challenges Eddies manliness. He does so by testing him to see whether he could lift the chair with one arm. Eddie does not manage this, but Marco does and he raises the chair over Eddies head. He show’s that he is stronger then Eddie and gives Eddie a look of warning which quickly turns to triumph and Eddie quickly realises that Marco is threatening him to stay away from his brother. Marco is seen as a real man in Eddies, Mikes and Louis eyes.
They comment on what a hard worker he is and how if they left him to his own devices he’d probably load the whole ship for them. Marco is hardworking and looks after his family, which Eddie sees as manly. Rodolpho however is the complete opposite, carefree and a big dreamer. However towards the end of the play Rodolpho changes and commits himself to looking after Catherine, almost swapping roles with Marco. When Marco and Eddie fight they both demand for apologies, but neither of them give in both believing they are right and giving in would be unmanly and show signs of weakness.
Miller uses Eddies views on manliness to be the one of the main causes of his aggressiveness. Eddie as the protagonists feels that to show his manliness he must show his strength and lashing out on Rodolpho and violently kissing him was one of his ways to prove this. The hostility towards Rodolpho was because Eddie felt Rodolpho was not worth talking to because he was not man enough. Eddie thinks that real men aren’t blond and don’t sing in high voices, but then again real men don’t telephone immigration.
Eddie lives in a community where everybody looks out for themselves and family and showing any weakness in your masculinity subjected you as a target for people. It all boils down to male pride and because of this tragedy befalls on Eddie. Eddie probably felt insecure about himself and were unsure of what his feelings were towards Catherine, but all Eddie knew was if he seemed manly I would give him a sense of security and a feeling that people thought he was secure with himself. After all isn’t it better to settle for half then nothing at all? Eddie didn’t think so; he wanted everything.