As previously mentioned Eddie is the centre of where all tension comes from and this is partly because he lets his emotions be known and when he does try to hide it he is poor at doing so. When he is angry those who are close by know it and his “touchy” nature is clear. It is clear by the way in which Catherine and Beatrice treat Eddie with such caution that he is easily irritated. Beatrice says, “I’m just afraid if it don’t turn out good, you’ll be mad at me” What she says gives the audience a feeling of what Eddie is like. The audience may not consciously acknowledge this quote but it will have an effect on them. When watching the play, one would initially despise the character of Eddie. He is foolish and stubborn which is an irritating combination. We find ourselves wanting to strangle him adding to the tension we feel. It is also a mark of how powerful Miller’s writing is.
A lot of Eddie’s actions in are due to Catherine. Catherine is his niece but their relationship is closer than that between a niece and her uncle. A niece is not in the bathroom when her uncle is in the bathroom “shaving in his pants”. Their relationship is more like that of a father and a daughter although a daughter shouldn’t be in the bathroom when her father is “shaving in his pants” also. Miller makes it clear in this book that Eddie’s feelings for Catherine are perhaps too strong and in danger of being a kind of love that is not supposed to be present between two people like this. The hints of incest are clear in the first act but become even more evident in the second act of the play.
Eddie’s feelings for Catherine are the base of this play and his love for Catherine – as a daughter and perhaps as something more, are what ultimately kills him. The relationship between Eddie and Catherine are significant in how Miller makes the audience tense. Indeed most of the actions by characters here are done for love and Eddie is not the only one to fall foul of this. Catherine acts out of love for Rodolpho and Rodolpho seems to love her. The love Beatrice has for Eddie is at the heart of her problems and even Marco is acting out of love for his family in Italy.
We are immediately set upon with tension after Alfieri’s speech. When we are introduced to Eddie and Catherine. Catherine is showing off her new dress. Eddie does not like the dress as it is turning male heads at the docks. He does not like to see Catherine get so much so much attention from the men. He tells her she is walking “wavy” in a short dress on high heels. At this initial point in the play, their relationship seems open and sincere with no barriers but there is some uneasiness in the air. Catherine desperately craves Eddie’s approval (the text says she is almost in tears) and is clearly upset when he is criticising her.
Catherine is sexually maturing and entering “teenagehood”. Eddie is losing control and this is something that is important to him. Catherine is not totally under his control any more and as she is growing up, she is gaining more and more freedom. Tension between the two and for the audience due to the two characters occurs next when there is talk about the job that Catherine wants to take on. This will of course mean more freedom and attention from men meaning that Eddie will see her less and have an even less effect on her.
Beatrice and Catherine are noticeably nervous before telling Eddie about the job and his “touchy” nature is evident once again adding to the tension. It seems that Catherine is not yet a strong enough character to tell Eddie about her job alone and thus there is a need for Beatrice to help her. However Eddie responds by telling her that she should finish school. This is the act of a father who wants the best for his daughter. In actual fact, one of the compliments that he had paid earlier on was,
“You look like one of them girls that went to college.” As the play goes on Eddie’s control over Catherine becomes looser and looser as she is growing up. The problems she has with Eddie becomes greater as we progress – the little squabbles about her clothing, then her job, and finally her boyfriend and eventual husband. There first major fight is over Rodolpho. There is significant part in Act One when Eddie bluntly asks Catherine if she likes Rodolpho. She simply answers, “Yeah, I like him”. This contains a rejection for Eddie and is what perhaps sparks the argument between the uncle and his niece.
Usually fights are an outlet for tension and are a release of suspense and uncomfortable feeling that the audience has been feeling. However in this particular play, Miller chooses to sustain the tension. All the character’s problems are linked to each other because of Eddie. Therefore the fight between Eddie and Catherine also maximises the tension between himself and the other family members – Rodolpho, Beatrice and eventually Marco. The more tension there is the play the more tension the audience feels because we the audience when watching play tap into the feelings and emotions of the characters and that is entertainment.
The argument over Rodolpho is very significant. It symbolises Catherine taking a huge and brave step to break free of Eddie. She finally breaks free in the final act when she once again lets go of her emotions and says what she feels. She finally makes her message clear to Eddie when she says, “Who the hell do you think you are?…You got no more right to tell people nothin’!
We must ask ourselves what makes such a sweet and innocent girl be so defiant and rebellious? She feels that she is deeply in love with Rodolpho and this is definitely partly why she acts in such a way. She is also still relatively young and inexperience. She sees perhaps too much good in the world and this is evident in the text where Eddie is warning about her interaction with the men at the docks. The setting of the play is the late 1950s which was the beginning of “rock’n’roll” and the idea of the “teenager”. Youths at this time were beginning to want more freedom and rebel. They were starting to want to look cool in front of everyone.
Catherine is starting to sexually mature and at her rebellious age, we the audience and Eddie senses that this is a dangerous combination, especially when the problem includes Rodolpho who although grows up during the course of the play is still also young and prone to a lack of thought habitually. The relationship between these two characters gives the audience a lot of tension. Up to this point we have saw many of the faults of Eddie and his obsession with Catherine which is partly sexual. It is impossible to deny Eddie’s incestuous sexual desire for Catherine but during the play, does Catherine contribute to this.
Throughout the play Catherine is in physical contact with Eddie on numerous occasions and it is he who is touching Eddie. She touches his arm many times and he always smiles, any member of the audience sensing Eddie’s incestuous feelings for Catherine will feel tension at these moments or at least discomfort. In Act One she also lights his cigarette to which he also smiles. Eddie smiles a lot around Catherine at the start of the play. When Catherine comes home from the pictures, Miller writes, “he can’t help smiling at the sight of her” The director can make these smiles as obvious as he wants or he may actually choose to exclude a few to make things subtler.