This is apparent in the conversation about lemons and oranges. The stage directions say about Beatrice- (sitting, diverting their attention) and this is exactly what she does. She promptly asks Marco about his wife, breaking up what could have become a darker, more sinister argument. Rodolpho’s singing also creates friction. The song choice of ‘Paper Dolls’ makes it obvious to the audience that there is a problem between Catherine and Eddie. The lyrics are highly relevant and a deliberate choice by Miller. Up until this point, the audience could have happily placed Eddie as an overbearing paternalistic figure, but now the boundaries have been moved and Eddie’s true motives are implied.
Again the lyrical content within the line, ‘those flirty, flirty guys, with their flirty, flirty eyes,’ also highlights how Eddie perceives the way other men, and in particular Rodolpho, view Catherine. The singing also unsettles the audience, as it is a change in pace. Dialogue has been swapped for song, causing the audience to sit up and follow with gathering unease. Rodolpho’s presence aside from the singing, also threatens Eddie, because it is as though Rodolpho is trying to muscle in on ‘Eddie’s’ community.
Since Eddie likes to think of himself as the dominant member of the family and assumes head roles when confrontations and difficulties arise, it is natural for him to ‘test’ and subtly challenge this outside force which is trying to make itself part of the recognised community. In the extract when Rodolpho sings, we see Eddie intentionally create an uncomfortable or ‘charged’ atmosphere by telling Rodolpho to stop in case they get ‘picked up’, when really it is Eddie himself who is uncomfortable with this person, that he considers to be deviating from his own categorised ideas of how men should behave. Marco on the other hand, seems of little threat to Eddie in Act 1, and treats Eddie with the respect Eddie believes he is owed.
When Marco says for example, ‘I want to tell you now Eddie when you say we go, we go,’ we can see the effort Marco is making to maintain trust and respect between the two parties. He is letting Eddie feel in control of the situation, and is attempting to oblige Eddie. This however, is of course, not the case, as we know by the end of the play. Marco also seems older, as we gather from his formal behaviour and stiffness. Eddie feels no threat from Marco and so focuses his attentions on Rodolpho.
Eddie wants to prove to Rodolpho in particular, that he is the man of the house and that the women are beneath him. We get a sense of this when Eddie sits in his rocker while Catherine fetches the coffee. This is an important connotation of the way Eddie views himself in the family unit. He sits like a king on his throne, surveying his territory, and considers his role to above the station of helping with classically stereotyped women’s work. This also shows how Eddie wants to be viewed by visitors to his house. He is showing off, displaying how well ‘his’ women treat him, and trying to make Rodolph and Marco jealous or to show that he is above them in status. This reveals to the audience a little of Eddie’s true persona.
More of Eddie’s true opinions and views are revealed, during his interview with Alfieri, when several differences in their respective viewpoints are explored. The most obvious conflict between their views is their notion of justice. While Eddie believes in physical justice, and the Sicilian way of settling disputes, Alfieri believes in American justice, settled amicably and without violence. He would rather ‘settle for half.’
Tension is built up in the subtext of the interview as the audience are held in suspense, waiting to hear what Alfirieri’s thoughts on Eddie’s situation are, but we are kept waiting while he tries to phrase his thoughts more delicately-‘sometimes there is too much love for the daughter or niece’- creating a gradual build up as Eddie won’t listen, and ends in an anti-climax when Alfieri says,’ well she (Catherine) can’t marry you can she?’
The tension reaches its peak here, as Eddie has been ‘unmasked’ and the audience recoil in horror at this exposition of his fatal flaw. Eddie’s motives have been laid naked for all to see, making the audience feel pity for a man who has fallen so low. There is also physical confrontation between them, shown in the stage directions when both characters stand up. This use of body language reflects their conflict in views, and adds to the dramatic tension felt by the audience.
We pick up on yet more of Eddie’s beliefs when he tells Catherine the story of Vinny Bolzano. To an outsider it would seem that the boy was brutally punished and ashamed, but to Eddie and his community, this was justice. There is an irony to this as later Eddie acts out the same actions of which he has spoken with such horror. Eddie has already warned Catherine that; “you can quicker get back a million dollars that was stole than a word that you gave away”. Now he finds this to be true: when he later phones the Immigration Bureau, he discovers it is too late to undo his ‘crime’.
Grammatically the tension builds too. Eddie’s use of long sentences followed by short, shows that he is desperate. His last cry for help as it were, leads to him not finishing his sentences, showing he is desperate to get his feelings out, but has lost control. At the end of Act 1, the events signify the tragic course of events beginning to unfold.
Eddie challenges Rodolpho’s masculinity when he ‘teaches’ him to box. Eddie feels insecure because Catherine chose Rodolpho over Eddie, and tries to restore his dominant role within the group. Marco’s character changes for the worse, and shocks the audience when he breaks the reserved mould he set before. Having said this we don’t know much about Marco’s character before he arrives in Act 1. But when Marco challenges Eddie using the chair, this subtle challenge and suppressed violence pre-empts the end of Act 2.