As tragic protagonist, Eddie’s fatal flaws (Hamartia) are stubborn resistance to change and possessive control over Catherine. When he says: “You (Catherine) can’t take no job …” the job is change he resists and the fact he decides whether Catherine takes a job shows possessive control. Arthur Miller confirms Eddie’s characterisation, by using Beatrice as the moral voice of truth. Miller confirms Eddie’s flaws when Beatrice questions Eddie’s control over Catherine: “You gonna’ keep her in the house her whole life?” This rhetorical question also challenges his resistance to change – supporting my previous points.
Possessiveness causes Eddie’s complaint: “He(Rodolfo)’s stealing from me…”, showing Eddie thinks Catherine is his possession. Stubbornness causes Eddie’s return to Alfieri, who says: “A river will drown you if you buck it …” The metaphor in this prophetic warning means resistance to change is fatal. This evidence that possessiveness and resistance to change killed him is supported by the dramatic irony that he was killed by his own knife; suggesting part of him (these fatal flaws) caused his death. Possessive control over Catherine makes Eddie appear like an over-protective father, as Beatrice notices: “… Be an uncle then.” This is supported when Eddie says: “I don’t like the looks they’re giving you (Catherine) …”
Eddie’s rocker is a dramatic device, symbolising his control, respect and authority: ‘she (Catherine) sits on her heels beside him’ shows Eddie’s dominance, control and authority when in his rocker. Before hitting Rodolfo, Eddie leaves his rocker: ‘He suddenly gets up…’ because Eddie’s rocker symbolises control, leaving it represents loss of control over his actions, making him hit Rodolfo. Then Beatrice returns him to his comfort zone (rocker), letting him regain control: ‘(Beatrice) pulling Eddie down into the rocker’. ‘Down’ represents Eddie’s descent – caused by hitting Rodolfo – from control, respect and authority, to Catherine calling him: “rat”, which “belongs in the sewer!” ‘Rat’ refers to betrayal, because rats leak information.
Sewer rats spread disease, showing Eddie has stopped Marco saving his children from disease. When Marco challenges Eddie: “Can you lift this chair?”, Eddie’s failure loses him respect, control and authority. When Marco has ‘the chair raised like a weapon over Eddie’s head – and he transforms what might look like a glare of warning into a smile of triumph, and Eddie’s grin vanishes’, ‘glare of warning’ and the simile ‘like a weapon’ emphasise the threat to Eddie’s control, replacing Eddie’s rocker (control and authority) with the chair Marco lifts, granting Marco control and authority.
The importance to Eddie of control and others’ obedience are introduced when he asks: “Why didn’t you (Catherine) ask me before you take a job?” This is supported by repeated use of ‘I’ when discussing Catherine’s job: “… ain’t what I wanted … ain’t what I had in mind …” showing possessive control over Catherine’s life. He also demands Beatrice’s obedience; before the wedding, Eddie commands Beatrice to stay, saying: “I want my respect.”
Thus, ‘respect’ describes control and obedience. Miller introduces Eddie as wanting control over – and obedience from – Beatrice and Catherine. Eddie progressively loses control over Catherine; first she gets a job, then dates Rodolfo – both against his wishes. This disobedience affects Eddie terribly; both times he goes to Alfieri, “his (Eddie’s) eyes were like tunnels.” Repetition of this simile emphasises the torment caused by his reason for going – loss of control over Catherine – stressing the importance of control and obedience.
Although stage directions introduce Eddie as ‘a husky, slightly overweight longshoreman’ – introducing him as a tough, physical family longshoreman – as the play progresses, Miller introduces Eddie’s emotional nature. When discussing Catherine leaving, ‘it almost seems that tears will form in his eyes’; Beatrice, being female and more closely related to Catherine, should be more emotional, but shows no sadness.
When talking to Rodolfo about why he should move away from the waterfront, Eddie ‘has bent the rolled paper and suddenly tears it in two’; this dramatic device shows how insignificant issues anger Eddie. This dramatic device and Alfieri’s epilogue: “He allowed himself to be wholly known” show Eddie readily shares emotion, this causes some, including Beatrice, to understand his emotions better than he does. In fact, he knows so little about his emotions and what he wants, that he betrays the Immigrants, then tries to protect them: “Go, go. Hurry up!”
Miller introduces Eddie, by drawing parallels between Eddie and others. First, there is Vinny Bolzano, who also snitched to the immigration bureau. Beatrice tells of Vinny’s rejection from the neighbourhood and his family: “… they spit on him in the street, his own father and his brothers. The whole neighbourhood was cryin’.” Similarly, Eddie is rejected by his family: “He belongs in the sewer” and ‘Beatrice … turns her head away’ and the neighbourhood: ‘Lipari … turns and starts up left …’ and ‘Louis … walks off and exits down the right with Mike’. Eddie also predicts his fate, when discussing Vinny: “… a guy do a thing like that?
How’s he gonna’ show his face?” This rhetorical question also introduces Eddie’s strong moral code, which Marco shares: “All the law is not in a book.” So Miller introduces Eddie as Marco’s parallel: Both are strong family men, with strong morals. Eddie’s strong morals are reinforced when Alfieri says: “They entered illegally” and Eddie responds: “I wouldn’t do nothin’ about that,” when challenged, Eddie’s morals are undiminished. When challenged again, however, Eddie’s morals collapse, separating him from Marco: ‘A phone booth begins to glow’. The booth, as his means of betrayal, is a dramatic device, symbolising Eddie’s fatal idea – ideas are often symbolised by lights.
Since Marco’s characteristics are unchanging and initially similar to Eddie’s, Miller shows Eddie’s transformation, through the contrast between their personalities by the end. Thus, Miller introduces Eddie’s collapse of morals. Another area of contrast, which becomes increasingly evident, is the readiness with which they speak and express emotion. Marco is quiet and conceals emotion: “Marco don’t say much.” Eddie, however, is talkative and openly shows emotion: “He allowed himself to be wholly known”. This supports my earlier point, that Eddie readily shares emotion.
Miller introduces Eddie, through dialogue, stage directions, dramatic irony and dramatic devices, as a character whose fatal flaws are stubborn resistance to change, and possessive control over Catherine. Miller introduces Eddie as a character, who is, on the surface, a stereotypically strong family longshoreman; as the play progresses, however, Miller reveals Eddie’s emotional nature. Miller also introduces Eddie as a character to whom authority, control, dominance and obedience are essential.