‘Eddie is solely responsible for his own downfall.’ To what extent do you agree with this statement?
It could be argued that Eddie is solely responsible for his downfall. Firstly, his pseudo-incestuous desire for Catherine and the fact that he is over protective of her plays a significant part in contributing to his untimely death. The fact that the audience, like Alfieri, are aware that “there is too much love for the niece” and that Eddie treats Catherine like a baby so that she won’t grow up and leave him enables us to see how his over-protectiveness is ultimately pushing her closer and closer to Rodolpho and thus provoking the confrontation that will lead to his death at the end of the play. As a result we understand in a way that Eddie does not that it is his own actions, not Rodolpho’s, that are driving Catherine away from him and as such we can see him as playing a key role in his own downfall. This awareness on the part of the audience is reinforced by moments where Beatrice, for example, points out that “if a prince came, it would be no different” which emphasizes the idea that Eddie is being unreasonable in his expectations of what an acceptable suitor for Catherine would be like.
In addition, Eddie’s behaviour towards Rodolpho plays a key role in contributing to his downfall. Eddie constantly undermines Rodolpho by implicitly accusing him of being homosexual when he calls him “a weird” or says that he sings “with motions.” He ridicules Rodolpho’s high voice saying “you wouldn’t be looking for a him, you’d be looking for a her,” and also the fact that he can “cook, sing and make dresses.” These actions, and indirect insults culminating in Eddie’s final and desperate attempt to prove Rodolpho’s homosexuality by kissing him helps to undermine any sympathy we may feel towards Eddie. For the most part Rodolpho has been presented by a Miller as a relatively endearing young man who is excited by the prospect of entering his first house in America and sincerely in love with Catherine and as such Eddie’s outrageous mistreatment of a character with whom we sympathise helps to accentuate the feeling that Eddie is in a large part responsible for his own fate.
Most obviously however, the main event which suggests that Eddie is responsible for his own downfall is that fact that he telephoned the Immigration Bureau and ‘snitched’ on Marco and Rodolpho as illegal immigrants, even though Alfieri told him to “put it out of [his] mind” and warned him that “even those who understand you will turn against you, even those who feel the same will despise you.” Eddie’s betrayal of his family, despite his first hand knowledge of what happened to Vinny Bolzano and the warnings from Alfieri that “[he] wouldn’t have a friend in the world” suggests that Eddie is in a large part responsible for his death at the end of the play.
Nonetheless, while it is clear that Eddie did play a part in creating the circumstances that led to his eventual death, it could also be argued that Eddie was not solely responsible for this downfall. Arthur Miller modeled this play on the tragedies of Ancient Greece and as such, almost from the moment that the curtain opens, there is a sense that the hero’s downfall is inevitable. This sense of inevitability is mainly created through Miller’s use of Alfieri as an omniscient narrator who acts as a chorus in the play who knows exactly what will happen. Indeed when Alfieri begins his speech by saying that “this one’s name was Eddie Carbone” the past tense verb not only foreshadows Eddie’s death but also creates the impression that the story had already happened and the events were inevitable. This theme is further emphasized when Alfieri states that “I wanted to spread an alarm, but nothing had happened” and “I could have finished the story that afternoon”. These two quotations accentuate how it seems as though Eddie’s downfall was inevitable and the line “Eddie Carbone had never expected to have a destiny” further highlights this as the word “destiny” signifies that his life path had been chosen for him and he had no control over it. As such, if he was doomed by destiny to act in the way that he did, it seems unfair to condemn Eddie as being solely responsible for his own downfall as the Fates which conspired against him seem to have played at least as big a role as he did.
In addition, Miller raises further questions over Eddie’s guilt by leaving many of the scenes in the play ambiguous. For example, when Eddie accuses Rodolpho of “bowin’ to his passport” the initial reaction of most of the audience might be that Eddie is simply trying to invent ulterior motives for Rodolpho to make him seem sinister to Catherine. On this reading of the scene it is Eddie’s paranoia and unrecognized love for Catherine that leads him towards his own death. However, Miller never clarifies whether or not Rodolpho actually is homosexual and also raises questions about how exactly Rodlpho feels about Catherine, for example when he refuses to marry her if it meant living together in Italy rather than America. Seen from a contrary perspective Eddie’s suspicions could be deemed as justified and, if Eddie is right in the end and he is only protecting Catherine from a potential threat, then it would seem that the manipulative Rodolpho is the character ultimately responsible for Eddie’s downfall as he drives a wedge between Catherine and Eddie simply in order to secure his residency in the USA. Similarly, Eddie’s arguments that Rodolpho is “stealing from [him]” and that Rodolpho’s purchases of records, jackets and shows show that “he ain’t worried [about being deported], this guy is here,” are partially convincing and create further uncertainty as to whether Eddie or Rodolpho are more fully to blame for the tragedy at the end of the play.