Alfieri comes onstage and says Eddie was a good man in a hard life; now the cousins had come. He fades away and lights rise on the streets.
Tony escorts Marco and Rodolpho to Eddie’s house, telling them he will see them on the piers tomorrow. Rodolpho admires his cousin’s house. Eddie lets them in and Beatrice introduces everyone. Catherine prepares supper and coffee for them.
Catherine laughs that Rodolpho is so much lighter than his brother, and Rodolpho teases that the Danes invaded Sicily centuries back. Eddie asks if they had a nice trip and they talk about the work they’ll be doing on the piers.
Eddie asks Marco if he plans on staying in this country or if he’ll go back. Marco replies that he has a wife and three children and needs to make money to help them for a few years. Rodolpho asks how much money they might make here in America.
Eddie seems to be addressing Marco only now, and replies with a dollar amount. The brothers are elated; it seems like a lot of money to them. Marco is in tears and embraces Eddie. Catherine asks Rodolpho if he is married too. Rodolpho laughs that he is not—he has a nice face but no money. He says he wants to stay in America and go back to Italy when he is rich and buy a motorcycle. Marco smiles that only single people can have dreams like that.
Rodolpho continues to wax poetic about his motorcycle and how “a man who rides up on a great machine, this man is responsible, this man exists” (20). He remembers how it felt when he replaced a baritone singer at a hotel and made a lot of money that night; he and Marco lived for six months off of it.
Beatrice asks if he can get a job as a singer and Marco says his brother was too loud; the English only like that the first time because it shows courage, and then they want quiet singing. Catherine asks if he knows jazz, and Rodolpho replies that he loves it and can sing it all. He asks if she knows “Paper Doll” and she says she adores it. Rodolpho begins to sing the song.
Eddie tries to stop him but the women are transfixed. Eddie, uncomfortable, says neighbors might hear. His smile is iron. He tells Catherine not to wear high heels. She is disappointed and returns to the bedroom. Beatrice looks at him angrily as she cleans.
Catherine returns in low heels. She asks if Rodolpho likes sugar and pours some into his coffee. Eddie’s expression is angry.
The lights go down and rise on Alfieri. He tells the audience that Eddie was just living his life and never expected a destiny, but now here was a future, a trouble.
The lights return to Eddie. Beatrice looks at him and smiles but he looks away. He is upset that Catherine and Rodolpho are still at the movies. He wonders what happened to her plans for stenography. Beatrice tells him she will get back to it and she’s just excited right now. He asks if she knows anything and she says he ought not to be jealous; Rodolpho is a good kid. Eddie scoffs that Beatrice can’t want him to be Catherine’s husband. Beatrice replies that he works hard and is nice looking.
Eddie retorts that he sings and is weird, that the men at the piers call him “Paper Doll.” His hair is too crazy too. He does not think Rodolpho ought to be singing as he does, and cannot understand why Beatrice is not worried.
She responds that she has other worries and he asks what. She tells him she wants to know when she will be a wife again. He says he hasn’t been feeling good since the cousins came. She responds that he hasn’t been feeling good for months longer than that. She wonders if he likes her and he retorts that of course he does. She wonders what is wrong and he says he can’t talk about it.
He peers off into the distance for Catherine and says he is worried. Beatrice replies that Catherine is almost eighteen and that he can’t watch over her like this forever.
Annoyed, he walks outside. He sees Louis and Mike and they ask him to go bowling. He says he is too tired. They ask about the cousins—his “submarines”—and laugh about Rodolpho being funny. Their comments are sharp and amused; they say the boy makes everyone laugh. It’s the way he says things that tickles the men. They say goodbye to Eddie and leave.
Catherine and Rodolpho approach. She begins to talk of the picture they saw and Eddie cannot help but smile. Rodolpho excitedly talks about wanting to take her to Times Square. When he sees Eddie become a little piqued, he says he and Catherine only walk together in the streets. Catherine babbles on about how Rodolpho is surprised there are no fountains here, and Eddie listens to her but remains aloof towards Rodolpho. Finally Rodolpho says he will leave and take a walk before bed.
After he departs Catherine asks Eddie why he doesn’t talk to Rodolpho. He smiles sadly and says she is running away and growing up, meaning he does not know how to talk to her anymore. She remonstrates that she is not running away, and asks if Eddie does not like Rodolpho. He pauses and asks if she does. When she says she does he becomes angry and tells her Rodolpho does not respect her. He tells her that the man only wants to marry her for her citizenship—he is a “hit-and-run guy, Baby; he’s got bright lights in his head, Broadway” (29).
Catherine’s eyes grow wide and she tells her uncle Rodolpho has said nothing of the sort. She tells him to stop saying these things to her and that Rodolpho loves her. She rushes into the house, upset and crying.
The tensions are starting to mount in the household now that Rodolpho and Marco have arrived. Catherine clearly fancies Rodolpho, and the feelings are mutual; Eddie broods and seethes at this new development because he sees Catherine starting to slip from his grasp. Beatrice calls Eddie out on his lack of desire to sleep with her, but he refuses to acknowledge this as a problem, evasively blaming it on not feeling well.
The song “Paper Doll,” released in 1943 by the Mills Brothers, plays a prominent role in the text, and with good reason: it perfectly expresses the inappropriate feelings Eddie possesses for Catherine. The opening stanza is “I'm gonna buy a Paper Doll that I can call my own / A doll that other fellows cannot steal / And then the flirty, flirty guys with their flirty, flirty eyes / Will have to flirt with dollies that are real” and later lines include “I'll tell you boys, it's tough to be alone / And it's tough to love a doll that's not your own.” Eddie loves Catherine and she is certainly not his own; Rodolpho is the “flirty” guy who is “stealing” Catherine (see analysis 1). While Eddie obviously does not think the song is about him because he has not acknowledged his true feelings for his niece, there is something that strikes a chord with him, even if he is not sure why.
This section contains the first hints at Rodolpho’s sexuality. Eddie is convinced that the young man is homosexual, his evidence being his blonde hair, his singing ability, his cooking and sewing abilities, and how “funny” he is. The men at the docks start calling him “Paper Doll” and laugh about the way he talks. Eddie tells Beatrice that Rodolpho is “weird” and is not a suitable husband for Catherine; critic Arthur D. Epstein writes, “’Queer’, the more common pejorative for a homosexual, could easily have been used by Miller, but the selection of the word ‘weird’ subtilizes Eddie’s suggestion and is more appropriate to the texture of shadowy innuendo in which he is working.”
Eddie also believes that Rodolpho only wants to marry Catherine for citizenship, which would seem to dovetail with his theory that Rodolpho is homosexual. The tensions between Eddie’s observation, which may actually be true, and the impure uses to which he puts it, permeates the rest of the play and culminates in the astonishing kisses of Act II.
Epstein and other critics have noted that there seems to be some truth to Eddie’s observations; after all, Louis and Mike, impartial observers, have made the same insinuations about the boy. He notes that in the conversation with his friends, Eddie is placed in the same position as Beatrice was when he accused Rodolpho of being “weird”; he writes, “not only does this scene help to illuminate through comedy and juxtaposition the earlier scene and help to establish the discomfort of Eddie’s dilemma, but it lends credence to Eddie’s suspicions…Eddie Carbone, as Arthur Miller has carefully created him, is not isolated in his reactions to Rodolpho.”