When Beatrice sees how upset Catherine is and how affected Eddie is, she becomes angry. She tells him to leave Catherine alone because he is driving her crazy. Eddie looks sheepishly at his wife and goes back outside.
Beatrice turns to Catherine and asks her what is going on; she explains that Eddie is not Catherine’s father and if she wants to marry Rodolpho she can. Catherine is a bit confused and Beatrice sits her down. She explains that she needs to be her own self, that she is not a little girl, that she can stand up for herself in front of Eddie. Also, she should be aware of herself more; she should not wear her slip in front of Eddie or sit on the edge of the bathtub while he shaves in his underwear.
Beatrice’s manner is calm as she tells Catherine not to act like a baby or she’ll be treated like one. She encourages her niece to get out of the house and be independent; that is why she wanted her to work. Catherine seems to understand and Beatrice tells her she needs her to do this because Beatrice’s words alone do not do much for Eddie. Eddie would be inclined to think she was jealous.
This surprises Catherine and she says she’d never thought of that before. Beatrice smiles sadly and says she is not jealous but Catherine just has to say goodbye because it is time. Catherine looks struck, as if a “familiar world had shattered” (33).
Alfieri steps onstage to speak. He says this is the time when Eddie first came to him, and that he saw a passion in the man’s body.
Alfieri turns to Eddie and tells him there is nothing illegal about a girl falling in love with an immigrant. He tries to explain to him that Eddie’s guessing is not sufficient but Eddie is stubborn, persisting in his claim that Rodolpho just wants his papers.
Finally Eddie pauses and says the guy isn’t right. Alfieri asks what he means and Eddie replies in halting words that Rodolpho’s hair is platinum and that a gust of wind could blow him over. Alfieri remains skeptical. Eddie says Rodolpho sings in high notes but is not a tenor. Alfieri tries to cut him off but he continues, saying Rodolpho looks too sweet, he worked on a dress, and all the men are laughing at him down at the piers.
Alfieri sighs and knows that Eddie is trying to insinuate Rodolpho is a homosexual, but that he has no recourse in the law to try and stop Catherine from marrying a man she chooses. The only legal question is how the men entered the country, but Eddie says that he would never say anything about that.
Alfieri looks at Eddie seriously, telling him that sometimes a man starts to love someone he shouldn’t, perhaps like a daughter or niece. Eddie scoffs that he needs to look out for her own good but Alfieri replies that children will grow up and go away and a man must forget. He tells Eddie his advice is to let her go; the law cannot do anything.
Eddie stands, frustrated. He thanks Alfieri and looks confused. He calls himself a patsy and wonders aloud what he should do. He starts to ruminate angrily on how he worked hard in his life but now there’s a young punk in his house whom he is feeding and sheltering, and who repays him by putting his hands on his niece like a thief. Alfieri stands up as well and tells Eddie Catherine is a woman now. Eddie protests that Rodolpho is stealing from him. Alfieri sighs and says Catherine wants to get married, and she cannot marry him. Eddie glowers and replies hotly that he knows that.
The men are quiet. Alfieri says he gave him his advice and he needs to put it out of his mind. Sobs rise in Eddie’s throat and he departs.
Alfieri addresses the audience, saying he knew right then how this story would end but does not know why he, an intelligent man, did not intervene to stop it. He had even gone to an old woman in the neighborhood and told her the story, and all she said was to pray for Eddie.
The lights rise on Beatrice and Catherine clearing the table. Eddie is reading the paper and Marco and Rodolpho are sitting in the living room as well. The conversation centers on the fishing that the cousins did back in Italy. Eddie gets annoyed with Rodolpho, and Beatrice diverts the subject to Marco sending money back to his family. Marco smiles that his wife is getting the money but he is lonesome. Beatrice asks if she is pretty and he laughs and says no but that she understands everything. Eddie crassly jokes that maybe there will be extra kids when he returns, but Marco says that the women wait and Rodolpho adds that it is very strict there.
Eddie looks at him and starts to pace the room. He says it is strict here too and men can’t just drag women off without permission. Sometimes men get the wrong idea, he implies, but Rodolpho quietly says he respects Catherine and has done nothing wrong. Eddie states that he knows he is not her father, just her uncle, to which Beatrice retorts forcefully that he needs to be an uncle then.
Marco seems a little confused and asks what his brother has done wrong. Eddie mentions the late picture shows. Marco tells his brother to come home early, and Rodolpho says in an embarrassed fashion that he can’t stay in the house all the time. Eddie starts to go on about the dangers Catherine is being put into.
Eddie asks Marco if they came to provide for their family and Marco assents. Eddie sits down in his rocker, satisfied for a moment.
Catherine stands up and boldly asks Rodolpho if he wants to dance to “Paper Doll.” He seems wary of Eddie but Beatrice insists he accept. Eddie watches them dance. Beatrice tries to alleviate the tension by asking Marco about all the countries he has seen on the fishing boats. He talks about the places they’ve seen and how Rodolpho used to cook on the boats.
When Eddie hears this he interrupts and marvels at how Rodolpho cooks and sings and sews dresses. He continues, saying if Rodolpho had those skills—which he does not, he asserts—he should be working in a dress store, not on the piers with men like him. Rodolpho turns on the phonograph.
Eddie stands and asks Marco if he’d like to go to the fights. He asks Rodolpho too, who accepts, his face registering surprise. Catherine is nervously happy and pours coffee. Eddie asks Marco if he’s seen real fighting or done any boxing. Marco has not, so Eddie turns to Rodolpho and asks if he can show him a few passes. Rodolpho stands before Eddie and Eddie tells him how to put his hands up and how to block. Rodolpho is nervous and says he does not want to hit him. Eddie laughs and retorts that he should not be afraid or pity him; he ought to jab. Rodolpho does, gently. Beatrice smiles and tells Marco his brother is good at it.
Discussion about the play often emphasizes how immoral and inappropriate Eddie’s incestuous passion for his niece is. But it is important to note that Catherine herself seems to be at least somewhat aware of what she is doing. Beatrice warns her to stop walking around in her slip and to stop talking to Eddie while he is sitting and shaving in his underwear. These scenes are discomfiting; prior to Beatrice saying this, most sympathy rested with Catherine—after all, why shouldn't she wear high heels, go to the movies, or wave at a male friend? Now, though, the revelations about Catherine’s a-little-too-Lolita behavior throw more light on why Eddie might think there is more to their relationship than there actually is.
What is becoming even clearer is how psychologically complex the play is; there are multiple layers of repression, desire, and self-denial. Two literary scholars, Albert Rothenberg and Eugene D. Shapiro, looked briefly at the text, noting, “the major defenses are projection, rationalization, and repression. Projection, in fact, may be characteristically associated with psychological tragedy because people who project and blame others for their own failings almost invariably come to grief.” They observe that Catherine “characteristically uses repression, never becoming aware of the way she is subtly seductive to Eddie. Both Eddie and Katherine’s [sic] defensive patterns remain basically the same throughout the play, and they complement and intensify each other. Neither person achieves any insight nor is there any breakdown or shifting of defenses.”
This depressing inevitability is what Alfieri notes in his speech after he meets with a distraught and emotionally contorted Eddie. He feels powerless to do anything about what he can clearly see happening, which is a crucial component of Greek tragedy. Eddie’s tragic flaw will doom him and no one else can intercede. The law cannot help; the community cannot help. In the meeting with Alfieri Eddie attempts to use Rodolpho’s homosexuality as a benign and rational explanation for his antipathy toward the relationship. After all, if Rodolpho is homosexual then his courtship of Catherine is a lie, intended to procure his citizenship. Critic Arthur Epstein writes, “The zeal with which he takes up his hostility to Rodolpho externalizes the intensity of his own passion for Catherine, and obviates any necessity for self-examination which might expose this underlying passion—an exposure Eddie is unable to face.”
Many critics have looked at the similarities between Eddie and John Proctor from Miller’s Crucible, noting that both men seem to lose their sense of self due to their improper desires. Both seem to hurdle toward a fate that they cannot control; both are likely to make the same mistakes again if given the chance to start over. However, the main difference is that John Proctor does indeed find himself and redeem himself; he dies owning his name and his choices, whereas Eddie will die with his name eluding him and his true self straining to emerge.