Back to topThe second act opens with an episode which relies equally on the stage action, as the drunken Eddie kisses both Catherine (to show her how a "real man" kisses) and Rodolpho (partly to show Catherine thathe enjoys it, and that his failure to resist it is significant; partly, just to humiliate Rodolpho). The first kiss (which is near-incestuous) and the second (because a man kisses another) will repel the audience.In 1955, when the play was first performed, the double kiss would have been utterly shocking. Eddie has lost the audience's sympathy, and loses it yet further when he calls the immigration authorities. At the time, we see how the phone-booth gradually lights up, symbolizing the triumph of Eddie's desperation over his conscience.Back to topEarlier in the play, Eddie has told the story of Vinnie Bolzano, precisely to show us his belief in loyalty to family and community. There is also irony in Eddie's doing exactly the same thing of which he has spokenwith such horror. Eddie has warned Catherine that "you can quicker get back a million dollars that was stole than a word that you gave away". Now he find this to be true: his feigned horror on finding the Liparis have relatives sharing with Marco and Rodolpho, and his suggestion that they are being tracked, coming just before the immigration officers arrive, is a giveaway. Eddie tries to outface Marco, but the accusation is believed. Lipari and his wife, Louis and Mike, the stage representatives of the wider community, one by one leave Eddie alone, symbolizing his isolation. Back to topThe climax of the play is like the "showdown" at the end of a western. Marco is coming to punish Eddie; Eddie in return will demand his "name" back. Marco believes it is dishonourable to let Eddie live, but has given his word not to kill him. Eddie's pulling a knife means that Marco can see justice done, while keeping his word. Again the action is symbolic of the play's deeper meaning. Eddie literally dies by his own hand, which holds the knife, and is killed by his own weapon; but Eddie also metaphorically destroys himself, over the whole course of the play. And this is what Alfieri introduces to at the play's opening: the sight of a man destroying himself, while those around him are as powerless as a theatre audience to prevent it.Back to topWe have considered Eddie in terms of what he does and says, but we should also consider how we are meant, finally, to see him.
Alfieri's speeches generally explain Eddie's actions and Alfieri's own inability to save him. But his last speech tries to explain the mystery of Eddie's character. Most of us, says Alfieri, are "civilized", "American" rather than Sicilian. Most of us "settle for half", and this has to be a good thing. (He has earlier told us with relief of the passing of the gangster era, and that he no longer keeps a loaded gun in his filing cabinet). But although Eddie's death was "useless", yet "something perversely pure calls to [Alfieri] from his memory - not purely good, but himself purely, for he allowed himself to be wholly known". Most of us, says Alfieri, being more educated, more sophisticated, more in control, can either