There is too little to admire in Eddie Carbone for him to be seen as a tragic hero. Discuss this view.

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Joe Stanford

‘There is too little to admire in Eddie Carbone for him to be seen as a tragic hero’. Discuss this view.

         In his essay Tragedy and the Common Man, Arthur Miller writes of how ‘the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were’, and uses the protagonist, Eddie Carbone, an as illustration of the ‘common man’. Miller has a unique perspective on tragedy, and tries to reinvent its conventions by attributing the Aristotelian characteristics of a tragic hero to the simple longshoreman Eddie Carbone, who contrasts against the ‘kings’ that are King Lear or Othello.  Eddie is human, and although he may be subject to an array of flaws, we appreciate in him the ‘heart and spirit of the average man’.

        It is important that Eddie is introduced as a warm, caring character so the audience’s admiration can be tested throughout the course of the play, and also to illustrate that Eddie was once happy and has suffered. Eddie is presented as a devoted family man, which is evident from Catherine’s presence. Catherine is Beatrice’s niece and has no blood relation to Eddie, yet Eddie still states he is ‘responsible’ for her because he ‘promised [Catherine’s] mother on her deathbed’. This demonstrates that Eddie believes in the idea of family, rather than the idea of just helping biological family. Eddie is devoted also in the sense that he has always supported his family and always will; he states ‘I supported [them] this long I support [them] a little more’. Eddie’s devotion is a fundamental aspect of the Italian honour code, which shows Eddie to be a man of family honour and loyalty. Miller establishes Eddie to be a strong upholder of these values early on in the play through Eddie’s telling of Vinny Bolzano’s family betrayal to Catherine; asserting the moral that ‘you can quicker get back a million dollars that was stole than a word that you gave away’. In short,  Miller presents Eddie’s admirable characteristics during the opening scene to ensure that the audience recognise that Eddie can be admirable, even if he does not always uphold his principles.

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        One of Aristotle’s chief ideas was that a tragic hero possesses a hamartia, which Miller uses to ensure Eddie’s status as a tragic hero. Alfieri states in his final monologue that ‘it is better to settle for half, it must be!’; this shows the audience that it is Eddie’s inability to compromise (his hamartia) which results in his death. Eddie exacerbates situations through his stubborn nature, which sometimes makes it sometimes difficult for an audience to admire him. For example, he has antipathy for Rodolpho and refuses to accept Rodolpho’s relationship with Catherine. Even with the words of a close ...

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