This scene is the last scene before the arrival of the cousins and Miller demonstrates its significance by building up the dramatic irony of the story, foreshadowing what is yet to come in the play. This scene is also significant as it is the last time that Eddie is truly in control of everyone onstage. Eddie Catherine and Beatrice are the only characters onstage and have been since the start of the play. This symbolises the family’s life in the past, before the cousins arrived.
Catherine starts by asking a seemingly innocent question, however Eddie takes this the wrong way, assuming Catherine may have already said something. Eddie demonstrates his dominance over her by simply looking at her, and making her feel guilty for something she hasn’t done. The stage direction ‘defensively’ suggests Catherine is defending herself from an attack by Eddie, even though all he has done is look at her.
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Throughout the scene Eddie talks down to Beatrice but even more so to Catherine. He uses patronising vocatives such as “kid” to try and belittle Catherine, and make himself more superior. In his line “Baby, I can see we’re getting mixed up again”, Eddie demeans Catherine by calling her “kid” but also uses “we” in a patronising way, similar to how a parent might talk to a small child. Catherine tries to respond but Eddie refuses to hear her out and starts issuing commands to bother Catherine, and now Beatrice as well, “you don’t see nothing”. Eddie further exerts his power in his next speech, where he tells Beatrice how she is thinking and feeling, “you don’t understand”, and then ordering her again on how to act.
Eddie succeeds in dominating the entire conversation, cutting off first Beatrice then Catherine to repeatedly get his point across. He refuses to hear them out, and just restates his earlier point but pauses between each word for dramatic emphasis, “you – don’t – know – nothing”. This grammatically incorrect sentence structure also demonstrates Eddie’s inarticulateness, which becomes more significant later in the play. Eddie tries to prove his point to Catherine by telling her the story of Vinny Bolzano. He starts by ordering Beatrice, “go ahead, tell her”, but then proceeds to tell the story himself anyway, maybe because he thinks that Beatrice is inferior to him, or because he thinks she won’t tell it correctly.
The key significance of the story is that it foreshadows later in the play where Eddie himself snitched on his own family, and is universally hated by everyone, just like Vinny in the story. While the audience doesn’t realise its significance while watching it the first time round, it is extremely prominent when returning to the play after knowing what is going to happen later in the play. What makes this story so ironic is that it is Eddie who tells the story, and Eddie who is trying to make a point, only to commit the same crime as Vinny, later in the play. Eddie even rises at the end to make his point even more significant.