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Eddie Carbone As A Tragic Hero

1540 words - 6 pages

Eddie Carbone as a Tragic Hero

Before I decide on whether Eddie Carbone is a tragic hero, we must
define what the word 'tragic' and 'hero' actually mean.

'Tragic'- A tragedy is a type of drama. A tragedy traces the fall of
the central figure, the 'hero', as he grapples with his destiny.
Historically, tragedy started in Ancient Greece. Greek tragedies
usually formed on a very important and powerful figure (a king or a
prince perhaps) who makes an error or judgement or who has a hamartia
(fatal flaw) that leads to his tragic downfall.

In the context of a tragedy, the word 'hero' means the central
character or protagonist (the hero) whom we admire or respect in some
way, but who is flawed or imperfect and where his flawed character
contributes to his own downfall. A hero is consequently not a perfect
character, not even necessarily a pleasant one. His plight illustrates
the cruelty of the world, and how one man faces up to his fate.

It is important that a tragic hero acquires some self-knowledge, that
he faces up to his own predicament, with honesty and openness.

Now, in order to find out to what extent Eddie is a tragic hero, we
must ask ourselves the following questions: a) do we admire or respect
him, b) what is his fatal flaw, c) do we have any sympathy with Eddie,
d) is Eddie just pitiable, beneath our contempt, and e) does Eddie
ever gain self-knowledge? Does he ever gain any insight into his own
character?

Lets start with the first question. Do we admire or respect Eddie? In
some respects the answer is yes, and in others no. Yes we do because
he has decided to take on the task of bringing up his niece, for
whatever reason (as we never find out the fate of Catherine's
parents), which is still a big responsibility, and not exactly a cheap
one either. The money issue is a very well addressed issue in the play
and is portrayed well, as when the play is set (post World War II),
money was very tight, and adopting a child without government benefits
(family or not) is very admirable and respectable. Another respectable
and admirable thing he has done is accepting two 'submarines' (illegal
immigrants effectively) and if he is caught with them he will be
fined. Again pops up the money issue where he is putting his money at
risk for two people he has never met, and that the only reason he is
taking them in is because they are distant relatives of his wife. This
shows that at the beginning of the play he is, or seems to be a fairly
decent guy. But, on the other hand, as the play progresses, you
gradually lose all respect for him. From the very fair and decent guy
he is at the beginning of the play, he turns into a bitter, resentful
man. He goes from having a gentle fatherly like possessiveness towards
Catherine to a highly jealous possessiveness towards Catherine for
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