Planning your response

The question

Higher tier

Read the extract then answer the following question. How does Arthur Miller create mood and atmosphere for an audience here? Refer closely to the extract in your answer.

Foundation tier

Read the extract then answer the following question. How do you think the audience would respond to this part of the play? Give reasons for what you say, and remember to support your answer with words and phrases from the extract.

Make sure that you only refer to the extract, and look for evidence to support your points about mood and atmosphere, which would affect the audience’s enjoyment of the play.

Read the extract again and look in particular at the highlighted points. How do they allow Miller to create mood and atmosphere for the audience?

The extract

Rodolpho
(1) [astonished] You want to be an Italian?
Catherine
No. But I could live there without being an Italian. Americans live there.
Rodolpho
Forever?
Catherine
Yeah.
Rodolpho
(2) [crosses to rocker.] You’re fooling.
Catherine
No, I mean it.
Rodolpho
Where do you get such an idea?
Catherine
Well, you’re always saying it’s so beautiful there, with the mountains and the ocean and all the –
Rodolpho
You’re fooling me.
Catherine
I mean it.
Rodolpho
[goes to her slowly.] Catherine, if I ever brought you home with no money, no business, nothing, they would call the priest and the doctor and they would say Rodolpho is crazy.
Catherine
I know, but I think we would be happier there.
Rodolpho
Happier! What would you eat? You can’t cook the view!
Catherine
Maybe you could be a singer, like in Rome or _
Rodolpho
Rome! Rome is full of singers.
Catherine
Well, I could work then.
Rodolpho
Where?
Catherine
(3) God, there must be jobs somewhere!
Rodolpho
(4) There’s nothing! Nothing, nothing, nothing. Now tell me what you’re talking about. How can I bring you from a country to suffer in a poor country? What are you talking about? [She searches for words.] I would be a criminal stealing your face. In two years you would have an old, hungry face. When my brother’s babies cry they give them water, water that boiled a bone. Don’t you believe that?
Catherine
[quietly] (5) I’m afraid of Eddie here.
Slight pause.
Rodolpho
[steps closer to her.] We wouldn’t live here. Once I am a citizen I could work anywhere and I would find better jobs and we would have a house, Catherine. If were not afraid to be arrested I would start to be something wonderful here!
Catherine
(6) [steeling herself.] Tell me something. I mean just tell me, Rodolpho – would you still want to do it if it turned out. We had to go live in Italy? I mean just if it turned out that way.
Rodolpho
(7) This is your question or his question?
Catherine
I would like to know, Rodolpho. I mean it.
Rodolpho
To go there with nothing.
Catherine
Yeah.
Rodolpho
No. [She looks at him wide-eyed]. No.
Catherine
You wouldn’t?
Rodolpho
No; I will not marry you to live in Italy. I want you to be my wife, and I also want to be a citizen. Tell him that or I will. Yes. (8) [He moves about angrily.] And tell him also, and tell yourself, please, that I am not a beggar, and you are not a horse, a gift, a favour for a poor immigrant.
Catherine
Well, don’t get mad!
Rodolpho
I am furious! [Goes to her.] Do you think I am so desperate? My brother is desperate, not me. You think I would carry on my back the rest of my life a woman I didn’t love just to be an American? It’s so wonderful? You think we have no tall buildings in Italy? Electric lights? No wide streets? No flags? No automobiles? Only work we don’t have. I want to be an American so I can work, that is the only wonder here – work! (9) How can you insult me, Catherine?
Catherine
I didn’t mean that –
Rodolpho
My heart dies to look at you. Why are you so afraid of him?
Catherine
(10) [near tears.] I don’t know!
  1. The word [astonished] creates a mood of surprise at once, as we see that Rodolpho has never considered returning to Italy. He thinks that Catherine shares his dream of being successful in America.
  2. When Rodolpho [crosses to [the] rocker], the audience can see that he is being masterful – this is the chair which Eddie always uses, but here Rodolpho is letting Catherine, and the audience, know that he will no longer defer to Eddie. This creates some tension, as the audience will wonder whether Eddie might arrive soon and be angered.
  3. When Catherine says God, there must be jobs somewhere! it is ironic because the audience knows that Rodolpho has come all the way to America precisely because there are no jobs in Italy. This furthers the tension but also injects some dark humour because Catherine’s naivety is shown. The use of humour at this point is effective because it highlights the impossible situation which faces the immigrants – the fact that they have to enter America illegally and leave their families behind. There is no easy answer to the problem and Catherine has discovered this for herself.
  4. The repetition of such a negative word - There’s nothing! Nothing, nothing, nothing – is extremely effective here because the audience is able to see Rodolpho’s exasperation with Catherine, and through her, all the people who have never experienced grinding poverty. The way that the actor may choose to raise his voice to make his point creates tension in the theatre, and leaves the audience feeling uncomfortable.
  5. The audience would be moved by Catherine’s admission that she is afraid of Eddie. The only solution she can think of is to go far away across the sea to Italy, which seems rather extreme. The words also create an atmosphere of fear, as though Eddie is a terrifying being who must be escaped.
  6. As the stage directions say that Catherine is [steeling herself.], the audience can see that she is building up to being brave enough to say something that Rodolpho will not like. She then asks if he would still be prepared to marry her if they had to live in Italy. The audience would be able to feel the tension that this has created, since Catherine is desperate to leave but Rodolpho is determined to stay.
  7. The audience knows that Rodolpho is feeling angry at this stage, and when he rudely asks Catherine - This is your question or his question? – it is evident that he is fed up with the way that she seems almost brainwashed by Eddie. There is tension, because throughout the extract the audience have witnessed Rodolpho changing from a boy to a man, and now there is excitement because Rodolpho has become Eddie’s equal in the fight for Catherine.
  8. This feeling is further developed when the stage directions say that Rodolpho moves about angrily. He has put up with Eddie’s insults and sarcastic remarks for long enough and it is now clear that he will not do so any longer. This also creates movement on the stage which creates an atmosphere of turmoil and tension.
  9. As Rodolpho asks – How can you insult me, Catherine? – it is clear that he has begun to use the language more usually associated with Eddie by the audience. This confirms his new status as a man, and furthers the audience’s sense of suspense that there is going to be a 'showdown' between the two men very soon.
  10. The final stage direction in this extract, informing us that Catherine is [near tears.], allows the audience to sympathise with her. She loves Eddie as a father, but now she is torn between her feelings for him and her new feelings for Rodolpho. In the same way that Rodolpho has just become a man, she is on the brink of becoming a woman, and her distress at abandoning Eddie, as well as her fear of the unknown with Rodolpho, have made her almost cry. This is a very moving moment for the audience.