Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.


Although specifically articulated, homosexuality or what makes a man "not right" is a persistent theme of the novel. Eddie obviously identifies Rodolpho as homosexual because Rodolpho sings, cooks and sews a dress for Catherine. Eddie also questions Rodolpho because he does not like to work and has bleach blonde hair that makes him look more feminine. Eddie gives Rodolpho several tests of his masculinity. In the first he teaches Rodolpho how to box and the second, more blatantly, Eddie kisses Rodolpho on the lips. Many critics think that this kiss is a sign of Eddie's own suppressed homosexual feelings, an easy parallel with his kiss with Catherine. Miller seems to take no stand either way, and the sexuality of Rodolpho or Eddie is unclear. However, the stereotypes of the gay man and societal implications of being gay are obvious. Louis and Mike, when talking about Rodolpho, clearly think there is something wrong with him and Eddie speaks directly to Alfieri about the specific things that bother him about Rodolpho.

Read more about masculinity and homosexuality as a theme in Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.


The idea of what makes a woman or what defines a woman is very prevalent in the text. Catherine and Beatrice talk specifically about the terms in their conversation in Act I. Beatrice thinks Catherine needs to grow up and become a woman. To do this she needs to decide by herself whether she wants to marry Rodolpho. She needs to stop walking around the house in her slip in front of Eddie, and not sit on the edge of the tub while Eddie shaves his beard. In essence, being a woman means reserve and modesty in front of men, and independently making decisions. The idea of independence or separation from Eddie is coupled with the decision to find another male to attach to, a husband. Catherine's attempt at womanhood is deciding to marry Rodolpho and follow his rules rather than Eddie's.


Community is a powerful context for the play; it dictates very specific norms and rules for the family that controls the actions of the characters. All of the characters are forced to reconcile between American culture and the Italian community culture that surrounds. The cultural and moral difference between the two provides one of the great conflicts in the play. The tight community around them also creates great tension in the Carbone family because they are constantly being watched. The neighbors knew when Marco and Rodolpho arrived, saw Marco spit in Eddie's face and Eddie die by Marco's hand. The community is the watcher; the group controls and monitors the behavior of every member. Although Eddie takes a substantial turn away from the community by calling the Immigration Bureau, he still needs acceptance and spends his last moments fighting Marco for his good name in the community.

Read about a similar use of community as a motif in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.