At the very beginning of the play, Catherine is like a young child craving her uncle Eddie Carbone’s approval. She asks him three times in quick succession, “You like it?” about her outfit and her hair. She is insecure and needs his approval to validate her looks and her abilities.
Eddie is overprotective of Catherine, whose mother has died, and he is jealous. He does not want her “walkin’ wavy,” which means he thinks she is too provocative, and says, “I don’t like the looks they’re givin’ you in the candy store.” The stage direction says, “Catherine (almost in tears because he disapproves), [asks] 'What do you want me to do?'” At this early point in the play, Catherine does not rebel against Eddie. She is too timid and fears him.
For instance, when she and Beatrice tell Eddie that Catherine has been offered a new job, he insists that she complete school first. She protests gently and states her point of view but is not insistent about it. When Eddie finally relents and tells her to accept the job, she nearly breaks into tears in relief. She does not want to defy him, and she needs him to approve her choices.
Over the course of the play, Catherine grows to resent Eddie’s babying her. When he chastises her in front of Marco and Rodolfo, the stage direction states, “Embarrassed now, angered, Catherine goes out into the bed room.” She does not want him to treat her like a baby in front of the two men, although she is still compliant. At his direction, she changes her shoes.
Rodolfo comments that it is almost as if Catherine is afraid of Eddie and Beatrice tells her that she acts like a baby with Eddie:
Catherine: Yeah, but how am I going to do that? He thinks I’m a baby.
Beatrice: Because you think you’re a baby. I told you fifty times already, you can’t act the way you act. You still walk around in front of him in your slip—
Her attitude towards Eddie begins to change as she realizes her own inner strength and her adult needs and wants. She speaks to him “with an edge of anger.” When Eddie asks if she likes Rodolfo, she responds, “holding her ground.” Finally, when Eddie tries to shake her love for Rodolfo, she yells, “I don’t believe it and I wish to hell you’d stop it!”
The more compliant Catherine at the beginning of the play would never have spoken to Eddie this way, but she has become more independent and self-assured.
By the end of the play, she breaks free of Eddie and tells him, “I’m gonna get married, Eddie. So if you wanna come, the wedding be on Saturday.” She does not ask his permission; she states her plans with no care if he approves or not. Finally, she tells Marco:
To hell with Eddie. Nobody is gonna talk to him again if he lives to a hundred. Everybody knows you spit in his face, that’s enough, isn’t it? Give me the satisfaction—I want you at the wedding.