The main character in the story is Eddie Carbone, an Italian American longshoreman, who lives with his wife Beatrice and orphaned niece Catherine. His feelings for Catherine, however, develop from protective and paternal into something more than filial as the play develops. These feelings are brought into perspective by the arrival from Italy of Beatrice's two cousins, Marco and Rodolpho. They have entered the country illegally, hoping to leave behind hunger and unemployment for a better life in America, and to help build a better life for those they've left behind. Rodolpho is young, good-looking, blond, and single -- he sings, dances and is charming; Catherine instantly falls for him.