In this essay, I will be writing about a play by Arthur Miller called “A View from the Bridge.” I will be exploring the ideas of manliness, hostility and aggression and how these ideas are connected. Eddie, the play’s main protagonist, has a stereotypical view of what a man’s physical appearance should be like and how a man should behave. When other characters do not conform to his idea of a man’s specific characteristics, it leads to conflict, especially with Rodolfo, Catherine, and the other characters. Eddie is fundamentally a simple, straightforward man who is seen to be kind, humorous and generous in anticipating the illegal arrival of Beatrice’s cousins Marco and Rodolfo. From the start of the play, we see that Eddie is respected in the Red Hook community. By telling Eddie ‘… you got a lotta credit comin’ to you…’ Louis highlights Eddie’s respect in the community.
Eddie’s views about the qualities of a man are quite cynical. He feels that a man should be strong and go to work and earn money for his family. Eddie’s views and behaviour causes conflict on a small scale. At the start of the play, Eddie criticizes Catherine when he shows clear hostility to Rodolfo and, in the end, Marco. The work Eddie does can influence his behaviour because it is “a man’s job.” It requires a lot of strength which is one of the qualities Eddie feels a man should have. Some of the people he works with also share Eddie’s views. Being more ‘manly’ than Eddie causes conflict, and being less ‘manly’ than Eddie’s expectations also causes conflict.
Rodolfo’s physical appearance and characteristics do not live up to Eddie’s expectations of a man as Rodolfo has blonde hair and can cook, sew, and sing. Catherine (Eddie’s niece) finds Rodolfo attractive due to the fact that he has no responsibilities and he has a more frivolous, light-hearted attitude to life. However, Eddie finds him repulsive and unmanly. Eddie is suspicious of Rodolfo’s interest in Catherine, believing that he wants to marry her in order to gain American citizenship-“… he’s only bowin to his passport”. However, it becomes clear to the audience that Rodolfo’s intentions towards Catherine are pure because of his love for her.
Eddie’s reluctance to be displaced in Catherine’s affections as well as his desire for her, forcing him to confide his suspicions of Rodolfo’s apparent homosexuality to Alfieri. Eddie says to Alfieri – ‘the guy ain’t right, Mr. Alfieri.’ Alfieri realizes the true nature of the situation and responds by saying, ‘there is too much love for the daughter, too much love for the niece.’ Eddie fails to understand what Alfieri is trying to say and thereby seals his fate. Even after Alfieri tells Eddie to let things run their natural course, he betrays Marco and Rodolfo by calling the Immigration Bureau. Not only is it Eddie who displays his distrust of Rodolfo, but the longshoremen as well. Eddie tells Beatrice that they are calling Rodolfo “Paper Doll.” Eddie also tells Beatrice that he thinks that Rodolfo is ‘like a weird’ and ‘… with that wacky hair; he’s like a chorus girl or sump’m’.
Eddie’s suspicions of Rodolfo lead to a dramatic tension at the start of Act Two, where he drunkenly returns home, pins Rodolfo to the wall, and kisses him. When people are drunk, they normally do the things that they had always desired to do; therefore, Eddie kissing Rodolfo when he was drunk gives me the impression that Eddie is homosexual and that he had always wanted to kiss Rodolfo. Although one brother doesn’t meet Eddie’s expectations of a ‘real man,’ the other brother does, and not only does he meet it, he also surpasses it. Marco is a stronger, more reticent man who has come to America to earn money so that he can send it to Italy to feed his starving wife and children. By doing this, he conforms to Eddie’s expectations by not only showing his strength but also showing his responsibility as well. He is responsible to his wife and children by feeding them, and he is also responsible to Rodolfo as he looks out for him. Eddie calls Marco a ‘real man.’ Mike describes him as ‘a regular bull’ and also says, ‘if they leave him alone, he woulda unload the whole ship by himself.’
Marco’s masculinity leads to conflict when he and Eddie have a trial of strength at the end of Act One. By lifting the chair higher than Eddie and over Eddie’s head, Marco not only replaces Eddie as the most important and strongest man in the household, but he also makes Eddie feel threatened by demonstrating conventionally “masculine” characteristics. Another climactic moment where Marco’s manliness leads to conflict is at the end of Act Two, which is Eddie’s death. Eddie pulls a knife out on Marco, but he (Marco) displays his strength once again by turning Eddie’s weapon on himself (Eddie), consequently resulting in Eddie’s death. Eddie has a lack of formal English, and he speaks in conversational Brooklynese- ‘listen, I could tell you things about Louis which you wouldn’t wave to him anymore.’ The characters in ‘A View from the Bridge’ lack the language to express themselves fully and sometimes do not want to put their ideas into words. This is often the case between Eddie, Beatrice and Catherine.
Eddie is urged to protect Catherine from discovering her independence,e which makes him increasingly sensitive toBeatrice’s cousins’ presence ando Rodolfo, in particular, towhomo Catherine rapidly becomes attracted. Catherine and Rodolfo’s planned marriage brings Eddie an increasingly aggressive reaction and starts to break the family apart. Catherine becomes more rebellious and independent. Eddie finds it difficult to understand and express his feelings and deal with situations sensible and adult due to his lack of education. This causes him to respond to threatening situations with physical aggression and verbal hostility whenever his manliness is threatened. Eddie realizes that he is about to lose something precious (Catherine) and doesn’t know how to deal with it. He starts to show hostility towards Rodolfo, and instead of giving Catherine away, he makes accusations about Rodolf,o saying that he is a homosexual. Eddie is emotionally immature.
The ideas of manliness, hostility and aggression are linked because as Eddie becomes less masculine, he becomes more aggressive and hostile towards everyone else, causing him to lose respect. The two women in the play are Beatrice (Eddie’s wife) and Catherine (Eddie’s niece). At the beginning of the play, these two female characters rely on Eddie and follow his rules and what he says. However, towards the end of the play, they become liberated females by turning their backs on Eddie because of the ‘crime’ he commits. By doing this, Beatrice and Catherine are affecting their relationship with Eddie by separating away from him. Beatrice and Catherine do not show individuality until later on in the play. Finally, Beatrice realizes what is going on with Eddie, and Catherine becomes more independent and rebellious after the arrival of Rodolfo.
Eddie and Beatrice do not have a 50/50 relationship as Eddie is in charge of the relationship, and he is the one who makes all the decisions. Beatrice hardly gets a say. Eddie is at fault for the uneven relationship because he doesn’t love Beatrice the way he should, which is like a wife. Instead, he loves Catherine more than he should love her. Beatrice is aware of a more disturbing reason for Eddie’s overprotectiveness and unusual ‘concern’ for Catherine. From the beginning of the play, Beatrice suspects that Eddie’s feelings for Catherine aren’t as they should be. Her failure to do anything about this results in disastrous consequences. Beatrice poses a threat to Eddie’s manliness by saying, ‘When am I going to be a wife again, Eddie?’ Eddie responds to this with verbal aggression by shouting, ‘I got nothin’ to say about it!’ By saying this, even in the bedroom, Eddie’s position of authority in his household is being questioned.
Beatrice says, “whatever happened, we all done it, and don’t you ever forget it, Catherine.” In my opinion, Beatrice isn’t right to think that the female characters are responsible for the tragedy. This is because the tragedy was brought upon Eddie by himself, and his actions caused it. However, Beatrice is responsible in a way because her failure to do anything about her suspicions of Eddie led him to go to extreme measures and to grass up the ‘submarines’ just to separate Rodolfo and Catherine. The female characters are victims of male domination, aggression and hostility. Eddie doesn’t allow Catherine to go to work (although she does end up going), and towards the end of Act Two, he doesn’t let Beatrice go to Catherine and Rodolfo’s wedding by saying ‘…you walk out that door to that wedding you ain’t comin’ back here, Beatrice’. Unlike Catherine, Beatrice doesn’t get her way and doesn’t go to the wedding.
In A View from the Bridge, Alfieri is the equivalent of the chorus. He has a role as a character and also acts as a narrator. Alfieri foretells the final tragedy at the beginning of the play, where we find out that Eddie Carbone, who has been introduced through stage directions at that point, is going to face a bloody end. Through his role as chorus, Alfieri becomes the symbolic bridge between American law and the Italian custom. He represents the links that join ethnic communities filled with dock labourers on one side and the wealth and intellectualism of Manhattan on the other. He is the bridge of the title (A View from the Bridge) through which we view the play’s action. This play is similar to another play called Oedipus, in which the main character cannot escape his fate. Oedipus became king after killing his father and unknowingly marrying and having children with his mother. He later dies in exile.
A View from the Bridge is a play that is written to be performed. In my opinion, the way the play would be performed on stage would create a big impact on the audience as there would be scenes of violence, hostility and extreme tension sometimes when you least expect it. For example, the beginning of Act two shows Eddie kissing Rodolfo. The chair incident also shows tension when Marco’s manliness overthrows Eddie’s. If I was in the audience watching the play, I would be interested to see what would happen as the play progresses, even though the end of the play is told at the beginning by Alfieri. The play is set in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York, in the 1950s. Red Hook is a densely populated dockland area of Italian immigrants who have gradually learnt to compromise between the customs of Italy and the laws of America. Alfieri views the play from Brooklyn Bridge. Red Hook is a poor area of Brooklyn whose residents consist of illegal Italian immigrants. This issue of immigration causes tension, aggression and hostility in the Carbone household and is the cause of Eddie’s death.
The area influences the characters not only in the way they speak but also in the way they behave. Eddie carries a ‘flick knife’ for self-defence and protection, giving us the impression that the area is not nice. Being a longshoreman makes Eddie a man of the working class. Eddie earns his living by loading and unloading ships. The people mentioned in the play live their lives by a strict, unwritten social code of honour that goes beyond the written law. As Marco says, ‘all the law is not in a book’. A view from the Bridge is a tragedy that traces the downfall of an individual and shows the capacity and limitations of human life. Through A View from the Bridge, Arthur Miller is writing a modern equivalent of a classical Greek tragedy. He also seems to be criticizing the American way of life. However, the things that Miller is criticizing still go on today. Fifty years on, discrimination, integration and separation still exist in society.
The text is still relevant as people in communities live and get treated the same way as people were fifty years ago. The play is showing the world from a realistic perspective for those who don’t realize the things happening today. The play makes people think about how immigrants in Britain are treated. They are made to do the rubbish jobs that no one wants to do, and they do it because they have no other option. Employers exploit them as they get paid less for doing a certain job than a British citizen. Their health and safety are not taken into consideration. Immigrants have to pay high prices for housing which isn’t worth the amount they are paying for it.
To conclude, the play is an eye-opener for those people who don’t treat immigrants fairly. Eddie Carbone crossed the line in Italian justice, but in American law, what he did was a good thing. Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage.” People act in the way that they want others to see them and not like themselves. They are too concerned about what everyone else thinks. People today have to think carefully before they say anything because they might offend someone, whether it is about their race, gender, sexuality etc. Eddie acted like himself and did what he thought was the right thing to do. He allowed us to know him, the real him. That is why Alfieri says at the end of the play that he ‘will love him more than all his sensible clients.’ Alfieri also says to ‘settle for half. This means that people shouldn’t go for things that are out of their reach and that they should be happy with what they have.