Tensions exist in families because of arguments and disagreements occurring between parents and their children especially teenagers, about boyfriends and the way they dress, which refers back to Eddie and Catherine Carbone’s disagreement in the first scene when Eddie comments on Catharine’s skirt. ‘A View from the Bridge’ was set in the 1950s in an Italian American neighbourhood under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. The area, which the Carbone family lived, was called ‘Red Hook’. It is a poor place where crime, gangsters and the Mafia had been well known in recent history. Tension in the Carbone household is present right from the beginning of the play and the narrator, lawyer and family friend Alfieri warns the audience of a tragic ending in his opening speech. Alfieri also gives us some background information on the Carbone family and it sets a mood to the start of the scene.
Alfieri introduces the play, narrates the story in flashback, focussing on key scenes, and then closes the play. Arthur Miller himself says, ” I wanted to write a play that had the cleanliness… the clear line of some of the Greek tragedies.” Meaning that the audience would be confronted with a situation and that the audience would be told in the beginning what the ending was. The question was not what was going to happen, but how it was going to happen. Each of the following aspects of the play contributes importantly to the build-up of dramatic tension as the play progresses and the audience will slowly see how the tragedy will play out. Alfieri tells us at his opening speech that he was “powerless” and that nothing he could have done would have altered the “bloody course”. Miller also uses Alfieri to maintain the dramatic interest in the play because the audience wants to know how this “bloody course” will take place.
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Arthur Miller makes the audience question Eddie and Catherine’s relationship from the first moment they appear on stage. Miller makes us think that Eddie and Catherine are in some sort of relationship because when Catherine greets Eddie he is “pleased” and also “shy” about it. The word “pleased” show us that Eddie is happy that Catherine had greeted him, which suggests to the audience that Eddie may have a crush on Catherine because he is also “shy”, which in my opinion shows that Eddie may be hiding his feelings for Catherine or he is attracted to her. Arthur Miller creates this type of mood by the use of stage directions and uses the word “shy”, which makes the audience think that Catherine and Eddie are in a relationship.
But this assumption changes because as the scene progresses we realise that he is very overprotective of Catherine which seems quite father-like when he questions the shortness of Catherine’s skirt “I think it’s too short ain’t it?” this makes Catherine upset that Eddie disapproves because the stage direction shows that Catherine is “almost in tears because he disapprovers” which shows that Catherine looks up to Eddie as a father figure and longs for his approval. This is also shown because he calls her a “kid” and he also calls her a “baby”. This suggests that Eddie may be her guardian because Eddie, later on, explains that he is “responsible” for her. Tension also rises early on in the play when Beatrice tells Eddie that Catherine has been offered a job in a big plumbing company downtown, but Eddie doesn’t seem too pleased about the idea because he “pauses” and then he “looks at Catherine and then back to Beatrice”, Miller’s use pf the pause here perhaps shows that he disapproves. But in the end, Eddie relents and allows Catherine to take the job.
The tension increases further when the cousins from Italy arrive in the Carbone family because immediately Catherine is drawn to one of the cousins, Rodolfo. Rodolfo decides to show off his voice to impress Catherine but Eddie does not like this and stops Rodolfo and asks him a rhetorical question “Look kid; you don’t want to be picked up, do ya?” Eddie calls him a “kid” which suggest that Eddie is trying to establish his role in the household but Eddie also has another intention for stopping Rodolfo because Eddie does not like that Rodolfo is getting all the attention and that Catherine seems to be impressed with Rodolfo’s singing skills because she is according to Miller’s stage direction “enthralled” when Eddie tells him to stop singing. We also sense that Eddie loathes Rodolfo – his face is “puffed with trouble.” Also, other stage directions show us that Eddie dislikes Rodolfo because Eddie “has risen with iron control” which suggests again that Eddie is trying to establish his role in the house and that “iron control” suggest that Eddie is trying to suppress his anger and hatred for Rodolfo.
The song ‘Paper Doll’ was sung by the Mills Brothers in 1943. I think that Arthur Miller has chosen this song is to show that Rodolfo likes to be the centre of attention and that he is a performer so singing ‘Paper Doll’ shows that he is already half converted to the American culture since the song is American. This song tells us about Rodolfo’s life in Italy. “It’s tough to love a doll that’s not your own” suggests that, back there, he might have been a “ladies’ man”. The next line of ‘Paper Doll’, “I’m through with all of them, I’ll never fall again” suggests that Rodolfo has turned over a new leaf and is ready to make a fresh start to his love life. So he’s going to “buy a Paper Doll that he can call his own”. He is, of course, referring this to Catherine. Also the line “A doll that other fellas cannot steal” suggests to the audience that Catherine is Eddies and that Rodolfo cannot “steal” her from him because later on Eddie tells Alfieri that Rodolfo is “stealing” from him.
By using Paper Doll, Arthur Miller introduces you to Rodolfo’s talent and also uses this song to create the tension between Rodolfo and Eddie as well as creating a relationship between Rodolfo and Catherine. At the end of Act 1, the whole family including the cousins are together and tensions are present and also increases in this last scene. There is tension in the air when Eddie starts a friendly conversation with Marco about oranges being painted but as soon as Rodolfo joins in with the conversation, Eddie is “resenting his instruction” and doesn’t seem to want to carry on the conversation with Rodolfo. Miller gives Eddie blasphemous language and negative body language to show Eddie’s dislike for Rodolfo. This stage direction shows that Eddie ‘resenting his instruction’ which we can tell that he doesn’t want to talk to Rodolfo. Eddie also makes barbed comments, hinting that Rodolfo is too friendly with Catherine and that he is spending all of his money on new records and clothes.
He pretends to admire the fact that Rodolfo can cook, sew and sing, but then Eddie thinks that it is wrong for someone with those skills to work at the docks as a longshoreman. He offers to treat Rodolfo and Marco to a night watching a prizefight and he then offered to teach Rodolfo how to box but this is clearly just an excuse to punch Rodolfo, but also to embarrass Rodolfo and that he has a lack of masculinity and that he is weak. Because at the time this play was written the society, which Eddie lived in, was that men had to be strong and manly and men who sang were viewed as weird and un-masculine. Arthur Miller suggests that America at that time stripped people of their cultural traditions. However, Catherine shows that she is more interested in Rodolfo’s safety than Eddie’s, this is the first time that Catherine has sided with Rodolfo over Eddie.
I think that Arthur Miller chose to end the first act at this peak of tension because it now shows that Marco has the ‘power’ in the household instead of Eddie because when Marco challenges Eddie to lift up a chair by its leg with one hand, Marco raises it over Eddie’s head “like a weapon” which seems that Marco is warning Eddie that he will defend Rodolfo if necessary. Also, Marco does this to show off his own strength and to show that Eddie is obviously no match for him. This shows that Marco is very protective over his younger sibling Rodolfo. The end of the first act also shows that Eddie is in conflict with almost all of his family members. When Eddie punched Rodolfo while he was “teaching” Rodolfo how to box, Catherine rushes to Rodolfo when Eddie had hit him – this is the first time Catherine has sided with Rodolfo over Eddie which shows that Eddie and Catherine’s relationship isn’t as strong as before. This first act has set up a very tense atmosphere for Act 2; the audience may have an idea of what might happen to Eddie and Marco’s relationship in this last act and this act also explains how the tension and hatred between Eddie and Marcos relationship have led to Eddie’s tragic death.