A Critique of a View from the Bridge, a Play by Arthur Miller
Eddie Carbone who is the main protagonist of Arthur Miller’s play A View From The Bridge’ has a very stereotypical view of how a ‘real man’ should be. As can be evidenced with is attitude towards Rodolpho, Eddie is intolerant and even hostile towards those who do not follow the traditional image of a man. Threats to his honour or the image of his masculinity, in the form of hostility and aggression, is what causes the conflicts that appear throughout the play. The three themes entwine together and have importance towards the unfolding events of the play.
The play is set in the mid 1950’s and therefore takes place in a patriarchal society where gender inequality was seen to be a norm amongst local communities. Eddie believes that a man should provide for his family, much like a breadwinner, and be the head of the household. When Eddie first meets Marco, he approves of his role as a father which can be interpreted by the stage directions as Eddie mainly directs his speech towards Marco during the immigrants first conversation with the Carbone family. Also, when Eddie describes Marco by saying ‘They leave him alone, he would load the whole ship by himself’ it highlights Eddie’s views of masculinity which is a man who is responsible, who has a sense of duty but is also hard-working. Eddie obviously values these traits, however, the most important aspect of a man to him is the physical strength of an individual. When Marco is described to be a ‘regular bull’, Eddie is not only complementing his dedication, but also his stability.
As seen by Eddie’s likeness towards Marco’s strength, he believes that a man needs to be able to defend themselves if needs be. Additionally, loyalty is one of the qualities of a ‘real man’ to Eddie. This can be evidenced by the plays cultural background as the Red Hook community consisted of tightly- knit Italian immigrants. The quotation ‘blood is thicker than water’ illustrates how important honesty and faithfulness is to the Carbone family. Additionally, the community have its own ‘unwritten law’ which suggests that they have a specific honour code that is crucial to be respected. It highlights the fact that one does not meddle in another’s business in the Red Hook community, they turn a blind eye to complicated situations as shown in the quote ‘you don’t see nothing, you don’t know nothing’.
However, Rodolpho doesn’t confirm to Eddie’s image of an ideal man, and therefore he becomes incredibly angry when he discovers that Catherine has formed a relationship with the immigrant. The reason that he puts forth is that Rodolpho is only declaring his love for Catherine as a way of becoming an American Citizen, saying this is the ‘oldest trick in the book’. However, the reader can sense that Eddie dislikes Rodolpho’s feminine qualities as evidenced when he insults his hair by saying ‘he’s practically blond’ and ‘I just hope it’s real hair’. Additionally, Rodolpho’s has fantastic cooking, sewing and singing skills, however these qualities are more suited to a women by Eddie’s standards. Rodolpho’s talents generate spiteful names from Eddie and the other longshoremen such as ‘paper doll’ and ‘canary’ that are used to impair his courage and masculinity. Eddie insults the immigrant as Rodolpho is threatening Eddie’s masculinity by enriching on his ‘territory’, Catherine. Eddie want’s to tests Rodolpho’s “manliness” and prove his own superiority by teaching Rodolpho to box. There is definitely hostility on Eddie’s part in this scene, and it escalates to aggression when he makes Rodolpho “mildly stagger” with a blow. Eddie goes even further by suggesting that Rodolpho is homosexual. The conflict climaxes as ‘Eddie pins his arms, laughing, and suddenly kisses him’. By kissing Rodolpho on the lips, Eddie puts Rodolpho in a position where he is not a man. The purpose of this would be to humiliate and insult Rodolpho, and also to show Catherine that Rodolpho is not a ‘real man’. Some critics argue that the scene illustrates Eddie’s homosexual feelings, however, Arthur Miller never reveals Rodolpho or Eddie’s sexual preferences.
Eddie is very protective of his niece, Catherine, and when he says ‘I don’t like the looks they’re giving you in the candy store’ it highlights the fact that Eddie is uncomfortable of the idea of Catherine being attractive to other men. He disapproves of her new femininity as proven when he asks her to remove ‘them new heels’. The high heels can be interpreted as a symbol of womanhood which Catherine has just started growing into. We feel she enjoys the male attention they bring her, when she argues with Eddie about her new style “but those guys look at all the girls, you know that.” This brings out hostility in Eddie “You ain’t “all the girls”. Additionally, we see how women were seen to be of less importance that men in the 1950’s society when Eddie comes out with a passive aggressive mark at dinner ‘Do me a favour will ya’. The hidden message here is not only an order for her to remove her heels, but Eddie is also reminding Catherine that she must please and obey him as he is head of the household and demands obedience and respect.
During the ending of the play, Eddie goes against the masculine quality of honour by alerting the immigration bureau of the location of illegal immigrants, his own relatives. In his own eyes, this should make him less of a man. However, the incident isn’t a shock to the audience as they tale of Vinny Bolzano, that’s told by Beatrice, foreshadows Eddie’s acts of betrayal. Marco denounces Eddie for his crime against the unwritten law, disgracing him in front of the neighbours by saying “That one! I accuse that one!”, “ He killed my children!” This
accusation disgraces Eddie. It could cause him to become an outcast, ostracized from the community as his actions break the Red Hook’s code of honour. Eddie’s death by the hands of Marco was a result of huge aggression that was caused by built up hostilities, which were in turn provoked by the importance of honour, and other “manly” traits, to the characters of the novel.
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