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Analysing the Portrayal of Eddie Carbone as a Tragic Hero
Arthur Miller's play 'A View from the Bridge' is a tragedy of failed
relationships. Eddie Carbone illustrates this viewpoint and functions
as a tragic hero who generates dramatic tension for the audience as he
struggles with his own stubbornness.
In this play we see Eddie Carbone as a tragic hero. He is neither
thoroughly good nor evil but a mixture of both. We empathise with his
situation because it can be difficult to let go of a child. Eddie
seems to be a good, hardworking man but he is destroyed by feelings
that go beyond fatherly love. We like his generosity in allowing his
wifes cousins, who are illegal immigrants to stay with them. He gave a
orphaned child a home and food, then worked hard to provide for her
'gave her the food out of his mouth'. Eddies fatal flaw is that he
refuses to listen to other people who are trying to warn him. He tells
Beatrice to ''just lay off me'', when she tries to persuade him to let
go of Catherine. Every time Eddie is confronted he reacts
aggressively, which causes dramatic tension.
EDDIE: I'll be alright, B.; just lay off me will ya? I'm worried about
BEATRICE: The girl is gonna be eighteen years old, its time already.
Alfieri is the 'voice of reason' in this play. We learn from him about
how things were settled in the past (through violence). Eddie's hubris
clouds his judgement splitting societies law and Eddies own law, which
echoes the laws of the Mafia, who were Italians like Eddie. Alfieri
has much empathy for Eddie (who cannot compromise with love.) Alfieri
makes this clear in his last speech, 'And yet, it is better to settle
for half, it must be! And so I mourn him- I admit it- with a certainâ€¦
At the very beginning , it may appear to the audience that Eddie has
come home to Catherine, and that she is his wife, this is illustrated
by his actions.
CATHERINE: Hi Eddie!
Eddie is pleased and therefore shy about it; he hangs up his cap and
When we realise that Beatrice is actually Eddies wife, the confusion
creates dramatic tension in the audience and it is clear their
marriage is failing.
Eddie is seen to be humorous, kind, generous, however, overprotective
of his orphaned niece, Catherine, in her increasing maturity. It is
this urge that Eddie has to protect Catherine, to keep her from
discovering her independence. Even when Eddie hears about Catherine
getting a new job, he reluctantly allows her to take the job:
BEATRICE: She's got a job.
EDDIE: What job? She's gonna finish school.
CATHERINE: Eddie, you won't believe it-
EDDIE: No- no, you gonna finish school. What kinda job, what do you
All of a sudden you-
CATHERINE: Listen a minute, it's wonderful.
EDDIE: It's not wonderful. You'll never get nowhere unless you finish
School. You can't take no job.
In this extract, we see how Eddie insists Catherine to finish school,
because in his mind he knows that going to and from work every day she
will meet new people, and Eddie is scared he will lose her.
Eddie becomes fearful when Rodolfo arrives that he will lose
Catherines love because there is somebody new to concentrate it on.
This is illustrated when Catherine admires the way Rodolfo sings and
Eddie becomes jealous. Eddie believes all men should behave in a
certain way, a way in which Rodolfo does not. The audience opinions of
Eddie may be varied according to the way they believe men should act,
though most people would find his actions unreasonable. The audience
realises at this point that Eddie is overprotective of Catherine and
has inappropriate feelings for her.
The main tool, which
Throughout the play Eddie believes Rodolfo is using Catherine to get
his passport and will not listen to the reasoning of anybody else, not
even Alfieri. At his first visit to see Alfieri it is made clear of
his deeper feelings for Catherine and that he wants her for himself
even though he denies it.
ALFIERI: She wants to get married, Eddie. She can't marry you, can
EDDIE: What're you talkin' about? Marry me! I don't know what the hell
you're talkin' about!
Eddie wants justice. He believes there should be some way in which
Rodolfo should not be allowed to be with Catherine because he ' ain't
right'. Alfieri knows better and tries to persuade Eddie there's
nothing to be done. This scene creates dramatic tension because it
makes the audience realise Eddie has deeper feelings for Catherine and
he can't let her go. It makes us wonder what he will do next.
In the scene where Eddie teaches Rodolfo boxing he tries to prove that
Rodolfo is no good for Catherine and that she needs somebody more like
himself . Violence is introduced and Marco demonstrates that if Eddie
lays a finger on Rodolfo Marco will no let it stand. In this scene the
tragedy deepens when innocent people are pulled in to the fight.
Beatrice is jealous that Catherine gains much of Eddie's attention and
this worsens their already fragile marriage. Miller increase dramatic
tension by making the characters play fight but not obviously, as if
it is a game. Eddie's expressions also give the play its tension.
" He transforms what might appear like a glare of warning into a smile
of triumph, and Eddie's grin vanishes as he absorbs his look."
Eddie's decision to phone the immigration bureau tells us that he
cannot cope under pressure and he does things that he doesn't mean to
do. Eddie cannot think about the consequences before taking his
actions. For example earlier on in the book Beatrice tells the story
of a boy called Vinny Bolzano, who told the immigration about his
uncle. Afterwards Vinny was unaccepted in society. Eddie talks about
how awful the consequences were, 'How's he gonna show his face?' then
later when he phones the bureau he does not think of anybody else
except himself. This creates dramatic tension for the audience because
it yet again leaves them wondering what will happen next, if he is
prepared to take actions like that, what else is he capable of?
Even at the end of the play Eddie will not give in to his stubborn
behaviour. His suffering is so severe that it leads him into
destruction and eventually death. These two points are ones, which
occur in the story of every tragic hero. The dramatic tension rises to
a very high point when Beatrice says in frustration, 'You want somin'
else, Eddie, and you can never have her!' The audience is surprised
that Beatrice has finally spoken her mind. The audience are made to
feel sorry for Eddie at the end because he did not deserve to die and
wouldn't have if he'd listened and not let his hubris become so
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