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In A View From The Bridge, Show How The Audience's Opinion Of Eddie
Changes. Refer To The Dramatic Effects Of A Few Key Scenes
A View From The Bridge is a play by Arthur Miller. It was first
produced as a one-act play in verse in 1955, and had the name of An
Italian Tragedy. The play is rooted in the late 1940's when Miller
became interested in the works and lives of the communities of the
longshoremen of New York's Brooklyn Bridge where he had previously
worked. He mentioned it in his autobiography Timebends as 'waterfront
was the Wild West, a desert beyond the law', where was populated and
worked by people who came to America seeking the 'American Dream',
wealth, work and security which their own countries could not
guarantee. This play was set in the 1950's, and at that time America
was seen as the land of opportunity for many people, to start a new
life, escape their past or just for a change, people believed America
held the key. However this was not the case, as immigrants often lived
in the most run down parts of town and found themselves out of work
and with little money to live on the or send their families at home.
Miller was concerned with this living through the depression, which
bankrupted his father, and he saw the effects on the ordinary people.
It was during this time that Miller heard a story from one of his
lawyer friend of 'a longshoremen who had "ratted" to the immigration
bureau on two brothers, his own relatives, who were living illegally
in his very home, in order to break an engagement between one of them
and his niece. ' This story became the model of A View From The Bridge
when he paid a visit to Sicily and saw the awkward situation of the
Italians without work and food, combined with his own experiences of
Italian immigrant workers in Brooklyn. Miller also wanted this play to
be a modern version of a Greek Tragedy, in which a central character
is led by fate towards an inevitable destiny; thus when the final
version of A View From The Bridge was published in 1956, he retained
much of the content of the verse but transformed it into prose. In
this essay I shall discuss how the audience's opinion of the central
character of the play, Eddie Carbone, changes and the factors that
In the opening scene, when Eddie first appears on stage, the way he
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'I promised your mother on her deathbed. I'm responsible for you. You
are a baby, you don't understand these things.'
The audience would feel Eddie wants to apply strict rules to
Catherine, he doesn't want Catherine to meet any boys, and maybe not
to meet the world at all. He's not good at expressing himself either:
'You been given' me the willies the way you walk down the street, I
mean it.' ; 'I don't want to be a pest, but I'm tellin' you you're
Later in the scene when Catherine told them that she's getting a job,
Eddie showed his worries and rejected the idea almost immediately,
which ensured the audience about the ideas of Eddie is over-protective
and wants to keep Catherine inside his house. He came up with all
sorts of reasons just to stop Catherine from getting a job, 'I don't
like the neighbourhood around there'; 'Near the Navy Yard plenty can
happen in a block and half! And a plumbin' company!' Even after
Beatrice talked to him and he finally agreed to it, he still said to
Catherine (smiling but hurt)
'Why not? That's life. And you'll come visit on Sundays, then once a
month, then Christmas and New Year's, finally.'
From his speech the audience would still get the idea of Eddie doesn't
want to let Catherine go to work. Then Alfieri gives a speech about
'He was as good a man as he had to be in a life that was hard and
even. He worked on the piers when there was work, he brought home his
pay, and he lived. '
This would influence audience's opinion of Eddie that he has lots of
love for his family, he work hard to get the money to support his
family, and if he's a little bit too protective over his niece,
Catherine, then that's understandable because in this house he is the
man who had met many other men, and he may think the world outside is
dangerous and may not be suitable for Catherine because he kept her as
a baby, he wanted the best for her.
Then Beatrice's cousin came as illegal immigrants. Eddie was a little
bit worried at that time, and told a story of a boy called Vinnie
Bolzano and how his family and community for snitching to the
immigration office on his uncle alienated him. Miller has used
dramatic irony here, hinting the audience that the similar situation
would happen and Eddie did what he taught his niece not to.
Afterwards the cousin came to stay, and Eddie got suspicious and
worried when Rodolfo got all the attention from Catherine, especially
when Rodolfo sings "Paper Doll". 'Look, kid; you don't want to be
picked up, do ya?' He warns Rodolfo about 'They got guys all over the
place,' but the audience would deduce that he doesn't want Rodolfo to
influence Catherine, and he's aware Rodolfo might steal Catherine away
Ever since the cousins came, Eddie's dislike for Rodolfo grew bigger
day by day. He had talked to Beatrice; 'Paper Doll they're callin'
him, Canary. He's like a weird.' then to Catherine directly, 'Katie,
he's only bowin' to his passports.' and to Alfieri as well when he
sought help in law, but no one is with him.
When he asked Catherine if she likes Rodolfo, her answer was 'yes' -
and his 'smile goes', and was astonished. He kept on thinking 'the guy
ain't right', which would hint the audience into thinking maybe the
whole thing isn't Rodolfo's fault at all, maybe Eddie is just acting
up because he felt 'invaded' - because before the cousins came, he had
Catherine all to himself, and all of a sudden she puts all her
attention onto Rodolfo, he would feel Rodolfo is 'stealing' from him.
During his conversation with Alfieri, Eddie got furious:
'I take the blanket off my bed for him, and he takes and puts his
filthy hands on her like a goddam thief!'
But Alfieri then pointed out a new possibility, which would very much
likely to change the audience's opinion for Eddie again:
'She wants to get married, Eddie. She can't marry you, can she?'
On one hand his speech pointed out that Eddie kept Catherine as a baby
for too long, it is time to let go; on the other hand his speech also
hinted that Eddie might have the wrong sort of feeling for Catherine,
he is not seeing her as his niece but also as a woman - his woman. He
may have sexual feelings for her but doesn't want to admit it - just
like Eddie's reaction:
'(furiously) What're you talkin' about, marry me! I don't know what
the hell you're talkin' about!'
Actually Eddie, Alfieri and the audience know perfectly well what he
meant, but because Eddie was 'furious', the audience would also get
the idea that Eddie was afraid of admitting it because it wouldn't be
morally right to have sexual feelings for his niece, especially when
he is already married.
After seeking help in law was unsuccessful, Eddie was desperate to
show Catherine that Rodolfo 'ain't right', by means he's homosexual,
he's gay. Therefore when he heard Rodolfo also cooks and makes
dresses, he was even more determined about his point, thus asked
Rodolfo to box with him.
He acted friendly toward him at first, teaching him nicely, but then
he hit Rodolfo and 'mildly staggers' him, but doesn't apologise. 'Why?
I didn't hurt him.' Then he 'rubs the back of his hand across his
mouth' in a sort of threatening way, and the audience can now deduce
that the whole point of the boxing was to show the rest of the family
(especially Catherine) that Rodolfo 'ain't right'; he is weak; he
can't do what a man ought to do; all he's good at is singing, dancing,
cooking and making dresses which in Eddie's opinion would be feminine
stuff, therefore he's homosexual.
Eddie is trying to convince Catherine and Beatrice to see what he
sees, however the audience may not agree with him, because the ability
of singing, dancing, cooking and making dresses couldn't prove that
he's homosexual; the audience would rather believe in that Eddie's
jealous of Rodolfo taking away Catherine's attention but is afraid of
admitting it, so he came up with ideas about 'he's a blond so he ain't
right', and now he has really crossed line and hit Rodolfo.
Marco, who always had respect for Eddie, seemed to think he's gone to
far as well. Therefore he 'takes a chair, places it in front of Eddie,
and looks down at it'. Then he asked Eddie if he can lift the chair at
the certain point, but Eddie fails. So Marco shows him -
'He kneels, grasps, and with stain slowly raises the chair higher and
The dramatic tension built up instantly here as Miller used the stage
direction to show:
'(Marco) getting to his feet now, Rodolfo and Catherine have stopped
dancing as Marco raises the chair over his head. Marco is face to face
with Eddie, a strained tension gripping his eyes and jaw, his neck
stiff, the chair raised like a weapon over Eddie's head -'
They are clearly showing that Marco is challenging Eddie just like
Eddie challenged Rodolfo,
'And 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.'
At this point the audience (and Eddie) would find out that Marco is
using his body language saying 'you degraded my brother. My blood.
Rodolfo might not be stronger than you, but I am.' Just like the way
Eddie has been hinting the family that Rodolfo is not a real man.
Marco apparently found that very offensive, degrading his family, his
bloodline, therefore he did the same thing to Eddie to prove he's the
man so 'don't mess with us'.
The audience would now sympathise with Marco because the way Eddie was
humiliating Rodolfo was too harsh, therefore he should be warned
before things get worse...
Thus the plot comes to Alfieri, the lawyer, also the narrator of the
play. Because Miller wanted this play to be a modern version of a
Greek Tragedy, Alfieri takes the part of a chorus, where he spoke
mostly direct to the audience, told them what happened offstage,
commenting on the characters and told them what to think and what is
going to happen. Miller had used Alfieri wisely to solve his problem
of making the play continuous over the wide time scale (months), when
the traditional Greek Tragedy only have a short time scale, at worst,
In this case when Alfieri had another conversation with Eddie, he was
quite alarmed about him doing the worst thing therefore warned him:
'You won't have a friend in the world, Eddie! Even the ones who feel
the same will turn against you, event he ones who feel the same will
Alfieri knew all the way what is going to happen, ever since he told
Eddie that the law cannot stop the marriage even if Rodolfo is
homosexual, the only thing that Rodolfo did against the law is that he
entered the country illegally. Although Eddie claimed 'Oh, Jesus, no,
I wouldn't do nothin' about that', Alfieri knew all along it is going
to happen, 'as a dark figure walking down the hall towards a certain
door', and he knew if Eddie had done it, he would have broke the
social 'code' of his community - not to snitch on illegal immigrants,
especially not on his relatives - and be alienated, everyone will see
him as a dishonourable man who snitched on his niece's fiancé.
Apart from Alfieri's speech which made the audience think and guess
what is to happen; Miller had once again used the stage direction and
lights to show the dramatic effort of this event.
When Alfieri first sensed what he feared is to come, 'a phone booth
begins to glow on the opposite side of the stage'. Miller had
effectively used the colour of the light - 'a faint, lonely blue' - to
show the inevitable ending is going to be tragic, full of sadness and
loneliness as the desperate Eddie will be alienated.
Inevitably, Eddie called the immigration bureau. But when they
questioned him, he said 'with greater difficulty' of he's 'just around
the neighbourhood', and when 'he is being questioned further, he
slowly hung up.' The audience would feel that Eddie does not wish to
call the immigration office at all, as he knew the story of Vinnie
Bolzano before, he told Catherine
'A guy doing things like that? How's he gonna show his face? Just
remember, kid, you can quicker get back a million dollars that was
stolen than a word that you gave away.'
Eddie knew what is to come when he does call the immigration, he knew
his community will alienate him but he had to do it; because he's
desperate because of the engagement between Catherine and Rodolfo, he
had done everything else he could. The audience would know that if
there is another way, calling the immigration would be the last thing
he wants to do.
And so is his family, when they had realised what Eddie had done.
Beatrice was the first to realise after the immigration officers came,
she 'turned her head away' when Eddie pretend to be innocent, and he
went all 'pugnaciously, furious', and accused her 'what's the matter
with you?' Then Beatrice was 'weakened with fear', 'pressing her palms
against her face', and repeated several time 'oh my God, my God'.
Finally 'her final thrust is to turn toward him instead of running
from him' and said 'my God, what did you do?'
Marco, who was taken away with Rodolfo, 'suddenly breaks from the
group and dashes into the room and faces Eddie; Beatrice and First
Officer rush in as Marco spits into Eddie's face'. The audience would
know that at this point Marco is clearly hating Eddie of him taking
away his chance of working.
Catherine, who was fighting with the officers unsuccessfully, had
watched Rodolfo being taken away and returned 'blank-eyed'. Apparently
she was very shocked.
The rest of the community, who were watching the whole process, had
also turned away from Eddie. Lipari and his wife exits ignoring him as
their relatives have been taken away with Marco and Rodolfo; Louis,
Eddie's buddy 'barely turns, then walks off', leaving Eddie shouting
frantically 'I give them the blanket off my bed!'
But the worse is still to come, Catherine hated Eddie. And the
audience knew that Eddie went through all this just for Catherine, but
he hasn't got what he wanted and had lost Catherine as well. He was
very much hurt when Catherine cried 'He bites people when they sleep!
He comes when nobody's lookin' and poisons decent people. In the
garbage he belongs!' as he 'seems about to pick up the table and fling
it at her.' The audience may pity Eddie a little at this point as
Eddie didn't think he had sacrificed so much to trade for this.
After Rodolfo, Catherine came, and Eddie claimed 'I want my name!'
Beatrice finally spits out what she wanted to say for long, 'You want
somethin' else Eddie, and you can never have her!' The effect on this
phrase was dramatic, as Catherine cried 'B.!' 'in horror', and Eddie
'(crying out in agony) that's what you think of me - that I would have
such a thoughts? 'and 'His fists clench his head as though it will
burst.' Clearly even at this point, Eddie still does not want to admit
he has got sexual feelings for Catherine, he still think of it as
dirty, unmoral thoughts.
It is nearly the end of the play when Marco came to Eddie's house,
calling 'Eddie Carbone!' Eddie acted 'as though flinging his
challenge', and answered 'Yeah, Marco! Eddie Carbone. Eddie Carbone.
Eddie Carbone.' This built up a dramatic tension here as Eddie
repeated his name three times in a threatening way, and both the
audience and Eddie knew that Marco is seeking for revenge.
But it is even more dramatic when Eddie is 'incensing himself and
little bits of laughter even escape him as his eyes are murderous and
he cracks his knuckles in his hands with a strange sort of
relaxation'. Miller has yet again used the stage direction
successfully to build up an dramatic tension as two enemies met
At the end Eddie 'springs a knife into his hand', 'lunges with the
knife' and tried to stab Marco. But Marco is stronger than him, he
'grabs his arm, turning the blade inward and pressing it home'. Even
though it is an inevitability, to the audience's huge astonishment,
Marco had killed Eddie.
The audience now would pity Eddie a little but not so sympathise with
Marco, because from inside Eddie is a decent man, who took a step
wrong towards his tragic ending, but for whatever he did, he does not
deserve death. Although Marco had several reasons to hate Eddie, to
want revenge, he still had not the right to kill him.
The whole play ends when 'the light have gone down, leaving him
(Alfieri) in a glow' and he gives a speech about Eddie:
'Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better... And
yet, it is better to settle for half, it must be!'
This speech can connect back to the start of Act 2 when Catherine
suggested Rodolfo to live back in Italy because Eddie doesn't want
them to be married; so it will be a 'half-half' for all of them and
may settle for a better ending. However the end in inevitable, thus
'...and even as I know how wrong he was, and his death useless, I
tremble, for I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from
his memory - not purely good, but himself purely, for he allowed
himself to be wholly known...'
Again he had commented on Eddie is a decent man, he did not snitch to
the immigration for nothing, he only did this when he had no other
choice. Alfieri is pitying Eddie, thus the audience would pity them as
well. Although he is rather a folly, but people can't blame him fully,
for that he has already lost his life as a severe punishment.
As a conclusion, A View From The Bridge dealt with the struggle of a
man, who wants to keep his family together. The audience's opinion of
that man, Eddie, changes throughout the play, and was often influenced
by character's speech, their actions, and more importantly, by the
'chorus', Alfieri. This is because the language of the characters is
also a key part in the play, since the characters are
Italian-Americans, Miller uses 'bad' English and a lot of slang
language. Only Alfieri speaks with poise and sophistication, he is a
well-educated lawyer from middle class and he was not really involved
in the play. Therefore it will be more convincing to believe what he
said is unbiased rather than all other main characters on stage.
On the other hand Miller had also successfully used stage direction
and stage lights to build the dramatic effort of the play, and helps
the reader/audience to understand more, and made A View From The
Bridge full of drama and suspense.