A View from the Bridge is a play by American playwright Arthur Miller. The play is set in 1950s America, in an Italian American neighborhood called Red Hook near the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. The main character of the play is Eddie Carbone, an Italian American longshoreman, who lives with his wife, Beatrice and an orphaned niece named Catherine. Eddie is Catherine’s uncle, but they are not blood-related. Eddie is very over-protective of Catherine and that he is almost possessive of her. He gets jealous very easily when other men look at Catherine.
Eddie’s feelings for Catherine are very strong and he may also have sexual feelings for her. At the beginning of the play, Eddie and Catherine have a very intimate and happy relationship. Eddie has given her the best life he can afford, and in return Catherine loves and trusts him completely. However, their situation changes quite rapidly once Beatrice’s cousins arrive from Italy. After their arrival, a gap seems to form between Eddie and Catherine. Eddie gradually becomes obsessed with trying to stop destiny from changing his life. This obsession soon leads to the violation of every moral he has ever believed in.
In Act I of the play, we see that Catherine has a desire to be noticed by Eddie. Her excitement when he arrives home is almost childlike. Catherine also has a desperate requirement of approval she seeks from her uncle. “You like it? I fixed it different. ” Her thirst to be accepted by him seems unnatural. On the contrary Eddie seems to enjoy Catherine in need of his attention, as he continuously draws the topic of conversation back to her. The conversation turns from “… He’s here B.! ” from Catherine, to “Beautiful…Lemme see in the back” from Eddie.
It is also that at this very early point in the play we might get suspicious of Eddie’s true feelings for Catherine. This is a result of his constant comments on her physical appearance. While Eddie’s references to her short skirt and her ‘ walkin’ wavy’, could just be a protective father’s worries about the attention she is getting from other men, his intentions are still questionable. When Catherine tells Eddie that she got offered a job, Eddied asks questions and becomes very over-protective, ‘Near the Navy Yard plenty can happen in a block and a half.
And the plumbin’ company! That’s one step over the water front. They’re practically longshoremen. ’ Eddie knows that men are going to be looking at Catherine because longshoremen and sailors would be walking up the wards. He does not like the idea of her working in a place where there would be men, who he knows from his own experiences, could take advantage of his pure and innocent Catherine. Eddie shows that this is how he thinks of her, when he calls her ‘a Madonna’.
The way in which Miller uses the word ‘Madonna’ is symbolic as just like the Virgin Mary, who most Catholics worship, in his own way Eddie does almost idolize and worship Catherine. When Eddie finally allows her to accept the job, Catherine’s reaction is very childlike in the way she does not control her emotions. She runs up to Eddie and hugs him. This shows the intensity of Catherine’s love and respect for Eddie. This is not only because of her reply to Eddie when he jokes about her leaving him, but because of the way she ‘grasps’ onto his arms, as she shouts out ‘no please!
‘ The very idea of going away from Eddie hurts her. The next scene is the arrival of Beatrice’s cousins, Marco and Rodolfo, who have entered the country illegally, hoping to leave behind hunger and unemployment for a better life in America. Marco is an exceptionally strong man, said by Eddie’s friends to be ‘a regular bull. ‘ He also has a starving family in Italy (a wife, and 3 sons, one with tuberculosis). Rodolfo is in his late 20’s, fair skinned, blond, and unmarried. After their arrival, Catherine starts showing interest in Rodolfo which makes Eddie jealous.
Eddie notices this fascination and tries to pre-occupy Catherine with making coffee and other tasks. Later in the conversation when Rodolfo begins to sing ‘paper doll’, Eddie realizes that Catherine is impressed in him and decides that he has to stop him. He makes up the excuse, ‘Look, kid; you don’t want to be picked up, do ya? ’ Eddie says that if Rodolfo sings, people might hear him and he might get ‘picked up’ by the Immigration Bureau. This is just an excuse because Eddie does not want Rodolfo to be impressing Catherine. As the play progresses towards the end of the first act, Catherine and Rodolfo start to go out.
As a result Eddie discusses with Catherine about her feelings towards Rodolfo to which she replies by saying, ‘Yeah. I like him’. Eddie is amazed by Catherine’s straightforwardness and as he dislikes Rodolfo, he poisons Catherine’s mind against Rodolfo and tried to turn her against him, by coming up with excuses such as, ‘He don’t respect you’. He says that Rodolfo did not ask him for permission to go out and is disrespecting him. When Catherine denies this, Eddie makes up yet, another excuse, ‘Katie, he’s only bowin’ to his passport’ which means that.
Rodolfo is only going to marry her just so that he can become an American citizen, which deeply hurts Catherine and almost poisons her mind against Rodolfo. Towards the end of Act One, Eddie cleverly introduces the subject of boxing, which is fittingly a masculine activity for Eddie, and while pretending to teach Rodolfo how to box, he hits him in the mouth. Eddie believes that he can prove himself right to Catherine by fighting Rodolfo. For Eddie, this demonstrates to Catherine that Rodolfo is weak and feminine while he is the stronger and masculine one.
When Rodolfo falls down, Catherine rushes to Rodolfo’s side which horrifies Eddie as he clearly sees where Catherine’s loyalties lie as she shouts ‘Eddie’, which displays her anger. Eddie was trying to put Rodolfo out of picture as he was ‘stealing’ Catherine away from him. Eddie then tells Rodolfo, ‘I’ll teach him again. ’ which could have a double meaning as it could mean another lesson in boxing, or a lesson not to go near Catherine again. This also shows that as the play is progressing, Eddie’s actions are becoming more aggressive.
In conclusion, at the end of Act One, Eddie’s love for Catherine has become aggression towards Rodolfo. Eddie’s anger and stress is building up which is told to us by the stage direction of Eddie ‘unconsciously twisting the newspaper’. Here, Eddie is transferring his feeling of anger and frustration to the newspaper. He twists the paper into a tight roll and then bends it which suddenly tears in two. The newspaper represents Rodolfo and he is therefore tearing Rodolfo and getting rid off him. This is what Eddie actually wants to do to Rodolfo.