There are many themes within the theatrical drama of ‘A View From the Bridge’. There are also some ideas that add to the drama of the play, keeping the audience full of suspense. The idea of manliness is connected in this play as it relates to the characters, Rodolpho, Marco and especially Eddie Carbone. This idea often causes conflict throughout the play. The theme of Manliness is probably the cause of many of the disastrous happenings and the downfall of Eddie.
Eddie, who is the main character of the play, is a simple person who brings about his own downfall. The way in which he does so is that he cannot accept that his niece has fallen in love with Rodolpho whom he despises. When others do not conform to his ideas, ‘the guy aint right’ it often leads to conflict. Since he comes from a Sicilian background, he sees himself in the traditional role of the male breadwinner, the head of the house and is used to getting his own way. He believes that being the man of the house means he should have authority over his wife and niece, who naturally defer to him. He demands a certain type of respect from everyone.
The moment we realise what his beliefs are, we immediately understand this as a threat. Since Catherine and Beatrice conform to his demands he has no problem until the cousins arrive. He has this idea that he has to be consulted before any decisions are to be made in his house. This is shown when he is talking to Catherine about her new job offer, and demands to know ‘Why didn’t you ask me before you took the job?’ Even though she is now old enough to make her own decisions, he wants to feel like he is the provider in the house, therefore he feels threatened when Catherine wants to work too. Eddie hates the idea of her entering a male dominated world of work and adult responsibility.
Eddie argues and questions Rodolpho’s presence in America, ‘If he’s come here to work, then he should work; if he’s come here for a good time then he could fool around’, when Rodolpho appears to be getting closer to Catherine. By inviting Rodolpho to dance with Catherine, she aggravates Eddie. He replies by giving Rodolpho a lesson in boxing. Eddie pretends to be pleased with Rodolpho but the real hostility is not concealed very well and soon becomes evident to all. Marco is not deceived, and rushes to his brother’s aid by conducting a contest in physical strength, the chair lifting challenge.
Marco demonstrates traditional masculine characteristics, which makes Eddie feel undermined in his own house, ‘Eddies grin vanishes as he absorbs his look’. Marco has a protective attitude towards his brother and will not allow him to be bullied. This is in the same way that Eddie is protective towards Catherine. He expects her to always agree with him, and he becomes angry when she fails to share his opinions.
Beatrice is emotionally wearied by her husband’s irrational behaviour towards Rodolpho. At first she expresses her feelings openly, ‘I don’t wanna hear no more about it, you understand? Nothin,’ and her annoyance is clear when she asks, ‘What do you want from me? They’ve moved out; what do you want now?’ Beatrice’s open annoyance at her husband is too much for Eddie. He reprimands her: ‘I don’t like it! The way you talk to me and the way you look at me,’ and expects absolute obedience from his wife. Beatrice’s remark, ‘You kept her a baby, you wouldn’t let her go out,’ tells us how possessive Eddie has always been about Catherine.
Beatrice has tried to persuade her husband to adopt a more relaxed attitude towards Catherine, ‘I told you a hundred times,’ but Eddie has always seen himself as the man in charge and able to get his own way. When Eddie refers to sex by telling Beatrice there will be no further discussion of their love life, Beatrice accepts what he says and simply agrees with, ‘Okay.’ This could imply that Beatrice is used to agreeing with Eddie and doing as he says, that she is just too tired to argue back. Either way, Eddie is showing that he is the man and whatever he says should be done the right way without anyone arguing with him.
Marco who is man of deliberation and good sense is wiser than Rodolpho, and initially conforms to Eddie’s idea of a ‘real man’. This is particularly shown when ‘he is coming more and more to address Marco only’ during conversations that they have. On the other hand , he is a challenge to Eddie as is shown in the chair incident. He has a traditional Sicilian view of justice, which is clearly shown when he kills Eddie. After the betrayal, Marco is completely transformed from a wise rational man to a primitive thinking savage beast