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Explore the ways a central character is presented in the drama text. Use examples from the text in your response. Eddie Carbone, a 40 year old Italian American Citizen from Sicily, is the tragic protagonist of A view from the Bridge by Arthur Miller. Alfieri, the chorus in the story, first introduces Eddie as a good, hard working man who does normal things like raising a family, eating, getting old, etc. However as Alfieri states, no one can know what his true self is like.
Alfieri prepares us for the discovery of the secrets in the play.
That two illegal immigrants Marco and Rodolfo are taking shelter in Eddies home and Eddie’s deep secret of his quasi-incestuous desire for his niece, Catherine. At first, Eddie is shown as a good man who is happy and respected by his family. Eddie behaves like a normal, fairly overprotective uncle towards Catherine and the audience would probably not have guessed that he has any desire of her other than the standard uncle and niece relationship.
However it is not the standard uncle and niece relationship in Eddie’s mind but far more complex. The first sense of uneasiness we see is when Catherine lights his cigarette.
Eddie receives some kind of unnatural pleasure from this experience. A woman lighting a man’s cigar can have a sexual implication and this is what Eddie see in Catherine. Knowing that Eddie has these feelings, there are clues earlier back in the text to his obsession with Catherine.
When Catherine sits on her heel beside him, he criticizes the length of her skirt. He doesn’t want Catherine to look attractive in public because he is worried that some man might ask her out. He wants Catherine all to himself and does anything he can to prevent her from getting a boyfriend.
Eddie also does not want her moving out of his home. He wants Catherine always within his grasp. When Catherine tells Eddie that she got a new job, he disapproves straight away: “No – no, you gonna finish school. What kina job, what do you mean? All of a sudden you-“. He is very panicky and disturbed by this information that Catherine is getting a job meaning that Eddie would see Catherine less which seem like a realistic reason for an uncle to be upset about, but knowing Eddie’s true intentions, he want Catherine to be near to him as close as possible.
Eddie’s inner feelings are also somewhat exposed during when Eddie and Beatrice argue. Although Eddie cannot yet grasp his own feelings, is seems like other character like Alfieri and Beatrice are aware of his interest in Catherine: Eddie: “What are you mad at me lately? ” Beatrice: “Who’s mad? … You’re the one is mad. ” Eddie is referring to “mad” as in angry and asking why Beatrice is cross with him. Beatrice responds by referring to the “mad” as in mentally insane and suggests that Eddie had lost his mind, which he eventually does.
Eddie is also show to be a selfish natured and an untrustworthy man. He reminds Beatrice not to let her tired cousins sleep in his bed because the bed is his own property. This could link with the way that he feels about Catherine; she is his personal property and that no one can ‘use’ his personal property apart from himself. Eddie’s experience with life and work has led him to become untrusting of others. He advises Catherine “the less you trust, the less you be sorry” showing that Eddie has not trusted al lot of people in his life and that when he does, it turns out going wrong.
This prepares us for the suspicion and distrust he has when Rodolfo arrives. Eddie becomes increasingly jealous of Catherine’s interest in Rodolfo. “Catherine: (enthralled) Leave him finish, it’s beautiful! ” Catherine likes Rodolfo from the instant she met him and Eddie, aware of this is, wants Catherine to like him in the same way instead of Rodolfo. Eddie quickly comes up with an excuse to stop Rodolfo from singing by saying that “you don’t want to be picked up, do ya? ” which seems like a plausible reason – if Rodolfo sings too loud then someone might notice something strange and inquire.
However Eddie’s true motive for preventing Eddie from singing is to stop Catherine from being amazed by Rodolfo. Eddie’s jealousy becomes further exposed as his face is described as being ‘puffed with trouble’ in the stage direction where Catherine is making Rodolfo coffee. He is jealous that Catherine is getting Rodolfo a drink when before Catherine was getting him a beer. Eddie state of mind is shown when Catherine is talk to Eddie after she has got back from Brooklyn Paramount with Rodolfo. Catherine has told Eddie that she likes him and the stage directions show hiswd reaction to this: “He looks at her like a lost boy”.
Eddie feels a sort of saddened jealousy but he is unable to realize this dishonourable emotion and incapable of admitting this to himself. He is indeed emotionally “lost”. Eddie’s obsession with Catherine and his spiteful nature grows throughout the story. He tries to do anything he can to put Catherine of Rodolfo. In his conversation with Beatrice, Eddie says to her that he is homosexual: “Paper Doll they’re callin’ him. Canary. He’s like a weird”. Eddie is trying to make Beatrice and everyone turn against Rodolfo but ironically everyone turns on him.
Eddie tells Catherine that Rodolfo only likes her because he wants to obtain an American citizenship by marrying her: “Katie, he’s only bowin’ to his passport”. Eddie is trying to make Catherine doubt Rodolfo but this is unsuccessful and ends up in Catherine distrusting Eddie. This strong obsession Edie has with Catherine did not just start when the cousins arrived but has been an ongoing process from before. This is shown in Eddie’s conversation with Beatrice where she tells him that she has worries of her own: “When am I gonna be a wife again, Eddie…
It’s almost three months”. Eddie and Beatrice have had no sexual affiliation for three months because all that has been on his mind is Catherine. Near the end of Act 1, Eddie’s is show to be violent and cold hearted. He mocks Rodolfo’s skills in singing, making clothes and cooking and compares him to himself and say that this is no place for him. He is suggesting that he is not manly enough to be here like him and that he should be in some other place. Eddie tries to supposedly “teach” Rodolfo boxing all of a sudden: “Well, come on. I’ll teach you”
However Eddie knows that Rodolfo is weaker than he is and uses this as an excuse to punch Rodolfo in the face and show everyone, especial Catherine, how weak Rodolfo is and to humiliate him however this had the opposite effect and exposes how sadistic Eddie can be. Eddies motives for his actions all originate from his quasi-incestuous love for his niece. As Alfieri describes, “His eyes were like tunnels”, he can only see Catherine and no one else. He cannot understand why he only sees Catherine but that is all he sees and refuses to let any feeling or any person enter that tunnel nd making sure that Catherine stays only in his tunnel and not anyone else’s.
Significantly, the lyric of the song Rodolfo sings, “Paper Doll”, symbolically reflects Eddie’s feelings for Catherine: “It’s tough to love a doll that’s not your own” “I’m gonna buy a paper doll that I can call my own” “A doll that other fellows cannot steal. ” Figuratively, Eddie is the one singing the song and Catherine is the subject of the song, the doll, and that is has been ‘stolen’ by someone – Rodolfo. This song was carefully chosen by Arthur Miller to act as an intimation of what was to come.
Eddie is unable to comprehend his true feelings but other characters have a clearer view than he does. Like Alfieri, who knows of his love for his niece and describes this as “a passion that had moved into his body”. This is significant because this metaphor is close to the truth of what has happed to Eddie; this newly found passion of Catherine as grown over time and has became strong enough so that it fully controls his body, and is behind every action in Eddie’s life. Eddie’s first conversation with Alfieri shows that Alfieri knows his feelings: “sometimes even a daughter, and he never realizes it, ut through the years – there is too much love for the daughter, there is too much love for the niece. Do you understand what I’m saying to you? ” But Eddie does not fully understand what Alfieri is saying, he think Alfieri mean “love” and in a Uncle and niece love, but Alfieri knows Eddies feeling and is talking about real physical love for Catherine. Eddie blindness towards his inner feeling and stubbornness in letting go of Catherine are Eddie’s tragic flaws that bring upon his downfall.
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