Comparison and Analysis Essay
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Both characters show traces of mental instability; Blanche perhaps more-so than Eddie, as throughout the play there are constant reminders to the audience that Blanche’s already feeble mental state is deteriorating. For example, when Blanche recalls the death of her ‘young husband’, Tennessee Williams cleverly has the music of the ‘Vasouviana Polka’ playing in the background, which increases in pace and volume the more distressed and erratic Blanche becomes.
However, Eddie’s aberration is present much more subtly than Blanche’s,; Arthur Miller gives us hints that he does not see the world normally, which are extremely evident in the way he speaks and reacts with the character of Catherine.
This is present in chapter 1, when Eddie expresses his resentment of other men looking at her, “Katie you are walkin’ wavy! I don’t like the looks they’re givin’ you”, despite her being 17 years old he tries to shield her from other men.
His affection towards Catherine is undoubtedly not how it should be, and throughout the play Eddie suppresses these feelings and urges as he is very much consumed in his own mind and does not fully acknowledge this until Beatrice clearly articulates his desires in the conclusion of the play by saying “You want somethin’ else, Eddie, and you can never have her! “.
In both cases, most of the tension the characters create is due to their naivety towards their unusual relationships; both characters have abstruse attractions towards people who are not family members by blood, but through other means.
(Catherine, Eddie’s wife’s late sister’s daughter and Stanley, Blanche’s sister’s husband). Like Eddie, Blanche daintily drops hints that she is interested in her sister’s husband although at the start of the play we dismiss this as Blanche’s usual behavior as she has a tendency to flirt with anyone/everyone she comes across.
The virility of Stanley’s character allows him to see straight through Blanche’s poised and false exterior, which means that he has very little respect for her, this is clearly shown by his actions towards her throughout the play and this leads to a highly charged atmosphere between the two of them, (and also between Stanley and Stella as she is aware of his complete disapproval of her sister, hereby creating great drama). For example, at the start of scene two, Stella and Stanley have an argument about Blanche which ends in Stanley asserting his authority by saying ‘You’re damn tootin’ I’m going to stay here’.
Later in scene two Stanley acts upon his intuition and rifles through Blanche’s trunk which contains all her personal belongings clearly indicating his lack of respect for her possessions. Williams creates great tension between Blanche and Stanley during the play as, although there is hostility, I feel it contributes to the sexual tension felt between them; for example Stanleys ‘request’ when he says “My clothes’re stickin’ to me. Do you mind if I make myself comfortable? (He starts to remove his shirt)” reveals the sexual tension between Stanley and Blanche when they first meet and indicates that sexuality is a core part of his personality.
He is portrayed as a sexual character from the beginning, whereas Blanche attempts to hide this side of her, however this in itself somehow subtly emphasises her true nature. Blanche is equally forward in the scene when she changes clothes in the bedroom which is only separated by drapes, she asks “Excuse me while I slip on my pretty new dress!! ” and “Many thanks! Now the buttons”. Blanche purposefully flirts with Stanley and she wants him to get close to her, especially when asking him to do up the buttons.
These various subtle and intimate moments work in unison to indicate the contrasts and similarities between Stanley and Blanche, which combine to create heightened sexual tension. Ultimately as they are both strong characters, one of the two has to come out a victor of their rivalry. Stanley is strong but Blanche successfully establishes a foothold in his house during the first third of the play and even shames him into acting somewhat ‘sheepishly’ by the end of scene one. However, Blanche’s ascendancy does not last long and eventually we see Stanley regain his primitive masculine supremacy.
This then progresses towards the end of the play, to complete lack of respect for Blanche herself, as in scene ten a drunk Stanley rapes her while her sister is in hospital; an unpleasant ‘victory’ over a weakened Blanche is the very peak of tension between the two. The main tension experienced in “A View from the Bridge” is due to the great contrast between how Eddie sees Catherine, and how she sees him. In Eddie’s world, he imagines protecting Catherine from marriage or any male relationship and wants her for himself.
While Eddie wavers and switches between communal and state laws and cultures to discriminate against Rodolpho, his motivations do not change, regardless of the fact it is often at the expense of others. Throughout the play, Miller creates uncomfortable situations for the reader/viewer, caused by the emergence of Eddie’s unusual ‘love’ for Catherine. This is shown in particular in act one, when Catherine lights Eddie’s cigar in the living room, it is an event that gives Eddie unusual pleasure, as he then longingly ‘stands looking towards the kitchen for a moment’.
This would normally be an innocent and loving gesture from a niece to her uncle, however due to the fact that the audience is aware of Eddie’s feelings about Catherine, the situation becomes uncomfortable, possibly bearing phallic connotations. Depending on interpretation by the actors and by the readers, this moment in the play may have more or less sexual undertones, heightening the tension gradually, with each intimate encounter between the two.
Eddie pays great attention to Catherine, which often corresponds with his impotence in his own relationship with Beatrice; in scene one she confronts him asking ‘When am I going to be a wife again, Eddie? ’, which can either be interpreted as a delicate way to address the sensitive subject of their non-existent sex life, or as a way of subtly and bitterly trying to make him see how he is behaving.
Later on she also says “You going to leave her (Catherine) alone? Or you gonna drive me crazy? ” she says this after Eddie has just argued with Catherine in the street over Rodolpho; it is another way of her trying to tell him what he needs to hear. Until the end of the play, the other characters are aware of Eddie’s feelings towards Catherine, he seems unable to understand them himself.
“A View From the Bridge” uses the character of Alfieri as a narrator which also acts as a chorus, giving us brief but ambiguous insights into what is going to happen later on in the play; this is a theatrical technique that originated in Athens during its time as the theatrical capital of the western world.
The scenes would be broken up by interjections from the chorus, which often would comment on the action of the story and express their sorrow and mourning for the tragic events; however Alfieri does not so much show his sadness but on several occasions comments on how dreadful everything that happens is, even ending the play by telling the audience that he ‘mourns’ for Eddie (with a certain alarm).
In both plays, the tension caused by the characters of Blanche and Eddie is often increased by the implication that although they are members of the family, there is no longer a place for them. In “A Streetcar Named Desire”, there is no place for Blanche in Stella and Stanley’s relationship, the lack of space in their house and cramped atmosphere accurately reflects her imposition on their lives; creating an intense atmosphere (especially due to the face that there is only a set of ‘drapes’ separating Blanche from Stanley when either he or she is changing).
Eddie, on the other hand, has been forced to appear an outsider in his own home, due to the presence of the illegal immigrants Rodolpho and Marco. However, the real issue Williams wants the audience to concentrate on, is that there is no longer a place for Eddie in his beloved Catherine’s life; as she is growing up, she becomes less reliant on support from Eddie and if anything his harsh attitudes towards letting her have freedom push him further away from her, making him even less a part of his life as she resents him for it.
Unlike Blanche, Eddie does not begin the story as an outsider; the progression of his obsessions throughout the play lead to him becoming more and more distanced from those closer to him (Beatrice and Catherine); and eventually he loses his place in the family entirely. This happens when Catherine tells him she is going to move out with Rodolpho, which sends Eddie over the edge. This idea of Blanche’s intrusion relates to her being described as “the villain of the piece” by George Marotous, an online critic; however, I personally disagree with this statement.
Blanche’s actions before her visit to Stella were not in any way malicious, and due to the death of her young husband, her mental state was already unfavourable, which lead her to make unwise decisions and behave in a way that was not appropriate. Some of her actions whilst at Stella and Stanley’s house were indeed often rude and unsuitable, flirtatious and imposing; however, this was perhaps due to the effect that losing Belle Reve had on her.
Blanche’s attitude is represented by the point in which she says ‘Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable! It is the one unforgivable thing, in my opinion, and the one thing of which I have never, never been guilty’. I believe that it is a more fitting title for the character of Eddie from “A View From the Bridge”; as although his erratic behaviour is due to him wanting the best for Catherine, his actions become malicious as his need for control increases.
The main example of this is when Eddie calls Immigration in order to have Rodolpho and Marco sent back to Italy, so that Rodolpho can no longer take Catherine away from him. One of the most impacting moments in this scene in act two, is when Beatrice asks Eddie ‘My God, what did you do? ’ as the stage directions go from ‘[weakened with fear]’ to ‘[-her final thrust is to turn towards him instead of running from him]’.
This creates great tension, as it is the moment in which she realises that it was Eddie who called Immigration; it highlights his enormous change in character and is the point in the play at which we acknowledge that there will be no happy ending (at least, not for Eddie). However, in both the cases of Blanche and Eddie, it is not their desire to be spiteful or to cause others harm that leads them to their misfortunes; for Blanche it is the loss of her young husband and home, and for Eddie the unrequited love of his niece Catherine.
The element of sexuality in both plays heightens the tension dramatically and is one of the main factors contributing to their demises and the consequences of this incite them to behave inappropriately. Out of all of the characters in both plays, the endings of Eddie and Blanche are the most distressing; however, they are not at all surprising. This is represented by the last line of “A View from the Bridge” said by the narrator, Alfieri, ‘And so I mourn him – I admit it – with a certain… alarm. ’.