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Tension in a View from the Bridge

The play ‘A view from the bridge’ is by Arthur Miller. It is set in 1930s America, in an Italian American neighborhood near the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Miller creates dramatic tension via the use of the characters Eddie and Catherine and their relationship together. Eddie and Beatrice are Catherine’s Aunt and Uncle. Catherine is Beatrice’s sister’s daughter. Her parents have died so she now lives with them. Eddie and Catherine have a very close relationship and sometimes this can be a problem.

In the beginning we see Catherine telling Eddie she has got a job.

This does obviously not please Eddie right from the start. The first words of the narrator, Alfieri, make us think and almost expect there to be conflict during and throughout the play. “… heard the same complaint and sat there as powerless as I, and watched it run its bloody course. ” Alfieri’s words defiantly make the audience think a feeling of expected tension and give us a sense of anxiety.

Eddie is very protective of Catherine and the thought of her going out to work upsets him. I think maybe Eddie is apprehensive of Catherine growing up, and doesn’t want to think she is old enough to look after herself.

When Eddie finds out the location of Catherine’s new job he is clearly put out. “Near the Navy Yard, plenty can happen in a block and a half… ” He seems to not want to let her grow up and move on with her life.

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At 17 Catherine is not old enough to go out on her own according to Eddie. Eddie also seems to think Catherine’s change in appearance is too grown up and at 17 a short skirt and high heels is a big thing. Just in these first few pages we already start to feel an atmosphere of tension and it seems to be mounting.

With the imminent arrival of the illegal immigrants – Marco and Rodolfo – there is defiantly tension building. We can see that Eddie is obviously very territorial about his home and Catherine! I think that Catherine Is only a teenager who needs some room to grow up and Eddie enclosing her won’t help that and is sure to create tension. In the scene that closes Act one, Miller effectively creates tension. Miller begins the scene begins with a simple conversation about a recent trip to Africa which Marco and Rodolfo had undergone through work.

However, tension is still created, regardless of the insignificance of the subject, by Eddie, who, from a simple glance at Catherine, appears to be sceptical about whether the trip actually took place: “They went to Africa once, on a fishing boat. (Eddie glances at her) It’s true, Eddie” The conversation then continues further, though it is clear from Miller’s use of stage directions that Eddie is disregarding anything Rodolfo says to him, and talking to Marco exclusively, creating an uneasy atmosphere and increasing the tension further.

Throughout the beginning of the scene, Beatrice is stacking dishes and going in and out of the kitchen. Rodolfo then helps her: “(Beatrice enters. She and Rodolfo stack the remaining dishes. )” Beatrice is trying to keep the peace, but Rodolfo’s stacking of the dishes exposes his femininity even more and goes against Eddie’s views on the role of the male within the household. The audience is very mindful of this, and therefore the tension heightens. Eddie then undermines Beatrice with a mocking tone, in response to her comment about fishing from the beach: “Sure. (Laughing) How you gonna catch sardines on a hook? Here, Miller successfully increases tension, as, although the subject matter is innocent, Eddie feels the need to mock Beatrice in order to feel a sense of superiority. The conversation continues, and Eddie mentions how he heard they “paint oranges in Italy”. He responds to Marco’s comments, but when Rodolfo joins in the conversation with a simple comment about Lemon’s being green, Eddie is clearly looking for conflict and says: “I know lemons are green for Christ sake, you see them in store they’re green sometimes. I said oranges they paint, I didn’t say nothing’ about lemons. “

Beatrice continues to act as the peace maker, diverting the attention of her cousins away from Eddie, who is evidently attempting to cause conflict at every possible opportunity. With a new discussion about Marco’s family, Eddie chooses to make a comment that deeply insults Marco – this is significant because it is the first real sign of and tension between Marco and Eddie, and is also the starting point for the increasing conflict Miller skilfully creates between these two characters, as the play progresses… “I betcha there’s plenty of surprises when those guys get back there, heh? Laughing) I mean, you know – they count the kids and there’s a couple extra than when they left? ” Eddie has a very particular view of what it means to be a man. When other characters do not conform to his ideas of manliness it leads to conflict, as is the case with Rodolfo. However, in this case, tension is increased because Marco, unlike his brother, does demonstrate `masculine’ characteristics in such a way as to make Eddie feel threatened, and therefore Eddie feels to insult the level of commitment in Marco’s relationship.

Rodolfo, in response to Eddie’s harsh comment, says: It’s stricter in our town. It’s not so free” This, and Miller’s stage directions such as (Eddie looks at him now) and (Eddie rises, pacing up and down) heighten tension once more, as it is clear Eddie does not take too kindly to Rodolfo’s comment, with his reply “It isn’t so free here either, Rodolfo, like you think”. Eddie says this in a rather aggressive tone, and increases conflict further by interrupting Rodolfo while he tries to reply. Eddie then turns to Marco for support, but gets nothing more than a cautious reply signifying Marco’s insecurity about ome into the agreement with Eddie, and going against the views of his brother. This, once more, increases the tension, as the audience is aware of the conflicted atmosphere in the room. Beatrice, who, so far has been trying to keep the peace, appears to be in agreement with Rodolfo, and, unusually, makes this clear to Eddie by saying: “Well he didn’t exactly drag her off though, Eddie” Rodolfo goes on to tell Eddie how much respect he has for Catherine, and question his supposed wrongdoings, to which Eddie says: “Look, kid, I ain’t her father, I’m only her uncle”

This is followed by yet another significant moment in the scene when Beatrice interrupts Eddie, and quite bluntly says: “Well then, be an uncle then. (Eddie looks at her, aware of her criticising force. ) I mean. ” Beatrice stands up to Eddie, but is fully aware that he would not respond positively to such an action, and tried to detract from her initial criticism by finishing her speech with a simple “I mean. ” Beatrice, with this line is showing her true feelings about Eddie and Catherine’s relationship, and it is possible that this is said in a somewhat envious manner. Again, the atmosphere heightens the tension.

Miller then creates more conflict, with the conversation progressing further and Eddie stating his feelings with regards to the changes in Catherine since the arrival of Rodolfo. Beatrice continues to side with Catherine and Rodolfo, by encouraging Catherine to defend herself when questioned about staying out late. However, Catherine responds with nothing more than a, one word answer, exposing her fear of standing up to her uncle. Catherine, for the first time in the play, asserts her independence, and, “flushed with revolt” rebels against Eddie, by putting “Paper Doll” on the honograph and asking Rodolfo if he wants to dance. Tension, at this point, is at its peak, as the atmosphere, which was already uneasy from Eddie’s disapproval of Rodolfo, is now severely awkward, and this is emphasised by the stage directions such as: (Eddie freezes). The writer makes the audience extremely aware of Eddie’s response to Catherine’s rebellion, and tension is extremely high. Eddie asks about the record, almost with a disgusted tone. Miller choreographs this climax well by writing that Rodolfo teaches Catherine to dance and allowing physical closeness.

Eventually, Eddie turns away, and Marco “sits there, waiting,” fully aware that Eddie will want to act upon this rebellion, in a way which will affect Rodolfo. Again, another discussion starts up about the work of Marco and Rodolfo, and Marco mentions that his brother cooks on the boats. The tension is once again at a climax, as the audience are aware by the stage direction “Eddies lowers his newspaper” suggests that he will have something negative to say about this, in order to cause further conflict.

Which he does by saying: “He’s a cook, too! (Looking at Rodolfo) He sings, he cooks… ” By using this line, Miller shows that Eddie is very uncomfortable with the further exposure of Rodolfo’s femininity, and intends this to be sarcastic, though this is not clear to Rodolfo, who appears thankful of the comments. Eddie presses on the point further, by again saying: “It’s wonderful. He sings, he cooks, and he could make dresses… ” At the end of act one Miller composes an important exchange between Marco and Eddie.

Eddie is challenging and mocking Rodolfo in a way that only Marco notices. In turn Marco protects his younger brother and shows Eddie that he knows what his intentions are and that he refuses to accept them. Marco, who will not allow any harm to his family, neutralises the one tactic, physical violence, Eddie can use on Rodolfo. The chair held “like a weapon” over Eddie’s head symbolises his impending judgement and punishment, and awaits the way in which Marco, rather than Rodolfo, is to become Eddie’s main rival.

This is an example of when events take a turn with very few words spoken about the characters feelings, almost like a “silent threat”. Marco simply lifts a chair awkwardly above his head and holds it there, something, which Eddie is unable to do. With his challenge to Eddie we see a new side of Marco that brings another moment of dramatic tension during the play. Politeness does not permit Marco to say anything, and the gesture is far more effective as the audience sees the chair “raised like a weapon” over Eddie’s head, symbolising the destruction he will shortly bring on himself.

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Tension in a View from the Bridge. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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