Arthur Miller wrote ‘A View from the Bridge’ as a modern version of a Greek tragedy, therefore, Eddie’s death at the end of Act Two should be tragic. The audience have to feel pity, or pathos, towards Eddie when he dies to make the play a successful tragedy. According to 1.Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero, the hero should be noble and of high status; he should have a flaw, or hamartia, which should lead to his tragic ending; his punishment should seem to be harsher than his crime; and he should realise that his flaw has led to his tragedy. By making his play a modern version of a Greek tragedy, Miller uses the character of Alfieri, his description of Eddie as a likeable and respected man and an extreme and violent death in the arms of his wife to make the audience sympathise with him and to make him a tragic hero.
Throughout the play, Miller gives his audience many reasons to respect and admire Eddie. Although there is “too much love” (p. 48) for his niece, it is also obvious that he is very protective over Catherine and genuinely cares about her. Eddie and his wife have taken Catherine in and have given her a loving and caring home to live in. Also, Eddie seems popular within his community, is liked by Louis and Mike and is described by Alfieri as “good a man as he had to be in a life that was hard and even.” (p. 26)
Eddie is respected both in the house, because he is head of the household, and in the community. This shows that he is actually a noble person, with high status in the Italian-American community. He is the only person in the family who works; he is the provider for the family. Miller shows how hardworking Eddie is because he has to earn a living for his whole family and despite the mistakes he makes, both Catherine and Beatrice love him until he dies at the end of the play.
Many may feel sorry for Eddie even without the chorus, Alfieri, being there to lead the audience though the play. In the beginning of the play, when Beatrice tells Eddie, “She’s got a job.” (p. 18), Eddie seems shocked and says to Catherine “It’s not wonderful…You can’t take no job. Why didn’t you ask me before you take a job?” (p. 18). This quote shows the audience that Eddie disapproves of this and does not want his niece to leave him, even though Beatrice and Catherine had wanted Eddie to be happy about this. When Beatrice tells Eddie that Catherine will earn “fifty dollars a week” (p. 18), Eddie is taken aback and his jealousy of Catherine earning more than he does becomes more and more obvious throughout the conversation. Later on in the discussion, Eddie says “I want you to be in a nice office.
Maybe a lawyer’s office someplace in New York in one of them nice buildings.” (p. 19). This contradicts what Alfieri says in his introduction to the play – “In this neighbourhood to meet a lawyer or a priest on the street is unlucky. We’re only thought of in connexion with disasters, and they’d rather not get too close.” (p. 11). Later on in the play, when Catherine fell in love with Eddie, Eddie gets even more envious and angry. In his conversation with Catherine, he says “He [Rodolpho] marries you he’s go the right to be an American citizen…The guy is lookin’ for his break, that’s all he’s lookin’ for.” (p. 41). This shows how angry Eddie is at the fact that Catherine likes Rodolpho, and not him. Miller helps the audience sympathise with Eddie in this scene by making Catherine trust Rodolpho instead of Eddie.
To a modern audience, there may be some features in Eddie that are hard not to dislike. His flaw involves love for a girl he has raised as if she was his own daughter, a terrible taboo. Also, Eddie is a parental figure who seems to expect women to do domestic work for him. Tragic heroes usually recognise their own mistakes. In Greek tragedies, this is the moment in a play when the tragic hero appreciates their own weakness and their own responsibility.
However, throughout the play, Eddie does not admit to himself the truth about loving Catherine. Although Beatrice tries to make him face this truth by saying “You want somethin’ else, Eddie and you can never have her” (p. 83), Eddie seems truly shocked and grasps his head “as though it would burst” (p. 83). All throughout the play, Eddie never really seems capable of facing what he feels or admitting his responsibility. Even in the end of the play, Eddie says, “Marco, tell them what a liar you are!” (p. 84)
To try and prevent the audience from making harsh judgements of Eddie, Miller uses Alfieri as a type of ‘chorus’ in the play. In Greek tragedies, the chorus are observers who judge actions fairly. They help the audience to consider the elements of the play. As the chorus, Alfieri sympathises with Eddie, along with the audience. He expresses his feelings and thoughts to the audience about what happens throughout the play and provides judgement.
In the play, Alfieri suggests that it is normal and human to sin. He also states that many people have hidden guilty secrets but there is something beautiful in a man whose sins are so public and so clear that he becomes “wholly known” (p. 85). Before Eddie calls the immigration department, Alfieri warns him that “even those who understand will turn against you” (p. 67), which shows that Eddie’s weakness is not special, but that other people still will judge him.
Then, with Eddie dying on stage, Alfieri ends the play by saying, “I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from his [Eddie’s] memory…for he allowed himself to be wholly known and for that I think I will love him…” (p. 85) In other words, since we all have guilty secrets but manage to keep them hidden inside, there is something quite pure in a person whose guilty secrets are not unknown. An oxymoron Miller used, “perversely pure” (p. 85), shows that Alfieri wants us to think about our own weaknesses and not judge Eddie too harshly.
Another common feature of Greek tragedy is that the death should seem predictable, and that it cannot be stopped. Miller uses Alfieri to suggest this to the audience, as if it is out of control of the character. Right from the beginning, Miller makes it obvious that Eddie would die in the end. Alfieri keeps giving clues to the audience about Eddie being destined to die, saying he felt “powerless… and watched it run its bloody course.” (p. 12) Another quote from Alfieri is, “I knew where he [Eddie] was heading for, I knew where he was going to end.” (p. 50) These quotes make us feel more pity for Eddie because, even when he seems happy and loving, we still know he is heading towards a “bloody” (p. 12) end.
Miller successfully makes Eddie a sympathetic character by making him fit the tragic hero he is supposed to be. The audience goes from admiring Eddie to getting to know his terrible guilty secret. Through the whole play we get the unescapable feeling that he is heading towards his “bloody” end and that it is his ‘guilty secret’ that will cause it. Although for some modern theatre audiences, Eddie may seem to be an old-fashioned man and although he never really admits his own faults, Miller uses Alfieri’s character to make sure we can still feel the intended pity. I think this is Miller’s greatest achievement in this play, reminding us that we are all human, guilty in some ways, and that we should feel sorry for ourselves and Eddie for that.