A View from the Bridge

April 19, 2016 Pushpinder K

Very useful in the understanding of the core themes in the play with special focus on the character of Willy Loman.


                                            A vindication of the Self…

“Most of the time we settle for half and I like it better.” Alfieri’s words resound the central motif in the poignant story of Eddie Carbone, a forty year old, husky, slightly overweight longshoreman, who becomes a symbol ‘of being yourself’ when he answers the pressing call of his innermost consciousness. A drama that deals with multi- faceted issues including, illegal Italian Immigrants in America, family relationships, love, jealousy, possessiveness and tragedy resulting from inner compulsions, etches an unforgettable tale of conflict between law and Justice.

Settled in Brooklyn, New York, where Eddie made his meagre living by working at the shipyards, he supports his wife, Beatrice and her sister’s daughter, Catherine, for whom he took responsibility to take under his care after the death of her mother, Nancy. Set against the backdrop of the Red Hook, a slum facing the bay on the seaward side of Brooklyn bridge, an area, not considered elite enough by Eddie himself, the conflict between the Sicilian Code of honor and the American Law against Illegal immigration, is revealed in a subtle and dramatic manner.

Delicately fluctuating between the two points of the fulcrum, with Law on the one end and honour on the other, the drama becomes a riveting tragedy when Eddie Murphy does something legal yet dishonourable in the eyes of the Italian community where he belongs. He ends up becoming a target of hatred and denunciation by the entire neighbourhood when he snitches to the American Immigration Bureau on Beatrice’s cousins, who were illegal immigrants in the country, taking refuge under the Carbones’ roof.

Betraying his own principles of ‘keeping the mouth shut’ in the face of the Immigration Authorities, Eddie dishonors himself in the eyes of his community, when driven by his inner compulsion of jealousy and insecurity, emerging from his abnormal love and possessiveness for Catherine. Eddie repeats the dishonourable conduct of Vinny Bolzano, who had snitched to the Immigration about his uncle, an illegal immigrant hiding in their house. Eddie cites the example as the play opens, disparaging Vinny’s betrayal, yet falls to the same folly himself.

However, Eddie becomes a tragic figure, for reasons beyond the eventuality of his accidental daeth in a scuffle at the end of the play. Referred to as a “Rat”, by Catherine, Eddie, becomes the emblem of destruction, as he is accused by Marco of killing his children and ‘snatching the food from their mouths.’ Catherine relegates him to the “gutters”, calling him garbage that “belongs to the sewer” as she discards and disowns him for betraying the two brothers, Marco and Rodolpho, the latter being the man she loved.

Compelled by mixed emotions of anger, jealousy and disillusionment, Eddie makes the impulsive call to the Immigration Authorities on the morning of Catherine’ s wedding to Rodolpho. Having fathered the helpless child and fed her from his mouth, Eddie undoubtedly harboured different plans for her future, which he saw marred by marrying a man, who was an illegal immigrant, and who according to Eddie’s understanding wanted to marry Catherine to become an American citizen and was weird enough to give Eddie the “heeby-jeebies”.

Alfieri, the Lawyer, in his fifties, holding his Law Office in Red Hook, “the gullet of New York swallowing the tonnage of the world”, is portly, good-humoured and thoughtful. He represents the Law, acts as the spokesperson for the dramatist and becomes Eddie’s super-ego as he advises him that he has no right to come in the way of Catherine’s marriage to Rodolpho and reminds him from time to time that law is the word and there is nothing illegal for a young girl desiring to marry an immigrant.

The drama displays sensitive family issues, a special forte of Arthur Miller, as the unstable relationship between Eddie and Beatrice seems threatened by Eddie’s abnormal affections for the young niece. His over-possessiveness finds vent through his over-protectiveness. A moment of glory as viewed by Catherine herself and likewise, by Beatrice, when the former is the only candidate selected from the entire lot of her peers for the job of a stenographer as she was “the best in the whole class”, is denied by Eddie. He is disappointed as he does not want to let go of her; he is insecure of losing her whether she takes up a job or falls in love and decides to marry Rodolpho. Eddie feels compelled to stop her anyhow.

Propelled by anger, utter frustration, and a grim sense of loss, the code of honour takes the second place in front of the call of his own individual inner voice, thus he picks up the phone at the Booth, and lodges the complaint. Arthur Miller’s passion with the individual’s battles against the society as well as the inner consciousness is exemplified touchingly through Eddie’ s vindication of his individual call.

An act of dishonour according to the Sicilian code of honour, deserving of being excommunicated, Eddie snitches to the Law; being wholly himself, he loses his respect in the eyes of the entire neighbourhood and falls to his death resulting from the long simmering conflict between the generous host and the illegal guests. Eddie’s generosity in welcoming Catherine’s cousins and providing them with food and lodging, gets diminished in the face of his growing insecurity as he sees Catherine developing an emotional bonding with Rodolpho.

Perhaps Eddie would not die, if he had settled for half and made a compromise with his truest feelings, but as Alfieri says, though his death was a waste, yet he liked him better because he was wholly himself! “His eyes were like tunnels”, in which Alfieri saw the darkness that Eddie was driving himself towards and there was nothing that Alfieri could do to stop him, other than warning him.

Eddie “allowed himself to be wholly known”, “not purely good, but himself purely.”  Alfieri’s words that he ‘loved him more than all his sensible clients’ is a truth that haunts the readers challenging them to empathise with Eddie and walk in his shoes to gauge for ourselves how difficult the journey was for Eddie! Was he a hero or a coward?

Written by Mrs. Pushpinder Kaur


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