A View From The Bridge: Aspects Of Greek Tragedy Used By Miller In Political And Moral Issues
A view from the bridge was written by Arthur Miller, and was first performed in 1956. The plot is about a young girl Catherine who is cared for by her Aunt and Uncle, Beatrice and Eddie Carbone. As she grows up, Eddie begins to develop an infatuation with her, which eventually goes on to ruin every aspect of his life. As they shelter immigrants – Marco and Rodolpho – Catherine and Rodolpho begin to fall in love. The setting is in Red Hook Brooklyn, the poorer part of New York City. Aspects of Greek Tragedy are used by Miller in political and moral issues, which intermix with aspects of Greek tragedy – Eddie is also, in a typical Greek sense, the protagonist of the play. Alfieri is the equivalent of a chorus figure, and he hints at the idea of destiny and fate throughout the play. This also interlinks with the Greek tragedy aspect, as the ancient Greek plays would have choruses who watched, and commented on the actions of characters, as Alfieri does. Eddie Carbone is the tragic hero and this is why.
At the exposition of Act 1 we meet Eddie Carbone and we soon get our first impressions of him. Right at the start of the play there are a lot of actions going on already. We can see that Catherine is dressing up and Beatrice is in the kitchen. In the meantime Eddie stares at Catherine and admires the dress she is wearing. Catherine has just got a new job without consulting anyone, and when she tells everyone in the family about it. We can clearly see one character, Eddie Carbone, that is unhappy about this situation. When he says ‘You can’t take no job. Why didn’t you ask me before you take a job?’, we can see that he is shaken by Catherines decisions. When he says “no job”, it not only refers to the job that Catherine got right now( a stenographer), but it also refers to all of her future jobs. This reflects the character of Eddie as egoistic and also over-protective. Because of these actions Eddie is a very relatable character and so can be described as the tragic hero. But there is one solid reason behind all of those comments. Eddie has, as said by Alfieri, “too much love for the niece”. This is immature for Eddie to love his niece who is much younger than himself, but it also reflects the character of Eddie as a liar because he never makes an open statement about his love. Later in Act 1 Eddie says to Catherine ‘Just remember, kid, you can quicker get back a million dollars that was stole than a word that you gave away.’ This quote reveals the irony and madness of Eddie’s character. Miller sets up Eddie so vehemently against betrayal that his transition to the betrayer seems illogical. The set-up requires Eddie to undergo a drastic change, if not complete breakdown, within the play to make such a transition. The force of this transition reveals not only his self-destructive madness, but the deepness of his unspoken love for his niece. This quote also reveals that Eddie knows his own fate—he knows what will happen to him, but cannot escape his fate. Much like Alfieri, Eddie watches himself make decisions he knows will not only ruin his reputation in the community, but also possibly kill him. Eddie may know the consequence of what he does, but remains powerless or too mad to stop it. All of this evidence leads to the fact that Eddie is a tragic hero. We can see the love he has for Catherine is not normal and it is the love that leads him to his end, which proves again that Eddie is the tragic hero of this play.
Later in Act 1 we can see that the cousins of Catherine, Rodolfo and Marco, both arrive and have an impact on Catherine’s life. Rodolfo is a young man and Catherine soon starts to fancy him. Eddie sees that and because losing Catherine to another man would mean the end of life for him, he starts to talk about Rodolfo in a mean manner trying to convince not only the people around him, but also himself that Rodolfo is not a real man and, as said by Eddie himself, ‘He’s like a weird’. At those types if a man was called “a weird” it would normally relate to him being homosexual. Eddie uses this as an insult and tries to convince his friends that Rodolfo is one of those because of his singing and other non-masculine activities.But when Eddie understands that Catherine has taken a liking for Rodolfo he tries to stop them. When he says “I ain’t starting nothin’, but I ain’t gonna stand around lookin’ at that. For that character I didn’t bring her up.” Eddie states that he will not allow somebody unsuitable to have a relationship with Catherine. He seems to consider Catherine as his possession. Already at this point in the play we can see that things are not going how Eddie would like them to, which in the end could result in very bad conclusions. Because of everything going against him at this moment, we can evidence that he is the tragic hero.
In Act 2 we can see how Rodolfo’s and Catherine’s plans have changed. He figures the only way he can stop Rodolfo going off with Catherine would be for the two cousins to go back to Italy and so he has an idea of telling them out to the Immigration Center. When he talks to Alfieri, he senses what Eddie has on his mind and so tells him: “You won’t have a friend in the world … even those who understand … will despise you! “. Alfieri senses Eddie is spiraling out of control and can guess what he is about to do. He warns Eddie that if he reports Marco and Rodolpho to Immigration, the community will reject him. This also says that Eddie is the tragic hero of this play because he becomes again relatable and everything is going to go wrong for him. But Eddie doesn’t listen to Alfieri and so continues with his plan. When the moment comes, he finally declares to the Immigration Center “I want to report something. Illegal immigrants. Two of them.” Pushed to the point of desperation by jealousy, Eddie commits the unforgivable sin of betraying members of his Italian American community to outside authorities. He reports the cousins he has been sheltering in his own home. He has committed an act of betrayal he described earlier as one that would result in social rejection and isolation. After he has betrayed his “future” family, Eddie doesn’t want anyone to judge his actions. It looks as if the world has finally turned the good side for him, but what comes next is exactly what was predicted by Alfieri. When he says to Beatrice “I want my respect! “, Eddie feels slighted by his wife, Beatrice. If she criticizes or questions him, he reacts with anger. He is disgusted that she doesn’t believe him about Rodolpho or feel the same about preventing Catherine’s wedding. He demands to be unquestioned by the women in his home, a demand he equates with the all-important respect so valued in the immigrant world. After the Immigrant Center came to pick Marco and Rodolfo up, life turns around for Eddie, and the only person he was caring about, Catherine, turns around and spits:”Who the hell do you think you are?”After her uncle’s betrayal of her fiancé, Rodolpho, Eddie’s power over Catherine is broken. She no longer respects him, and she is angry that he seems to think he can order her or her aunt around anymore. Catherine finds her voice as a woman and lets Eddie know he won’t control her any longer. This again points to Eddie being the tragic hero because everything turns around for him and nothing goes as planned.
Closer to the end of Act 2 we see Beatrice finally reveal to Eddie “You want somethin’ else, Eddie, and you can never have her! ” Hurt that her husband isn’t satisfied with her love and approval and insists on fighting Marco, Beatrice finally admits to herself and to everyone else what she has long feared. Eddie wants Catherine, her niece. Even thought the truth is now out, Eddie wants to continue fighting. He says to Marco: ”Wipin’ the neighborhood with my name like a dirty rag! I want my name, Marco! “Eddie is incensed that Marco’s accusations have dirtied his good name. He is terrified at the prospect of being a social reject, and he angrily demands that Marco recant and restore his honor. His name is his reputation and his standing in the community. When time comes, Alfieri states: ”I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from his memory. “Alfieri admits that although he knows how wrong Eddie was, he admires Eddie’s commitment to his overriding passions, which make him both sympathetic and beyond saving. This again shows that Eddie is a tragic hero because he is both relatable and sympathetic. At the end of Act 2 Alfieri says: “He allowed himself to be wholly known and for that … I love him. “Eddie didn’t take Alfieri’s advice or even follow the rules of his own community, but Alfieri appreciates that Eddie was transparent about his opinions and who he was. Alfieri can’t help but remember Eddie with affection. Eddie was a very relatable character which had a massive fall-down in his life. The cause of his death was the love for his own niece, and trying to protect her against her will only brought his own death. This points again to the fact that Eddie Carbone was a tragic hero.
Miller shows his respect and affection for the ‘man in the street’, the average man, through his portrayal of Eddie. We also see Eddie through Alfieri’s eyes. Eddie says at one point that he and Beatrice often went hungry so that Catherine could eat; and this would have been common throughout the Depression in the 1930s. This was the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn ever experienced before, and it was caused by the Wall Street Crash of October 1929. Another factor was the Second World War, which took place between 1939 and 1945 and was fought between Hitler’s Germany and the Allied forces – Great Britain, France and many other countries. When the Americans joined the war, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour in December 1941, there was also a lot of poverty in the USA. The hero of a Greek tragedy is usually likeable but has one hamartia, or serious failing. Eddie represents this character, and his fatal flaw is his obsession with Catherine. He races towards his death and it is all of his own making. Nobody else can help or stop him.