A View from the Bridge is a contemporary drama written by Arthur Miller in 1955, who was born in New York City and studied at the University of Michigan. The play takes place in Brooklyn around 1950’s. Eddie is an inarticulate character and is powerless in the face of his tragic fate. He harbors a secret lust for his niece Catherine which causes eventually his destruction. Throughout the play, he is seen as the tragic hero or tragic protagonist, meaning he is the central character on whom the tragedy befalls.
Eddie is uneducated and hardworking determined to do his duty of his family and maintain the respect of the neighbour, “He is forty—a husky, slightly overweight longshoreman … where the open sea begins.” He has genuinely been a loving guardian to Catherine and when necessary he has gone looking for work in Hoboken, Staten Island and so on. Eddie’s jealousy over his attractive young niece Catherine seems to be more powerful than his love for Beatrice and his sense of honor as a Sicilian American. Miller uses characterisation, symbolism and plot to show how Eddie’s dark side gradually causes his death. In the beginning of the play, Eddie’s relationship with Catherine is like a father and a daughter which will eventually change to a man and woman’s relationship. These stages are usually small incidents but each of them develops a new point to the relationship.
In Act One, when Eddie enters the house, he finds Catherine all dressed up and in a new style. His eyes “enveloping” her tells Catherine that she looks pretty and looks “like one of them girls that went to college.” This suggests that his interest in her is more than paternal. He adds that the skirt is a bit too short “but you gotta sit down sometimes”. Catherine disagrees with him and finds the skirt perfectly fine. Eddie is the alpha male in the house and tries to be in control of Catherine “Catherine, I don’t want to be a pest, but I’m telling you, you’re walking wavy”. Catherine is trying to be like any other girl however Eddie is not willing to let her do this “you ain’t all the girls” and stops her from growing up into sexually attractive, independent adult.
By repeating accusations of “walking wavy” and drawing men’s attention, Eddie describes his own feelings: she gives him “the willies” and “aggravates” him. He is being protective certainly, but it is something that disturbs him emotionally. He calls her “Madonna type”: trying to impose traditional values of chastity and modesty in a modern culture where short skirts and high heels are the style now and flaunting femininity and sexuality is not frowned upon.
Eddie’s determination is fixated on an impossible and unrealistic goal: to keep Catherine in the role that he has envisioned for her as a “Madonna never counting on the fact that she” would ever grow up. Eddie reminds Catherine of the promise he has made to her mother on her deathbed. Eddie says, “Katie I promised your mother on her deathbed. I’m responsible for you. You’re a baby”. Eddie still thinks of Catherine as a baby “You’re a baby” and this idea prevents Eddie from allowing Catherine to grow up. When Catherine tells Eddie that she was waving at Louis (Eddie’s friend), he gets overprotective and warns Catherine by telling her “Listen, I could tell you things about Louis which you wouldn’t wave at him no more”. He protects Catherine from marriage or any male relationship and wants her for himself.
Before the arrival of Rodolpho and Marco, his absurdly overprotective attitude to Catherine and his non-existent sex life with Beatrice briefly surface as subjects for arguments. Later Eddie’s problem are summed up by Beatrice’s questions, “when am I gonna be a wife again?”, and (to Catherine) “was there ever any fella he liked for you?” . When Catherine lights Eddie’s cigar in the living room, it gives him unusual pleasure. This possibly warm and affectionate act between niece and uncle has phallic suggestions.
The arrival of Beatrice’s cousins, acts like catalyst, and fuel the rising action of this drama. When Beatrice’s cousins arrive Eddie attempts to be the man of the house and warns Beatrice and Catherine not to tell anyone about the two illegal immigrants, “It never comes out of your mouth who they are or what they’re doing here.” In addition he authorises an incident to Catherine about “Vinny” who snitched about his uncle who was an illegal immigrant to the immigration. He has been ousted by the communities ostracised for the rest of his life and regarded with scorn and contempt. A similar fate is inevitable for Eddie, who is prepared to give up his status in the community to make Rodolpho go back to Italy, as he sees that as the only option available to him.
Once Eddie is aware that one of Beatrice’s cousins, Rodolpho, sings, cooks, makes dresses, he gets angry as for Eddie it is just bazaar behaviour for a man. Eddie is shocked of his feminine quality as it is completely against the concept of masculinity. That’s first where he begins to niggle away at him and then he goes a little bit further where he thinks he is not a man at all, maybe he is homosexual and that he shouldn’t be with Catherine. He tries to show Catherine that Rodolpho is not the right guy for her as he notices that both of them are attracted to one another. Eddie kissing Rodolpho and then Catherine leads to a catastrophe. Eddie deludes himself into thinking that Rodolpho “Ain’t right” to justify his efforts to discredit him in front of Catherine and does not care about the effect this has on his marriage.