University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From the Bridge’
Masculinity is a prevalent theme in Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge. The four leading male characters in the play; Eddie, Rodolpho, Marco and Alfieri; each play different roles and different types of men. Miller has represented men and masculinity in an unforgiving light in the play. It appears that it is men that confuse and create problems in the characters’ lives. Each character’s actions are effected by the conflicting forces of determinism, where every event and situation is the inevitable result of its preceding states of affairs; and freewill. It could be said that the male characters in A View From The Bridge are not acting, but being acted upon.
The main character in A View From The Bridge is Eddie. He is forty years of age, slightly overweight and is described as “husky”. The huskiness used in the description refers to both Eddie’s roughness and his strong, burly build. His age suggests experience, another masculine quality. Eddie’s appearance reflects his attitude, strong and intimidating. In trying to prove his masculinity, Eddie is the focus of many conversations, as he feels that he must dominate the conversation. Eddie’s speech is very direct, with blunt wording. He constantly uses contractions and drops the last letter off words, such as in the phrase “I didn’t say nothin’”. Eddie’s language is not sophisticated in any sense. This is because Eddie spent his time working instead of getting a proper education. Eddie also comes from a working class family, which would mean that his education is limited. The conglomeration of these factors conveys Eddie to be even more masculine. It is very clear that Miller has constructed Eddie to represent the epitome of masculinity; however the character has a propensity to be acted upon rather than acted.
Although Eddie is portrayed as a very masculine character, the turmoil in his mind is evident to the reader. Within himself he is trying to control his feelings, or act. Instead, it appears that the happenings around him control Eddie’s actions. When Eddie allows Rodolpho and Marco to stay, he is acting, as he is making the decision as the patriarchal member of the Carbone family. He has the choice of whether to accept them or not. He acts out of freewill. The best example Eddie being acted upon is when he calls Immigration about Marco and Rodolpho. At this point in the play, Eddie thinks that he has no other options.
He is struggling to control his feelings for Catherine, which on its own is an example of being acted upon. Although Eddie knows that these incestuous feelings are not acceptable, he cannot help but feel this way. Catherine’s developing relationship with Rodolpho is clearly testing Eddie’s endurance. Eddie also feels that Rodolpho is a bad influence on Catherine, as Eddie can no longer control her as he used to. Realistically, this is because Catherine is growing up more than Rodolpho’s influence. However, Eddie feels that the only solution is to get rid of Rodolpho. By doing this, Eddie hopes that everything will return to its original state, with him being the patriarch. Consequently, Eddie calls Immigration. It can clearly be seen that Eddie is not acting, as eliminating Rodolpho is something that is inevitable if Eddie wishes for things to return to their initial state.
Rodolpho’s appearance in A View From The Bridge is one that is far more feminine and gentle than that of the other characters. He is described as a slim “platinum blond” with a “nice face”. His gentle features are considered womanly, and so he is not considered to be masculine. Rodolpho’s age can be estimated to be in the mid-twenties. This denotes a lack of life experience, another indicator towards femininity rather than masculinity. Miller has constructed Rodolpho as a much less masculine character than Eddie so as to juxtapose the two characters. Unlike Eddie, Rodolpho is a more rational character. He is more cautious in what he says. Due to this discretion, Rodolpho’s speech is very limited in A View From The Bridge. However, his rational behaviour does not stop Rodolpho from being more acted upon than acted.
Even though Rodolpho tries to refrain from causing too much of a disturbance in America, he is visibly maddening Eddie by showing affection towards Catherine. However, Rodolpho cannot control his feelings. He stands up for his right to have a relationship with Catherine and, regardless of what Eddie does or says, Rodolpho still has these feelings for Catherine. Rodolpho does not choose to be attracted to Catherine, it simply happened. The concept that Catherine and Rodolpho both care for each other is not a matter of choice or freewill, it is clearly determinism. For this reason, Rodolpho is more acted upon than acting in A View From The Bridge.
Marco is described in A View From The Bridge as a thirty-two year old “square built peasant”. His square build implies strength and an intimidating physique, which evokes an air of masculinity. His age puts him between Eddie and Rodolpho. Throughout the play, Marco is played as quiet, yet thoughtful. His dialogue is minimal, until the final sequence where the conflict between him and Eddie erupts. Although his dialogue is entirely different to that of Eddie, the pair are both seen as masculine characters. This is because Marco is confident with himself, and does not feel it is necessary to talk or dominate the conversation. In doing so, his confidence shines through as being masculine. Again, Marco is a character that appears, in most cases, to be more acted upon than acting.
Marco’s strong and silent persona allows him to understand and recognise elements in the characters more so than Eddie and Rodolpho. He sees Eddie’s challenging nature towards Rodolpho and challenges Eddie back. In this sense, Marco’s actions are acted. He understands what is happening and uses his own freewill to make a decision of what to do. However, the final sequences are clearly an indication of how Marco is more acted upon than acting. When Marco spits in Eddie’s face, it is the culmination of Eddie’s attitude and actions that cause him to do so. After trusting Eddie, Marco has been proverbially stabbed in the back. However, Marco’s reaction was eminent. Eddie’s ongoing dislike of both Marco and Rodolpho would eventually arrive at a confrontation.
Marco’s reaction was clearly determinism – it was the inevitable result of its preceding states of affairs. In this way, the character of Marco is more acted upon than acting. Similarly, when Marco kills Eddie, it is inevitable. If not for Eddie’s death, the play would be going nowhere. Eddie’s sanity is questionable towards the end of A View From The Bridge. If Eddie were to survive the stabbing, there would be no closure for any of the characters. When Eddie pulls the knife out and attempts to stab Marco, it is clear that he is not thinking rationally. Marco then acts in self defence when he stabs Eddie. He knows that one of them will die in the struggle, and sees that his killing of Eddie is the only way he will come out alive. For this reason, Marco acts not out of freewill, but stabs Eddie as there is no other way for the battle to end. Hence, Marco is more acted upon than acting. However, this attribute is not shared by all of the male characters in A View From The Bridge.
The final male character in A View From The Bridge is Alfieri. Alfieri is the oldest of the characters, described as being “in his fifties”, turning grey and portly. His age implies much life experience, as does his generously proportioned physique. His appearance is also one of a higher class than the rest of the characters. Alfieri speaks with distinction. Unlike Marco and Eddie, who feel the need to express their masculinity, Alfieri is confident in himself, and so needs not demonstrate this through his language.
For this reason, Alfieri remains to be a masculine character even though his language is very poetic and eloquent. For example, when consulting Eddie and Marco, he says “To promise not to kill, is not dishonourable.” As well as showing Alfieri’s intelligence, the statement gives his words a scale of importance. Alfieri’s masculinity shines through in his instructing and superior manner. Unlike the rest of the male characters in A View From The Bridge, it is felt that Alfieri is not being acted upon, but is acting.
As Alfieri is not directly involved in the convoluted relationships that take place in the apartment, he has the advantage of having a less emotional reaction to the occurrences. Alfieri also has the advantage of being able to think about things rationally before offering an opinion. When attempting to guide Eddie in his turmoil, Alfieri informs him that he can take no legal action. In doing so, Alfieri is acting out of freewill. Nothing is forcing him to tell Eddie this. Theoretically, Alfieri could ignore the legal aspect and tell Eddie to take his chances. Instead, Alfieri offers his own advice, to “let her go”. Although Alfieri’s instinct to seek resolution may be seen as more acted upon than acting, his pressure in guiding Eddie to do the right thing, or lack thereof, is freewill, as Alfieri made the choice in not forcing Eddie to stop acting in the manner that he was. For this reason, Alfieri is acting more than he is acted upon.
Although each of the male characters in Miller’s play A View From The Bridge represents a different role and different type of man, each of their actions can be seen as either an act of freewill or an act of determinism. In many instances, it appears that there is no other way for the incident to occur. At other times, the characters make choices, exercising their freewill. As Eddie, Rodolpho and Marco are all emotionally involved in the relationships in the play; their actions tend to be acts of determinism. All three are trapped in gender roles, not wanting to appear weak. As Alfieri is more of an onlooker in the play, his actions are a result of freewill. Confident with his masculinity, he is able to decide what to do, not be forced into doing something. For this reason, the male characters in A View From The Bridge can be said to be predominantly more acted upon than acting.