How Does The Immigrant Italian Setting Add

To The Tragedy Of The A View From A Bridge? Essay, Research Paper

‘A view from the Bridge´ is set in Brooklyn, amongst an immigrant community who are poor and struggling, most working as ‘longshoremen’ when the work is available. Eddie is of Italian ancestry, his father emigrated from Italy to America, and therefore he has been brought up with the strong, passionate Italian/Sicilian codes of honour and loyalty. Marco and Rodolfo are illegal immigrants, ’submarines’, who have managed to go to America through a system of syndicates; using some of the money they make working in America to pay off the syndicate. Their illegal status and the terrible unemployment and poverty where they have come from and their absolute need to work, which in Marco’s case means life or death for his family, makes their situation even more desperate. The way in which Eddie is driven into betraying his cousins and betraying his own beliefs and moral codes by his obsessive and possessive love for Catherine is a personal tragedy, but the Italian elements intensify and add to the tragic nature of the play, Miller uses the Italian/Sicilian community to explore the themes of honour and loyalty to the family and revenge after betrayal, because these are integral to their culture. Eddie shows that he believes you should never betray your word of honour, at the beginning of the play when he says. “You can quicker get back a million dollars that was stole than a word you gave away.”

Although Eddie is not Catherine’s father, he is a very strong father figure to her and the man of the house. The immigrant community is very much a patriarchal society, parallel to in Italy. The father and male is an authority figure. Eddie is very protective of Catherine in both positive and negative ways. “I took out of my own mouth to give to her, I took out of my wife’s mouth”, Eddie really loves and cares for Catherine, and will do anything to protect and look after her, but his love for her is obsessive and possessive. “You can’t take no job. Why didn’t you ask me before you take a job?” Eddie does not want to let Catherine have a job. As Catherine’s father figure, Eddie feels he should choose her husband, as was the done thing in Italy, but Eddie cannot let go of Catherine. Beatrice suggests that he would not approve of any young man for her. “Was there ever any fella he liked for you? There wasn’t was there.” Eddie rules the house and expects that what he says goes, his wife and daughter figure should be subservient and obedient, which was the Italian system.

Marco and Rodolfo arrive, they are in America because they are so poor and desperately need work. Marco is doing it for his family, his wife and children; Rodolfo however wants to make a new and better life for himself in America. It is because of their illegal status, fear of being caught, and their poverty that they need Eddie´s hospitality, and they need to put their trust in him. Eddie’s attitude is that it is ‘an honour´ to help them out and lend them a place to sleep. It is also what is expected of him, because they are family, and in the Italian culture the family is what is most important.

There are problems from the word go, though, with the situation in the flat. Eddie starts picking on Rodolfo from the first night. He is jealous of Catherine´s attraction to Rodolfo, and this is taking her attention away from himself. Eddie uses Rodolfo´s illegal status against him and exercises his authority over him. He makes Rodolfo stop singing under the pretence that the singing is drawing attention to him and he may get discovered and picked up, to mask his feelings of jealousy and dislike towards him. Eddie´s hatred for Rodolfo grows and he is acting on his emotions when he tells Catherine, after they have come back from the cinema that Rodolfo is only using her to get his papers so he can stay in America. “Katie, he´s only bowin´ to his passport.” Catherine reacts badly to this and the tension between everyone in the flat grows.

It is because of Marco and Rodolfo´s illegal status and their dependence on Eddie for his hospitality that they are unable to stand up for themselves and react normally to the situation and are trapped in the flat with nowhere else to go. Marco is aware of Eddie´s aggression towards Rodolfo and as his older protective brother feels it is his duty to defend Rodolfo, especially after Eddie uses the pretence of a friendly boxing match to lay a punch on Rodolfo. Marco, because of the situation is unable to speak out, but uses a very effective way of tacitly challenging Eddie and establishes his superior strength. He issued Eddie with what seemed a friendly challenge, as Eddie did with Rodolfo, to lifting a chair one handed by one leg, which takes immense strength although this is not immediately apparent. There are definite parallels between Eddie and Marco; they are both strong ‘peasant like´ men with similar family and cultural beliefs, set in Italian tradition. Both Eddie and Marco are men of their word, whether they are right or wrong, which is destined to cause trouble. Especially in an already troubled family setting, the flat is now like a pressure cooker and it is just a matter of time before the situation explodes. Through all this Beatrice is the voice of reason and offers Eddie support and tries to diffuse the situation and prevent the inevitable, however because of the patriarchal background and hierarchy within the family, Eddie asserts his masculine authority and Beatrice has to do her duty to obey her husband.

The explosion comes when Eddie comes home drunk and finds Catherine and Rodolfo alone after having been in the bedroom together. He is so desperate; he is acting on his emotions and not thinking rationally about what he is doing, when he kisses Catherine to claim her as his, and kisses Rodolfo to prove he is ‘not right´. In his desperation he betrays them to the immigration bureau. In doing this he has also betrayed a neighbour´s cousins as well as Marco who is trying to make money to save his family. Not only has he betrayed his family he has betrayed himself and his word of honour, which means so much in the Italian culture, and to Eddie himself.

Eddie´s own words were,“ You can quicker get back a million dollars that was stole than a word you gave away.” Eddie has betrayed his own beliefs, and lost the respect of the whole community and his honour. The community have turned against Eddie, who ignored Alferi´s words of warning,

“You won´t have a friend in the world, Eddie! Even those who understand will turn against you,”

Marco publicly denounces Eddie as a murderer, because Eddie has denied him the possibility to work in America to provide for his starving family´s desperate needs. It is Marco that is his opponent now, not Rodolfo, because Marco has taken Eddie´s name and honour. It is Marco´s belief that he has the right to take revenge and it is his duty to do so for the sake of his family. He cannot see why according to American law Eddie goes unpunished, “In my country he would be dead now.” In Italy the law was not all in a book and justice was more to do with feelings and emotions. Eddie is inevitably going to be implacable opposition when he demands ‘his name´ back. The two men have fundamentally the same beliefs and values, and after this head-on collision death is inevitable, because both men believe they are in the right and have gone too far to be able to give any ground or compromise. It is all or nothing.

Although Beatrice is horrified by Eddie´s actions, she is loyal and turns to him instead of away from. This is because of her love for him as well as the Catholic marriage and the belief that it is a life long commitment. Although she is forced to come out with the truth in the end that it is Catherine he wants and not his name. Rodolfo also tries to avert disaster; he symbolises the younger generation. He is more American in thinking and looking for a new life, breaking the idea of ‘a tooth for a tooth´ and letting go of the revenge culture.

Eddie realises, when it is too late and he is dying, that Beatrice loves him and he loves Beatrice. He realises that it was impossible to keep Catherine as he has tried and it is inevitable that one day he would have to let go. In the end it is because he is not able to ‘settle for half´ and solve a situation by giving a bit as well as taking. The tragedy is inevitable, but intensified by the Italian culture.



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