A View From The Bridge: How Far Does Miller Invite Us To Sympathise With Eddie

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Eddie Carbone is the protagonist in A View from the Bridge. Miller has presented him as a character who is very hard to sympathise with. One of the main reasons being that he betrayed his family and broke the Sicilian code of honour. He did this by telling the authorities about the two illegal immigrants staying in his house; called Marco and Rodolfo. However, Miller intends us to feel sympathy towards the protagonist, he wants the audience to view him positively however Eddie displays certain traits like aggression, violence and over-protectiveness and therefore there is a conflict between how Miller wants us to feel (that Eddie is a tragic hero) and how he actually presents himself to the audience.

In Miller’s play, Eddie Carbone is the tragic hero, whose flaw is his compulsion and inappropriate love for his niece Catherine. This leads him to do anything to try and keep her with him and it also causes a tragedy in the play – his own death. Eddie may be seen as an everyman – a hardworking man who cares for his family instead of a traditional or warrior hero, who is poorly educated. However, even though he is an average man, it does not mean that he isn’t capable of incestuous thoughts or have an inability to recognise and confront his own desires. Instead, Miller implies that Eddie is an average man whose flaw is too much love for his niece – which is seen as inappropriate by the audience. Alfieri was created by Miller to set Eddie up as a tragic hero. When we are introduced to the protagonist, Alfieri describes him as ‘a longshoreman working the docks from Brooklyn Bridge to the breakwater where the open sea begins.’ the audience forms their opinions through the character of Alfieri. As he plays the main role of a lawyer in the play, it evokes sympathy in the audience when he says that ‘the law is wrong it’s because it is unnatural, but in this case, it is natural and a river will drown if you buck it now.’ Although some of Eddie’s actions are shocking and disturbing, Alfieri’s speeches are more powerful; overall causing the audience to feel sympathy. A tragic hero is represented as an exceptional figure, regardless of how bad a crime, the audience is left with some sympathy for the character when his life comes to an end. When Eddie dies Beatrice and Catherine still love him – this creates pity and it outweighs his mistakes. His emotional turmoil leads him into further conflict with the other characters in the play; including his wife Beatrice, his niece Catherine and his relatives Marco and Rodolpho. He is the maker of his own destruction, ironically Eddie is stabbed by his own knife, emphasising the theme of self-destruction.

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In some ways, there are some elements in Eddie’s and Catherine’s relationship which makes you feel positive, but as the play progresses, more and more incidents occur that makes you feel negatively towards him. At the beginning of the play, we become immediately aware that there is a lively, intimate relationship between Catherine and Eddie and that there are no barriers. Right from the beginning, we are shown that Eddie has a strong sense of family responsibility; as he tells Catherine ‘I promised your mother on her deathbed. I’m responsible for you.’ Eddie is initially presented as an honourable and well-respect family man. Miller indicates to the audience that all Eddie wants is to look out for his niece. He tells Catherine that ‘You be givin’ me the willies the way you walk down the street.’ But in reality, Eddie brings this up as he doesn’t want her attracting unwanted attention – he thinks Catherine is ‘walkin’ wavy’ and that he doesn’t ‘like the looks they’re givin’ her in the candy store.’ He also makes her feel guilty for wanting a job when he says to her, ‘You’ll move away… you’ll come to visit on Sundays, then once a month, then Christmas and New Year’s, finally.’ It is clear that Eddie is overprotective of his niece and he shows all the paternal concern over her wish to leave school and begin a new career. As the play progresses Eddie becomes overprotective not seen at the beginning of the play. After Marco and Rodolpho arrive at the house he calls Catherine a ‘Garbo’ in direct contrast to calling her ‘Madonna’ at the beginning of the play. As he explores deeper into their relationship, Miller makes it clear that Eddie’s feelings are deeper than traditional family bonds and suggests to the audience that the feelings he has for his niece aren’t normal. Eddie chastising over her appearance reveals his jealousy. As the play progresses one’s sympathy for his begins to diminishes as his complicated relationship with her begins to unfold.

Miller uses Alfieri to inspire sympathy for Eddie. He explains to the audience that Eddie suffers poverty like all other Italian immigrants in Red Hook when he tells them that ‘the slum faces the bay on the seaward side of Brooklyn Bridge.’ Alfieri also mentions that society is very violent too when he tells the audience that ‘Frankie Yale was himself cut precisely in half by a machine gun on the corner of union street.’ Eddie’s past is mentioned so that the audience will understand that Eddie is only a ‘product’ of his cultural background. In Sicily they have their own code of law which means that it would have been extremely violent and brutal, there would have been no work available and therefore many people would have been deprived and poor. This confuses Eddie when he comes to America where there was a different law. The narrator Alfieri is deployed to almost defend or explain Eddie’s actions to the audience; without Alfieri, the audience would dislike Eddie. Therefore, the audience’s views towards Eddie are constantly shifting throughout the play.

Miller uses Eddie’s inner conflict to lead to conflict with other characters to make it harder for us to sympathise with him. Gradually Eddie’s attitude starts to change and he begins to respect Marco but he starts to dislike Rodolfo more and more. This becomes clear by the way he directs everything he says at Marco ‘He could be very good, Marco. I’ll teach him again.’ The scene that describes the relationship best is the boxing scene at the end of act 1. In this scene Eddie shows Rodolfo how to box, he tells Rodolfo that he is good but he doesn’t seem to be sincere and is instead just making him look like a fool. Nevertheless, Marco proves himself to be the more honourable by refusing to strike Eddie whilst still ensuring that Eddie understands his message. Marco ‘kneels, grasps, and with strain slowly raises the chair higher and higher.’ It is this conflict with Marco that can be seen to be the real beginning of Eddie’s downfall. When Marco stabs Eddie it is a show of his strength; even though ‘Eddie lunged with the knife. Marco grabs his arm turning the blade inward and pressing it home.’ Overall the strength of Eddie’s inner conflict is such that he himself is unable to realise his own mistakes, regardless of the fact that by the end he chooses to abandon something that means the most to him – his honour.

By foreshadowing Eddie’s death, Miller makes us feel pity for him throughout the play. When Alfieri tells the audience that he ‘felt powerless… and watched it run its bloody course’ it hints to the audience that Eddie is destined to die. We also become aware of Eddie’s inevitable situation when the lawyer says ‘I knew where he was heading for, I knew where he was going to end.’ he is heading towards a ‘bloody’ end. We feel more pity for Eddie because even when he seems happy and loving, we still know he is heading towards a ‘bloody’ end. Miller successfully makes Eddie a sympathetic character by making him fit the role of a tragic hero. The audience goes from admiring Eddie to getting to know his terrible secret. We get the inescapable feeling that he is heading towards his ‘bloody’ end and that his ‘guilty secret’ will cause it.

Overall we as an audience are invited to sympathise with the character of Eddie. He fulfils the role of a tragic hero, where his inner conflict over his feelings for his niece Catherine ultimately leads to his downfall. Nonetheless, he is a character who displays a negative personality through his patronizing manner and aggression. His obsession and tragic flaws cause him to betray relatives and others in the community. Ultimately it is the tragic hero’s weakness that leads to his own downfall, highlighting that Eddie’s death was inevitable; and therefore he is a character with who we should be sympathising.


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