Question - Discuss a play with a powerful theme. Show how the playwright introduces this theme and how they use techniques to bring it to life for the audience.
One of the themes explored in ‘A view from the bridge’ is that of jealousy. Eddie’s jealousy over his attractive young niece Catherine seems to be more powerful than his love for Beatrice and his sense of honour as a Sicilian American. Miller uses characterisation, symbolism and plot to show how Eddie’s dark side gradually causes his death.
Eddie is initially described as an ordinary, hard-working man. At the start of the play, he is fatherly towards Catherine, flattering her for her new skirt and encouraging her to find her own life. He gently scolds her for ‘walking wavy’ – aware that she is now a woman. However, there is a hint of overprotectiveness to this, and a tension with his wife Beatrice. As they sit chatting, he tells Catherine not to trust people but Beatrice tries to reassure her. He responds:
Eddie [strangely and quietly resentful] You lived in a house all your life, what do you know about it?
We can interpret this in several ways. Either he doesn’t love Beatrice and resents his ordinary life with her; or, he is in love with his niece and admires her aspirations; or perhaps enjoys his power over Beatrice, for the fact he is a working man and she is a housewife. Eddie is a complex character so all these emotions may be going on at once. This idle comment sets the scene for the change in their relationships caused by the entrance of Marco and Rudolpho.
The author uses the scene where Rudolpho sings to show the birth of Eddie’s intense jealousy. The change in Eddie is subtle immediate. He asks Catherine ‘What’s the high heels for, Garbo?’ He may feel jealousy at Rudolpho’s flamboyance; but at the same time, he compares Catherine to a vain movie actress. He is suddenly aware of the fact that her aspirations in life might succeed and seeks to pull her back down to their level. Having an attractive girl in his house might give him the extra status in life that he needs, so he is scared to lose her.
The author uses commonplace objects as symbols to show the unfolding drama. At the start of the play there is Eddie’s preoccupation with Catherine’s short skirt; then he mentions her heels in order to disparage her. When Eddie hits Rudolpho and Marco feels threatened, the latter raises a chair over Eddie’s head ‘like a weapon’. The play unfolds with the backdrop of Brooklyn bridge and the piers, which are symbols of working class life. Marco threatens Eddie with an everyday object, which shows how limited Eddie’s life is.
The playwright uses the scene where the two Sicilians are arrested to show the collapse in Eddie’s values. His jealousy ultimately causes him to go to the police, betraying the code of silence of his Sicilian community. After spitting in Eddie’s face, Marco delivers the ultimate insult to Eddie’s honour as he is led away –
That one stole the food from my children!
Eddie responds: ‘He’s gonna take that back or I’ll kill him!’ In their society, it is vital for a man to provide for their family. Eddie needs Catherine in order to feel like he is a provider, as well as to share the company of an attractive young woman. In this way, Eddie’s need to be someone special causes the fixation on his niece. This leads to his tragic end as Marco turns his own knife upon him.
Therefore I would argue that at the heart of ‘A view from the bridge’ is Eddie’s jealousy for his niece, and his frustration at the limited life he has led. These feelings make him an ambiguous character, and create a compelling drama for the audience.