In his play A View from the Bridge, Arthur Miller tells the story of the life of italian immigrants living in new york city in the 1950s. Eddie’s obsession with Catherine and his paranoia turns out to be his fatal flaw, and leads to his downfall. Eddie goes from being a kind, loving father figure to Catherine, to a mean, jealous, overprotective and possessive person towards Catherine, and finally dies when his jealousy and paranoia gets to the best of him. Miller employs certain vocabulary and colloquial speech, to create meaning and effect.
In the begging of act 1 on page 5, we are just getting introduced to some of the characters, Catherine and Eddie. From reading page 5, we can see that Eddie is someone important to Catherine and is someone loving and supportive in her life. We can specifically see this in the moments where Catherine asks Eddie if he likes what she is wearing, and he answers back with “yeah, it’s nice.” and “beautiful. Turn around, lemme see the back. Oh, if your mother was alive to see you now! She wouldn’t believe it.”, we can see that Eddie is being supportive but still being protective like any father would be with their daughter. However, we also have to remember as the readers that Eddie is not Catherine’s biological father but he is seen as her father figure. After reading this page, we can notice that Catherine values Eddie’s opinions and advice very much. We notice this in the excerpts on page 5,
- Catherine: ‘I want to wait till B comes in. (she sits on her heels beside him.) Guess how much we paid for the skirt.
- Eddie: ‘i think it’s too short, ain’t it?’
- Catherine: ‘(standing) No! Not when I stand up.’
From these excerpts we clearly see that Catherine starts to get upset because she does not want Edddie to be upset or offended with what she is wearing because she really loves the outfit (the skirt).
After reading page 5, we think that Eddie is being a good father figure with Catherine and everything seems to be normal. However in act 1 on page 6 there is a change of events. On page 6, Eddie is starting to get jealous and mean and starts blaming it on Catherine because of what she is wearing.
- Eddie: ‘Listen, you been givin’ me the willies the way you walk down the street, I mean it.’
- Catherine: why?
- Eddie: Catherine, i don’t want to be a pest, but i am tellin’ you you’re walkin’ wavy.
- Catherine: I’m walkin’ wavy?
- Eddie: ‘Now don’t aggravate me, Katie, you are walkin’ wavy! I don’t like the looks they’re givin’ you in the candy store. And with them new high heels on the sidewalk – clack, clack, clack. The heads are turnin’ like windmills.’
From this conversation that Eddie and Catherine are having, we could say that Eddie is starting to step over the lines because, no father should be speaking this way to their daughter. We can clearly see that Eddie is being very possessive and is starting to be jealous of the other men ‘staring’ at Catherine. The way Eddie starts speaking to Catherine becomes very inappropriate especially when he mentions, ‘i don’t like the looks they’re givin’ you in the candy store.’. Arthur Miller uses some colloquial speech and slang in this excerpt and it is really hard to understand what Eddie is saying to Catherine. When Eddie says ‘Candy store’ he does not mean the typical candy store where kids go and by some sweets, he means a group of beautiful young women that are seen by men as ‘eye candy’. Arthur Miller cleverly uses slang to cover the real meaning of this excerpt. Eddie is also being inappropriate with Catherine by accusing her of catching other men’s attention by showing off her womanly curves by swinging her hips while she is walking. This is very inappropriate because the way Catherine walks should not be any of his concern and is not the reason why other men stare at her, other men stare at her because she is a young beautiful woman.
After reading act one on pages 6 and 7, we clearly notice that the relationship between Eddie and Catherine is not a normal father and daughter relationship. We clearly see that Eddie is trying to control Catherine because he is jealous of all the attention that she is getting. Later in act 1 on page 11, we notice that Eddie is being very overprotective and likes to baby Catherine. On page 11, Catherine and Beatrice (Eddie’s wife) have some big news.
Catherine can finish school earlier because her grades are very good and because of this, she has been offered a job that pays really well. Beatrice is being very supportive and wants Catherine to accept the job offer and Catherine really wants to accept it too. On the other hand, Eddie has other thoughts in mind,
- Beatrice: ‘work is the best practice anyway.’
- Eddie: ‘that ain’t what i wanted, though.’
- Catherine: ‘Why! It’s a great big company -’
- Eddie: ‘i don’t like the neighborhood over there.’
- Catherine: ‘it’s a block and a half from the subway, he says.’
- Eddie: ‘Near the navy yard plenty can happen in a block and a half. And a plumbin’ company! That’s one step over the water front. They’re practically longshoremen.’
At this moment in the play, Eddie is clearly jealous of all the men that seem to like looking at Catherine. Eddie is being so jealous and overprotective of Catherine that he is not allowing her to grow up and to let her find a job to become a young independent woman because he just wants her all to himself. Beatrice notices this and then says,
- Beatrice: ‘listen, if nothin’ happened to her in this neighborhood it ain’t gonna happen noplace else. (she turns his face to her.) look, you gotta get used to it, she’s no baby no more. Tell her to take it. (he turns his head away.) you hear me? (Beatrice is angering.) I don’t understand you; she’s seventeen years old, you gonna keep her in the house all her life?
- Eddie: (insulted) what kinda remark is that?
When Eddie asks this question, he is just trying to cover up his confused feelings towards Catherine. Again, Eddie is keeping Catherine from getting a job just because the neighborhood is full of longshoremen. How did something that Catherine is proud to accomplish become something that she will never get to do just because Eddie says that some men like to look at her in the neighborhood? Clearly Eddie is just jealous and is trying to control Catherine by trying to stop her from taking this incredible opportunity. Eddie is abusing his power as a father figure to Catherine to guilt her and manipulate her from taking this job that she clearly wants to take. It is so clear to see what is going on because even Eddie’s wife, Beatrice, knows what is happening.
In this moment in the play, Eddie has some confused feelings for Catherine that should not be happening. Eddie also received some news from Beatrice. Beatrice’s cousins are coming from Italy to find some work in New York. One of Beatrice’s cousins is Marco, a man who is married with three kids, Marco’s kids and wife live in Italy where they all used to live together as a family. However, one of Marco’s kids fell really sick and Marco could not get a job that pays well enough to help his son get better, so he entered America illegally to find a job that pays well so he can send that money to his family in Italy. Beatrice’s other cousin is Marco’s brother, Rodolfo. Rodolfo is a young italian singer who entered America illegally to experience the american culture because he is in love with America and wants to become an american citizen one day. Once Rodolfo and Marco arrived there was an immediate shift of dynamic in the household, there was first one man with two women who cared and worried for him and now there are three men in the house and two women who are trying to care for all three of them. However, Catherine is very smitten with Rodolfo and is starting a budding romance with him while Eddie is feeling really jealous and wants Rodolfo to leave Catherine alone. Eddie starts to make excuses for why Rodolfo should not be with Catherine and one of the excuses is that he might be gay and he might be just tying to be an american citizen by marrying Catherine. Eddie is so desperate to want Catherine to stop being with Rodolfo that he poisons Catherine’s mind by saying that Rodolfo is using Catherine for American citizenship, we can clearly see that Eddie is being very possessive with her because he starts gaslighting Catherine for her to leave Rodolfo. In act 2 on page 45, Catherine lets Eddie get into her head and starts a fight with Rodolfo,
- Rodolfo: ‘No; I will not marry you to live in Italy. I want you to be my wife, and I want to be a citizen. Tell him that, or I will. Yes. (He moves about angrily.) And tell him also, and tell yourself, please, that I am not a beggar, and you are not a horse, a gift, a favor for a poor immigrant.’
- Catherine: ‘Well, don’t get mad!’
- Rodolfo: ‘I am furious! (Goes to her.) Do you think I am so desperate? My brother is desperate, not me. You think I would carry on my back the rest of my life a woman I didn’t love just to be an American? It’s so wonderful? You think we have no tall buildings in Italy? Electric lights? No wide streets? No flags? No automobiles? Only work we don’t have. I want to be an American so I can work, that is the only wonder here – work! How can you insult me, Catherine?’
- Catherine: ‘I didn’t mean that –’
- Rodolfo: ‘My heart dies to look at you. Why are you so afraid of him?’
After their heated fight In act 2, Rodolfo and Catherine make it very clear to Eddie that they are going to get married and Eddie does not take that very well because he does not want Catherine to leave him. He wants to control her and wants her all to himself because of all the inappropriate feelings he has for her.
- Catherine: ‘Eddie, I’m not gonna be a baby any more! You –’ He reaches out suddenly, draws her to him, and as she strives to free herself he kisses her on the mouth.
- Rodolfo: ‘Don’t! (He pulls on Eddie’s arm.) Stop that! Have respect for her!’
- Eddie: ‘(spun round by Rodolpho) You want something?’
- Rodolfo: ‘Yes! She’ll be my wife. That is what I want. My wife!’
- Eddie: ‘But what’re you gonna be?’
- Rodolfo: ‘I show you what I be!’
- Catherine: ‘Wait outside; don’t argue with him!’
- Eddie: ‘Come on, show me! What’re you gonna be? Show me!’
- Rodolfo: ‘(with tears of rage) Don’t say that to me!’
After this moment in the play, we now have realise how bad Eddie really wants Catherine, he is being very possessive and likes to control her. However, knowing what she knows now, Catherine will be more aware of this and wants to become more independent and one step towards that is marrying the man she loves, Rodolfo.
In Act 2 after fighting with Catherine and Rodolfo, on page 49, Eddie goes and sees the town’s lawyer and his personal friend, Alfieri. Eddie goes and visits Alfieri to see if there is any way of ending Catherine’s and Rodolfo’s relationship.
- Eddie: ‘I’m tellin’ you I know – he ain’t right. Somebody that don’t want it can break it. Even a mouse, if you catch a teeny mouse and you hold it in your hand, that mouse can give you the right kind of fight. He didn’t give me the right kind of fight, I know it, Mr Alfieri, the guy ain’t right.’
- Alfieri: ‘What did you do that for, Eddie?’
- Eddie: ‘To show her what he is! So she would see, once and for all! Her mother’ll turn over in the grave! (He gathers himself almost peremptorily.) So what do I gotta do now? Tell me what to do.
- Alfieri: ‘She actually said she’s marrying him?’
- Eddie: ‘She told me, yeah. So what do I do?’ Slight pause.
- Alfieri: ‘This is my last word, Eddie, take it or not, that’s your business. Morally and legally you have no rights, you cannot stop it; she is a free agent.’
- Eddie: ‘(angering) Didn’t you hear what I told you?’
Eddie believes that Catherine belongs to him and that is why he is searching for something that could put an end to Catherine and Rodolfo’s relationship. However, even Alfieri is getting tired of telling Eddie that there is nothing in the law saying that Rodolfo and Catherine should not get married. Alfieri can also probably tell that the feelings that Eddie has for Catherine is unhealthy and he just needs to leave her alone. There is no way to tell Eddie to leave Catherine alone and let her live her life the way she chooses to and this becomes more clear when Alfieri says,
Alfieri: ‘(with a tougher tone) I heard what you told me, and I’m telling you what the answer is. I’m not only telling you now, I’m warning you – the law is nature. The law is only a word for what has a right to happen. When the law is wrong it’s because it’s unnatural, but in this case it is natural and a river will drown you if you buck it now. Let her go. And bless her. (A phone booth begins to glow on the opposite side of the stage; a faint, lonely blue. Eddie stands up, jaws clenched.) Somebody had to come for her, Eddie, sooner or later. (Eddie starts turning to go and Alfieri rises with new anxiety.) You won’t have a friend in the world, Eddie! Even those who understand will turn against you, even the ones who feel the same will despise you! (Eddie moves off.) Put it out of your mind! Eddie! (He follows into the darkness, calling desperately.)’
From this speech, it just makes it that much clearer that Eddie is obsessed with Catherine and wants her to be with him all the time, this is why Eddie constantly babies her. Babying Catherine is his way of controlling her, he is abusing his power as her father figure to get whatever he wants from Catherine. It is despicable. Eddie is so obsessed with Catherine that he can never take ‘no there is nothing you can do Eddie’ as an answer.
In conclusion, Arthur Miller carefully thought out how to show Eddie’s change in character throughout the play. In both acts Miller uses narration and slang with certain vocabulary and colloquial speech, to create meaning and effect.