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Sympathy for Eddie Carbone: A Picture of a Family in the 1950s in A View from the Bridge

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What do you think will happen when you are hated by your family and everyone you care for? Even when you try to protect them? In A View from the bridge, Arthur Miller paints a picture of a family in the 1950s, in Red Hook of when two illegal immigrants come into this family’s house and change their lives forever. Arthur Miller skillfully creates Eddie Carbone as a character who is made to be felt sympathy for and as a character people hate. This is all despite him trying to protect his family. With the societal demand that men conform to a certain image of masculinity at that time combined with low wages, it used to be a struggle for people, especially men back then. But there would be a lot of pressure on Eddie, the man in the house. His struggles to save his family from the threats lying outside the four walls of their home is portrayed by Arthur Miller.

Miller also portrays how he is both, felt sympathy for and despised by the other characters as well as the audience. One reason why we can feel sympathy for Eddie Carbone is how he supports his wife – Beatrice - by allowing two illegal immigrants – Rodolpho and Marco - to stay with them. In the 1950s working class New York neighborhoods, men were the most powerful and dominant people in the household. We see this when he tells Marco that they are “welcome” into his household and that they can stay for as long as they would like. Therefore, it was ultimately Eddie’s decision to allow them to stay. Not only does he try to please his wife, but he acts as an ambassador for the community as he allows illegal immigrants into his house, which was common in Red Hook. He tries to protect Catherine, his daughter figure, from Rodolpho, one of the illegal immigrants. He believes Rodolpho is only behind Catherine for “papers” so he can become a legal citizen in the USA. Miller presents Rodolpho as a “ship singer” and Eddie tries to share this idea his with his family. He does this in order to get his family to begin despising Rodolpho. This may be because Eddie despises Rodolpho and wishes that the whole family shares his point of view about Rodolpho. He may also have brought up this fact about Rodolpho in order to show that he is not the right suitor for his niece, Catherine.

Miller presents sympathy for the protagonist, Eddie Carbone, in that all his family and his friends find the very man he despises, humorous – Rodolpho. This is despite Eddie warning them that he is neither worth respecting nor even acknowledging. when Louis and Mike meet Eddie on the street, they begin by “grinning,” as they start talking about Rodolpho. As they begin recollecting more of Rodolpho’s humor, they “start to laugh,” portraying a progression of their jubilant mood. As they begin to recollect even more, they start “laughing.” next they begin “Getting hysterical.' At the final stage, they remember enough humorous events about Rodolpho, they “Burst out laughing.” the way they “burst” out laughing shows how hilarious Rodolpho is to them and how he brings immense joy to their dull lives, as longshoremen, their lives are full of hard work and monotony. Their dull lives contrast the amusement they gain by being around Rodolpho. Subsequently, Eddie’s resentment levels towards Rodolpho would rise as their amusement levels rise, making the two directly proportional. Eddie has lost his place in these conversations, of which he used to be the center, and Rodolpho has obtained a prominent position in the same. We can also see he is now forgotten by everyone and he misses this. When it comes to his family, his power is waning, and everyone behaves emotionally hostile towards him. When Beatrice says that Rodolpho is a “good lookin’ fella,” Eddie does not think so, and tries to change the topic of the conversation to something that changes the impression of Rodolpho in their heads, making them have a negative approach towards Rodolpho, having a negative approach towards his impressions/ideas, which is exactly what Eddie wants to happen. He does this by trying to introduce an idea that Rodolpho “sings on ships.” he does this in order to contrast the impression of Rodolpho his family already had and tries to change their impression of him. He tries to make them see him as a worthless person, not worth being spoken to and not worth being taken seriously. However, this doesn’t work, as Catherine betrays Eddie when she heads “Towards the bedroom” with Rodolpho, also when the date of her marriage is fixed with Rodolpho. This is despite Eddie warning them that Rodolpho is “only bowin’ to his passport,” meaning that he is only going to marry Catherine so that he can become a citizen of the USA and be allowed to work there illegally. This makes the reader feel sympathy for Eddie Carbone as he is betrayed by his family, despite him only trying to protect them from the dangers that he believes Rodolpho might pose to them such as: Rodolpho leaving Catherine, once he becomes a legal citizen of the USA. Also, the fact that Rodolpho is not a man worthy of Catherine, as he sings on ships and he is not worth trusting, according to Eddie. He is also a believer of all the typical stereotypes related to women. For example, when Catherine gets a job opportunity, he instantly refuses her the chance to get a job. He believes she should “finish school” first.

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Another reason is that Eddie believes that since he is the man in the house, he should be the sole person earning money to make his family survive. This was again a trait he possesses of the 1950s that men should be the only working people in the house. He also denies Catherine wearing a “short dress” she likes. The positive behind this point is that he does not want other boys leering at Catherine in inappropriate ways and he tries to shield her from the dangers. However, the constant shield he has put around her, means that she lacks the freedom of will as she asks Eddie’s opinion over even the smallest of things and also the fact that she lacks exposure of the outside world. Also, when Eddie becomes aware that Rodolpho and Catherine like each other, when Rodolpho says “She’ll be my wife, 'Eddie is absolutely against the idea and tries to make the marriage not happen. This again portrays Eddie being overprotective over Catherine and not letting her have a free will. However, Miller presents Eddie Carbone as a protagonist which has a love – hate relationship with the characters in the play. A reason Miller presents Eddie as a character people should not feel sympathy for is, he uses physical violence to express the way he feels about Rodolpho. This begins when he asks Rodolpho if he has “ever do[ne] any boxing” before. He then begins by giving Rodolpho lessons and tries letting Rodolpho punch him. He tells Rodolpho not to “pity” him and to box him at free will. However, Eddie uses the opportunity of when “Catherine comes from the kitchen” to tell Rodolpho that he is “gonna hit” him.

Eddie choses that time to punch Rodolpho, as Catherine was exiting the kitchen and she could see this happen. So, Eddie punched Rodolpho in front of Catherine in order to show his hatred towards Rodolpho. He also punches him in the presence of Catherine, in order to portray how weak Rodolpho is and how he doesn’t have the guts to conquer anyone, portraying him as a coward. However, while Eddie uses physical strength to portray his power, Marco completely juxtaposes him. When Eddie bets Marco that he “can't lift up the chair,” Marco very calmly and in a sophisticated manner, picks up the chair “over his head.” This completely opposes how Eddie would have handled the situation. Eddie also wants to exert his power over the entire family. This was the common stereotype in 1950s Red Hook, where the men were the most powerful in the house. We see this when Beatrice tells Eddie “Be an uncle then,” in a rather fierce and overpowering voice. Eddie gives a stare that exerted a “criticizing force,” that instantly made Beatrice fear him, by correcting herself saying, “I mean,” perhaps, in a cowering and fearful voice. This makes the audience despise Eddie as he takes advantage of the stereotype that men were the most powerful in the house, to shut his wife up, even when she said something right. She was also trying to put across a point, for which she was instantly made to feel she was wrong and began getting afraid of Eddie. This is due to the stereotype of the 1950s that men were the most respected in the house and everyone would be afraid to oppose them in any way. Eddie backs up this stereotype when he demands that he wants his “respect.”

This portrays that Eddie is felt sympathy when he demands respect, as he works a lot for their money and he just wants people to talk respectfully to him. Another reason Miller presents Eddie as a character who the audience do not have sympathy for is when “he dials” the number of the Immigration Bureau when he wanted to “report” two “illegal immigrants.” Eddie himself reported Marco and Rodolpho to the immigration Bureau despite him warning his family not do so and even reminded them of the case of Vinny Bolzano. He warned them that Vinny had snitched to the immigration about his uncle. He was then publicly shamed in front of the whole neighborhood/community. His family dragged him down the stairs with his head bouncing on the stairs like a “coconut” as he was carried down three flights of stairs. In his story, Vinny Bolzano was the protagonist where he got poetic justice for his action of snitching to the immigration. He received this when he was dragged down the stairs and he also suffered permanent brain damage. Vinnie is made to be felt sympathy for, as he was scared that an illegal person was staying with them, and he did what he thought right. This situation foreshadows the situation Eddie Carbone put himself in. In his case, Eddie himself warned every one of the consequences of snitches and he himself does it. However, in Eddie’s case, he was not felt sympathy for by the audience, as it was him who had warned his family of the consequences of snitching and reminded them of what happened to Vinnie Bolzano as an example. In the end, it was Eddie that snitched on the two, Rodolpho and Marco, going against what he himself had said. Vinnie and Eddie are similar in the way that, they both snitched on visitors in their homes. However, Vinnie was a scared child who did not know the consequences of snitching on his uncle who stayed with them. But Eddie was an adult who knew the consequences of it and had even warned the other characters of it. Eddie received the poetic justice he deserved, when he died in a painful manner by the very man who he snitched on. But Vinnie suffered severe brain damage.

Another way in which Miller presents Eddie Carbone as a character not worthy of being felt sympathy for is, how he cannot control his feelings and on his views on people different from him. We see the former when he comes home, “unsteady and drunk” and he then shows his feelings for everyone, something he could not do when he was conscious as he suppressed his emotions. Also due to his mindset, he is unable to mention his feelings that Rodolpho is gay. He first reveals his attraction towards his niece, Catherine when he “kisses her on the mouth.” When Eddie does this, he reveals his sexual attraction towards Catherine, which he was not able to do when he suppressed his emotions. After showing his feelings for Catherine, Eddie goes towards Rodolpho and “kisses him.” Eddie creates a peripeteia of the circumstances in an attempt to prove that Rodolpho is gay. He portrays this when Eddie says, “you see,” to Catherine. He tries to portray Rodolpho as being gay and was hoping that Catherine would leave Rodolpho due to Eddie’s accusation. However, Eddie is again unable to say this when he is consciously aware of what he is doing or saying. It was a stereotypical masculine trait in 1950s for men to hide their inner emotions from everyone. It was also highly unappreciated in society for someone to be gay or to be different from everyone else. If this play were to be performed in the 1950s, Rodolpho would be a publicly ridiculed character and the audience would respond negatively towards him. This is as it wasn’t seen as normal at that time. Eddie, who had a very old – fashioned and un – progressive mindset, thought that it was abnormal to be gay and also thought it to be shameful for the person who was gay. However, an audience with a more progressive mindset would contrast Eddie’s thought process and would despise Eddie for his views on homosexuality. In conclusion, Eddie Carbone is a character that is devoted to his family in order to try and protect them from the threats that lie outside the four walls of their home. He is made to be felt sympathy for, when he tries to warn his family of Rodolpho going after Catherine for his “papers” and when his friends start to feel sympathy for the very man he despises of – Rodolpho. He also tries to portray the fact that Rodolpho is a “ship singer,” meaning he is not someone suitable for Catherine to marry. However, he is despised because he “dials” the immigration, despite telling his family not to. Also, he tries “boxing” with Rodolpho to prove how weak Rodolpho is and for Eddie to show how physically strong he is. Finally, Eddie is a character who is felt sympathy for by the audience when he takes care of his family and is also despised when again, he tries to take care of his family, but not in an obvious way.

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Sympathy for Eddie Carbone: A Picture of a Family in the 1950s in A View from the Bridge. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 10, 2023, from
“Sympathy for Eddie Carbone: A Picture of a Family in the 1950s in A View from the Bridge.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
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Sympathy for Eddie Carbone: A Picture of a Family in the 1950s in A View from the Bridge [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Dec 10]. Available from:
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