Unorthodox Love between Parents and Children in A View from the Bridge: Analytical Essay
Although Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge is not a love story, various types of love are shown in the play as the motivation of the characters’ actions. Unfortunately, most of their love does not lead to a happy ending, but only pain and tragedy. This essay examines the unorthodox love between parents and children in A View from the Bridge, love between couples, family, brothers, places, and the issue of homophobia.
Firstly, the obsessive love between parents and children turns out to be the forbidden love between father and daughter. The dock worker Eddie questions the lawyer Alfieri whether he can forbid the marriage between his niece and his wife’s cousin from Italy Rodolpho by law because he cannot accept that his niece Catherine whom he treats as his daughter is with other men except him. Alfieri says, ‘There is too much love for the daughter, there is too much love for the niece.’ (36) Also, when Catherine wants to get out of this home and start a new life with Rodolpho, the stage direction states that ‘[Catherine] strives to free herself when [Eddie] kisses her on the mouth.’ (52) ‘Too much love’ shows that Eddie loves Catherine more than a father loves his daughter, even like a couple. And the sexual imagery ‘he kisses her on the mouth’, further explains that they seem to be in a relationship, even beyond the relationship between father and daughter.
In addition, when Catherine tells Eddie her wedding is going to be held on Saturday, Eddie says, ‘Okay. I only wanted the best for you, Katie. I hope you know that.’ (59) It points out that Eddie cannot take care of or protect his daughter all the time, and he needs to give her freedom and ‘learn to forget’ because his daughter becomes much more independent and mature. As a father, he wishes his daughter to have a bright new life with her husband because he will be happy if his daughter is. This shows the ultimate love from the parents Eddie and Beatrice to their daughter Catherine. Besides, his wife Beatrice also sees the situation and says, ‘You want somethin’ else, Eddie, and you can never have her!’ (70) Actually, the verb ‘have’ has the meaning of occupying or owning someone, and here comes the relationship problem as the father has an obsessive love for his daughter. Eddie’s feelings also affect his marriage, hence he is unwilling to have sex with Beatrice in the previous scene.
When Beatrice says this to Eddie, he is ‘shocked’ and ‘horrified’ because he fails to analyze and admit his feelings for Catherine are far from family love. It is forbidden love as a romantic relationship between the father and daughter is not accepted by society. The writer adds his personal dimension to the story ― he sees its relevance to his own life. He says, ‘For years I unthinkingly thought of Catherine as his daughter … There was no incestuous thinking, but in my mind, there was … I suddenly saw relationships in my own family that were reflected on the stage.’ This suggests the relationship between his father and sister. Bigsby thinks the incestuous motif is more apparent than real in literal terms, given that this is an unacceptable and unconsummated relationship between uncle and niece.
Secondly, the unconditional love of a family does take place in the story. When Eddie doubts his destiny, Alfieri says, ‘A man works, raises his family, goes bowling, eats, gets old, and then he dies.’ (23) A man’s life is harsh, having all these responsibilities and doing the routine work. Yet, Marco is still willing to do so. Marco is an illegal immigrant who moves from Italy to America to ‘make a livin’ (41) for his family and achieve the American Dream. Although he knows that it is illegal, and people may report him to the immigration bureau and he may go to jail, he prioritizes his family before himself as he loves his family more than himself. Beatrice even supports her cousins’ illegal immigration and lets them live in her home. She obviously takes a risk by breaking the law to protect her family members. When Catherine is not sure about her feelings for Eddie, Beatrice says, ‘It’s wonderful for a whole family to love each other …’ (32). Beatrice loves her family back in Sicily. We can see that Beatrice has a maternal love for her niece but she knows that it is time for her to leave the home, become more independent and start her married life. She is rooted in her love for Catherine as she would give advice to her child and believes that she will behave more appropriately around Eddie.
Thirdly, the romantic love between a man and a woman takes an important role throughout the play. At the beginning of the play there is deep love between Eddie and Beatrice, however, when Eddie’s tone becomes indifferent to Beatrice, she says, ‘When am I gonna be a wife again, Eddie?’ (25). Beatrice’s questioning ‘to be a wife again’ clearly shows that Eddie and Beatrice’s marriage is obviously not as strong as it used to be. They have not slept together for months, and while Beatrice wants to have sex with her husband Eddie is frigid. When Eddie feels that his marriage becomes a burden, he says, ‘Because I made a promise. I took it out of my own mouth to give to her. I took it out of my wife’s mouth. I walked hungry plenty of days in this city! It begins to break through.’ (37) Eddie thinks marriage is a responsibility or burden to him just because of the paper promise. There are also distrust and misunderstanding in their marriage and Eddie’s own masculinity is called into question. When Beatrice questions his obsessive love for Catherine, he keeps his distance and tries not to show his emotions. Eddie says, ‘A wife is supposed to believe her husband.’ (57) Whenever his wife questions him, he thinks that she is ‘supposed to believe’ him, giving him unconditional love and support, instead of questioning him the truth or asking him for the fact. The lack of communication occurs in their marriage.
Near the end of the play, Catherine is trying to save their marriage by taking the active role as Eddie is going to attend Catherine’s wedding. ‘Listen to me, I love you, I’m talking to you, I love you,’ (50) Beatrice says. Beatrice chooses to stay with Eddie because her love is so strong, and even ignores the fact that he has hurt her deeply by his obsessive love for Catherine. The play reflects Miller’s discovery of his own personal connection with marriage too. Eddie’s infatuation with Catherine makes a parallel to Arthur Miller’s own interest in Marilyn Monroe. There are also similarities between Eddie’s informing on his relatives and Elia Kazan’s co-operation with the House of Un-American Activity Committee against suspected communists. Miller became convinced of the necessity to break through the surface of realism to reveal ‘the pantheon of forces and values which must lie behind the realistic surfaces of life.’ (Carson 47)
In contrast, the freshness of romance appears in the young couple Catherine and Rodolpho, who fall in love with each other at first sight. When Catherine and Rodolpho are in a flirting conversation, Catherine says, ‘Teach me. She is weeping. I don’t know anything, teach me, Rodolpho, hold me.’ (51) Rodolpho says, ‘There’s nobody here now. Come inside. Come. He is leading her toward the bedroom. And don’t cry anymore.’ (51) Catherine asks Rodolpho to ‘teach her’ with a sexual connotation, asking him to teach her how to love him in a sexual way, and then he leads her ‘towards the bedroom’. They eventually have sex for the first time. Young Italian Catholics in the 1950s usually did not have sex before marriage, and hence it shows that Eddie and Catherine are truly committed to each other. Moreover, when Eddie doubts whether Rodolpho really loves Catherine, Eddie says, ‘He marries you so he’s got the right to be an American citizen.’ (29) He claims that Rodolpho only uses Catherine as a tool to become an ‘American citizen’ but does not really love her.
Fourthly, brotherly love is also an important idea in this play. Marco and Rodolpho have a fraternal bond of brotherhood. When Beatrice questions why they cannot get a job, Marco says, ‘regretfully, to Beatrice. He sang too loud.’ (21) Marco protects Rodolpho’s reputation when people question his ability to sing in order to hide the truth that Rodolpho’s awful singing skills cause the loss of his job. He knows Rodolpho well. Rodolpho says he once made money singing but Marco doubts how long he stayed in his job. Rodolpho seeks agreement from Marco, who nods doubtfully and corrects him, ‘two months but not six months. This clearly shows the good understanding of their brotherhood and Marco’s authority over his younger brother.
Besides, when Eddie beats Rodolpho up, the stage direction states that ‘Marco is face to face with Eddie, a strained tension gripping his eyes and jaw, his neck stiff, the chair raised like a weapon over Eddie’s head.’ (46) He raises the chair ‘like a weapon over Eddie’s head’, foreshadowing the death of Eddie. This warns Eddie that if he attacks Rodolpho physically again, Marco will defend his younger brother. Also, when Alfieri asks Marco whether he can promise not to kill Eddie, Marco says, ‘his anger rising: He degraded my brother. My blood. He robbed my children, he mocks my work. I work to come here, mister!’ (66). Marco knows that Eddie does not support Catherine and Rodolpho to be together, and he reports Marco and Rodolpho are illegal immigrants. He hates this kind of betrayal as Eddie has said he would protect them and allow them to stay in his house. He is also angry that ‘[Eddie] degraded my brother’ as a gay man, and he takes revenge by killing Eddie in order to save his name.
Fifthly, homophobia occurs as a result of obsessive love. When Eddie tries to ruin Rodolpho’s reputation, Eddie says, ‘The guy ain’t right, Mr. Alfieri.’ (34) Eddie claims that Rodolpho is not ‘right’, which means he is gay by degrading Rodolpho. When Alfieri asks about the details of Rodolpho, Eddie says, ‘He takes the dress, lays it on the table, he cuts it up; one-two-three, he makes a new dress. I mean he looked so sweet there, like an angel ― you could kiss him as he was so sweet.’ (35) By saying he can make dresses, which is a gender stereotype of women’s work, it gives Rodolpho an image of a feminine man. This kind of work should not be done by men who should be powerful in doing physical work, further implying that Rodolpho may be gay. After that, Eddie has a boxing battle with Rodolpho, who is beaten by him. It implies that heterosexuality is in the majority represented by the powerful ones while homosexuality is in the minority and should be discriminated and beaten by the general public. Ironically, when Eddie kisses Catherine to get Rodolpho mad, the stage directions state that ‘Rodolpho flies at him in an attack. Eddie pins his arms, laughing, and suddenly kisses him.’ (52)
Eddie kisses Rodolpho in the last scene to test him and make fun of his ‘gay’ behavior. He uses ‘ain’t right’ to imply that homosexuality violates the moral standard as heterosexuality should be the social norm. This reflects that society generally does not accept homosexuality and even has homophobia. Gottfried also believes that part of the subtlety of A View from the Bridge lies in Miller’s ability to stage the passions of an inarticulate man. When he visits Alfieri, he tries to seek confirmation of his alarm that there is something wrong with Rodolpho manifestly. He is gay but also a sexual threat to Catherine, which are actually contradictory accusations. He distrusts language, and he thinks that people can make good use of it to betray him and others easily. In the end, Eddie’s own real feelings remain clouded. Bigsby thinks that he is trapped in the logic of his own feelings, obliged to defend a sense of himself that is no longer congruent with his actions.
Last, of all, the love for a place also plays a crucial role throughout the play. The idea of the American Dream is presented throughout this drama. Although Rodolpho and Marco are very fond of their homeland Italy, they love America more. When Eddie thinks Marco and Rodolpho can live better in America, Rodolpho says, ‘We work hard, we’ll work all day, all night ―’ (18). They believe that hard work alone will guarantee success. They are illegal immigrants working as longshoremen who are very poorly paid, but they still ‘want to be an American’ so they can work day and night. When Catherine knows Italy is a fantastic place with incredible scenery but Rodolpho still wants to live in America, Catherine says, ‘But he’s crazy for New York’ (28). Rodolpho says he dreams of seeing the bright light, ‘crazy for New York’ and is enthusiastic about the wealthier metropolis with high living standards. When Catherine insults him if he is marrying a woman he does not love just to be an American, Rodolpho says, ‘I want to be an American so I can work, that is the only wonder here ― work!’ (49).
According to the historical background, too many poor immigrants came to America in the early twentieth century; and the cityscape of Manhattan represented a dream of wealth and sophistication. Gottfried says that A View from the Bridge portrays man as a prisoner of destiny in the manner of a classical Greek tragedy. A Greek chorus in the person of Mr. Alfieri, the lawyer who addresses the audience directly and in verse. The title of the play refers to the idea of looking from the Brooklyn Bridge down across the docks at Red Hook. It means that the longshoremen are willing to change their poor living environment by working hard to achieve financial success. However, they still look at the same view from the bridge, as they can only have the same economic condition, and cannot escape from fate.
In conclusion, various types of love appear in A View from the Bridge, including the love of a place related to the American Dream in New York, brotherly love, romantic love, and family love, which are appropriate and accepted by the social norm. However, forbidden love is also explored in this play, as shown by the unorthodox parental love as a result of obsessive love, which does not lead to a happy ending, but only pain and tragedy in this play.
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