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Tragedy in A View from the Bridge

Argues that plays are structured so that the resolution of conflict appears as a “natural” or inevitable consequence of the moral and ethical concerns raised in the play.

In A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller, the downfall of Eddie Carbone is the inevitable consequence of the moral and ethical concerns raised in the play. The structure of the play makes Eddie?s tragic downfall obvious, with the use of structural tragic elements and foreshadows showing to the audience that Eddies downfall is certain. Eddie?s opposition with insurmountable obstacles such as trying to overcome the dichotomy between law and justice and his attempts to impose ?old world? values in a modern and progressive American culture are doomed to failure. His inability to compromise and his refusal to admit his mistakes brings about his defeat at the end of the play, the resolution of conflict appearing as the ?natural? consequence to the audience.

The conflict between European ?old world? values with modern American values is an obstacle that Eddie cannot overcome, largely as a result of his inability to compromise. The old world values that Eddie strives to enforce in his life primarily manifest themselves in his over-protectiveness of Catherine. His feelings for her spark his crusade to enforce his traditional Italian values in a culture that embraces freedom, materialism and independence rather than the old values regarding courtship and ?proper? behavior. Eddie cannot enforce these values, and the futility in trying to do so is seen clearly in the conflicts that Eddie has with both Catherine and Rodolpho. He admonishes Catherine for ?walkin? wavy? telling her she is the ?Madonna type?: trying to impose traditional values of chastity and modesty in a modern culture where short skirts and high heels are ?the style now? and flaunting femininity and sexuality is not frowned upon. His conflict with Rodolpho also shows Eddie?s disapproval of modern values, criticising Rodolpho for his carefree attitude to life, spending his pay on ?a snappy new jacket? records, a pointy pair new shoes?. Eddie?s determination to impose his traditional values on youths immersed in American culture and modern values is doomed to failure as his attitudes are shown to be backward and inappropriate and will never be accepted. Eddie?s refusal to compromise and inability to see truth in any opinion but his own leads to a conflict that can only be resolved by his downfall.

Eddie?s inappropriate feelings for Catharine are a further obstacle to compromise and facilitate his determination to quash the love between Rodolpho and Catherine, as Eddie is fuelled by feelings of jealousy. His wife Beatrice realises this and says ?You want somethin? else, Eddie, and you can never have her!? Eddies determination is fixated on an impossible and unrealistic goal: to keep Catherine in the role that he has envisioned for her, determined to keep her purity and innocence in his role for her as a ?Madonna?, never counting on the fact that she ?would ever grow up?. Eddie clearly has inappropriate feelings for Catherine as he is reluctant to let her gain her independence by taking a job, and criticises her for flaunting her sexuality by wearing high heels and short skirts. Eddie ?enveloping? Catherine with his eyes is an inappropriate gesture suggesting that his interest in her is more than paternal. Such feelings are also evident with Eddie?s jealousy of the love between Rodolpho and Catherine. He regards Rodolpho with ?concealed suspicion?, taking an immediate dislike to him as Catherine makes it clear that she likes him, exclaiming that he is ?practically blond? and attracted to his good looks and light-heated manner. Beatrice realises Eddie?s jealousy of Rodolpho straight away, saying ?you?re just jealous? as Eddie starts his criticisms of Rodolpho, saying he gives him the ?heebie-jeebies? and ?he?s like a chorus girl or something?. In Eddie?s determination to keep Catherine and Rodolpho apart, he constantly criticises Rodolpho. Eddie is keen to find any excuse to try and tear Rodolpho and Catherine apart, accusing Rodolpho of being ?a weird? and then claiming that he is ?lookin? for his break?, using Catherine to get his American citizenship. Ironically, Eddie?s efforts to keep the couple apart only bring them closer together and serve to ostracize himself from Catherine. His criticisms bring him further away from the conclusion that he hopes for. As Eddie refuses to compromise in a situation where his desired outcome is not possible, it is inevitable that a resolution of conflict will only be brought about by the death of Eddie.

A View from the Bridge displays tragic elements that add to the tone of inevitability evident throughout the play. Eddie is a modern tragic hero: an ordinary individual whose wish for Catherine not to marry Rodolpho is so intense that he is willing to give up everything else in the pursuit of his convictions. He is ?not purely good, but himself purely? as his beliefs are not perfect, but he is determined to stick by them. Eddie shows the characteristics of the tragic hero as he is of high moral worth but is unmistakably human: he is vulnerable as his pride leads to an error of judgement in regards to Rodolpho. His jealousy of Rodolpho leads him to deceive himself in thinking that Rodolpho ?is not right? and that he is intent on exploiting Catherine?s love for him to gain his American citizenship. Eddie remains the hero of the play rather than being perceived by the audience as a villain as his moral nobility and the dogged determination to pursue his convictions is admirable and he moves the audience to pity as his misfortune is greater than deserved. His refusal to compromise is a heroic quality, but is this flaw which leads to his downfall as he will not ?swallow his pride? and ?settle for half?.

The use of Alfieri as the chorus is another tragic element used in the play. Alfieri responds to the action and sets the mood for A View from the Bridge. Being a lawyer, Alfieri is able to give the audience interpretations of the action that cannot be formulated by Eddie?s uneducated group and is able to articulate and explore the ironies and ambiguities of the situation. In this position, Alfieri plays a large part in setting the tone of inevitability through the use of foreshadows. Alfieri introduces himself as a lawyer ?thought of in connexion with disasters? and the play is introduced with Alfieri watching the action ?run its bloody course?, and in doing so makes it immediately clear that the resolution of conflict will only be brought about by an act of violence. Alfieri knows that Eddie?s misconceptions will lead him to tragedy and can do nothing despite the fact he has all the evidence before him. Alfieri?s feeling of powerlessness as he ?lost his strength somewhere? and ?could see every step coming,? adds to the tone of inevitability as the resolution of conflict is predetermined, and nothing can stop the events from running their course.

The use of foreshadow is a powerful structural element of A View from the Bridge, making the downfall of Eddie seem to be an inevitable consequence to the conflicts that his actions precipitate. While Alfieri?s comments to the audience use foreshadow to indicate the certainty of Eddie?s downfall to the audience, action in the play also indicates future events. Eddie?s destruction at the hands of Marco is made certain in the chair lifting scene where Marco raises the chair ?like a weapon? over Eddie, warning Eddie against threatening Rodolpho with a show of strength. This establishes Marco as a threat to Eddie as such a show of strength represents masculinity, proving that Marco is more of a ?man? than Eddie and has the power to defeat him.

Eddie?s determination to sacrifice everything in his efforts to tear Rodolpho and Catherine apart alienates Eddie from those around him. Eddie stops at nothing in the pursuit of his convictions and in doing so distances himself from those he most loves. His close relationship with Catherine is destroyed by Eddie?s endless criticisms of Rodolpho. Eddie?s efforts to discredit Rodolpho isolate him from Catherine and also force Catherine to become independent from Eddie and make her own decisions, saying ?I think I can?t stay here no more? I?m not gonna be a baby any more!? Eddie?s continued resistance against Catherine?s marriage turns him away from her completely as Catherine comes to think of Eddie as a ?rat? who ?comes when nobody?s lookin? and poisons decent people?. Eddie?s relationship with his wife also becomes tenuous, as Beatrice is anxious for Catherine to gain her independence while Eddie is striving for her to remain a ?baby? under his influence. This creates a lot of tension between them, aggravated by the fact that Eddie expects Beatrice to ?believe? him, saying ?If I tell you that guy ain?t right don?t tell me he is right?. Beatrice?s resistance to Eddie?s claims about Rodolpho leads Eddie to think he has lost his ?respect?. Eddie deludes himself into thinking that Rodolpho ?ain?t right? to justify his efforts to discredit him in front of Catherine and does not care about the effect this has on his marriage. Ironically, it is only at the end when Eddie comes to the realisation that it is Beatrice and not Catherine who is most important in his life.

Eddie proves that he will stop at nothing to try and keep Rodolpho and Catherine apart when he ?snitches? on Marco and Rodolpho to Immigration. Eddie secures his own downfall when he rings Immigration as the backlash from the community for such an act is bound to end in the act of violence that is suggested by Alfieri in the beginning of the play as the events will run their ?bloody course?. Early in the play, Eddie describes the fate of Vinny Bolzano who ?snitched to Immigration? on his uncle and was ousted by the community, ostracized for the rest of his life and regarded with scorn and contempt. A similar fate is inevitable for Eddie, who is prepared to give up his status in the community to make Rodolpho go back to Italy, as he sees that as the only option available to him. By ringing Immigration, Eddie?s downfall is secured as Marco is set against Eddie, spitting into Eddie?s face and calling him an ?animal? and the killer of his children. However, it is Eddie?s refusal to admit his mistakes and to admit that he disgraced his name by ringing Immigration that brings about the final confrontation between Eddie and Marco. Marco wants retribution against Eddie for forcing him to go back to Italy, ruining his families chances of ever escaping poverty. Again, Eddie is seeking the impossible: to ?get his name? and dignity from an apology from Marco, when it was Eddie who relinquished his own dignity in the pursuit of his unfortunate convictions. While it is Marco that kills Eddie, it is the knife that Eddie drew that is the instrument for his death, signifying self-destruction. It is this self-destruction that is evident throughout the play as Eddie?s downfall is brought about through his own failings and mistakes, rather than the mistakes of others having an impact on him.

In A View from the Bridge it is made evident that American law is not consistent with justice as Eddie?s destruction is aided by the American system of law, his downfall signifying an inadequacy in the legal system. Alfieri is only too aware or the inadequacy of the law, saying, ?Only God makes justice?. The dichotomy existing between law and justice is highlighted by Eddie?s actions of calling Immigration, the only legal solution open to him to get rid of Rodolpho. However, it is this legal solution that conflicts with the moral codes that Eddie abides by. Eddie is able to use the law to try and put an end to a situation, which he only sees as being unjust as ?morally and legally? he has no rights in regards to his efforts to separate Catherine and Rodolpho. In abandoning his moral code to ring Immigration, Eddie brings about his own destruction by Marco, who lives by a traditional moral code and is adamant to bring about justice, whatever the cost. Like Eddie, Marco does not know the meaning of compromise, as he feels obligated to kill Eddie for what he has done. The law proves to be totally incapable of handling a situation where the pursuit for justice is more important than upholding the law, and breaking the law to obtain justice seems insignificant. It is in this situation where the death of Eddie by Marco is made inevitable, as Marco is intent on upholding justice rather than law.

The resolution of conflict brought about by the downfall of Eddie Carbone in A View from the Bridge is seen to be the inevitable consequence of the moral and ethical issues raised in the play. Old world values are shown to be inappropriate in American society, and Eddie?s attempts to enforce his old fashioned morals is doomed to failure, leading to an unfortunate conclusion as Eddie lacks the ability to compromise. Eddie?s inappropriate feelings towards Catharine act as a further barrier to compromise, facilitating his determination to try and tear Catharine and Rodolpho apart. Tragic elements also add to the tone of inevitability with the use of foreshadows the use of Alfieri as the chorus and Eddie as the tragic hero, with his vulnerability and misconceptions leading him to self-destruction. His dogged attempts to humiliate Rodolpho before Catherine alienate Eddie from those he most loves, and in ?snitching? to Immigration Eddie ostracizes himself from the whole community. Eddie cannot overcome the insurmountable obstacles that stand in the path for him to enforce his views on those around him, and the impossibility of realising his convictions lead to Eddie?s death, as the resolution of conflict in such a situation can only result from Eddie?s downfall.

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