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The Theme of Masculinity in A View From The Bridge Essay


A View from the Bridge

A View from the Bridge is a play by Arthur Miller which is set in America in the 1950s. The play is about a family unit which is disrupted by the arrival of two illegal immigrants. The main protagonist Eddie Carbone is an over-protective man who becomes obsessive with his niece Catherine. When Catherine instantly falls for Rodolpho - one of the illegal immigrants- Eddie quickly becomes jealous of him and the entire household is destroyed by Eddies feelings for Catherine. Throughout the play many themes are evident but one of the main themes is masculinity and what defines a man?

At the beginning of the play Eddie is seen as the patriarchal figure in the household. When Catherine puts on high heels to impress the guests Eddie remarks Whats the high heels for, Garbo? By saying this, Eddie is trying to tell Catherine that the high heels give an impression of her that he does not approve of. This shows that Eddie is in control of what Catherine is allowed to do even though she is a mature adult who should be able to make her own decisions. Eddie is making his dominance clear, and by his attitude he sets down the rules of what people living in the house can and cant do.

The idea of Eddie being head of the household is again evident when Catherine is offered a job as a stenographer. At first Eddie feels that Catherine should not take the job but eventually agrees for her to accept the offer. A reason why Eddie did not want Catherine to take the job could be that she would earn more than fifty dollars a week, substantially more than Eddie, an illiterate longshoreman. As head of the household Eddie wants to be the main provider for the family and this could be threatened by Catherine working.

The theme of masculinity is again brought about when comments are made regarding Rodolpho. Eddie feels that Rodolpho aint right mostly because of his blonde hair. And with that wacky hair; hes like a chorus girl. Traditionally Italians have dark hair and Eddie feels as though Rodolpho is somewhat of a freak. Throughout the play Eddie uses nicknames to play on the lack of masculinity. He calls him Danish because of his blonde hair but more so he uses the criticism to highlight how much he hates Rodolpho.

Marco however is seen as a real man by Eddie. He will work all day, all night so that he can send money back to his family in Italy. This shows that he is willing to work hard to provide food on the table which is seen as manly because as in the 1950s a mans job was to go to work, get money and provide food for the family. He also has incredible strength and is described by Eddies friends as a regular bull. This again makes Marco much more manly as a man is meant to be the protector of the household.

Eddie tries to portray Rodolpho as being weak and feminine in the boxing incident. Eddie teaches Rodolpho some basic, soft boxing but this quickly turns into a situation of great tension and aggression. All of a sudden after doing some seemingly harmless boxing the stage directions state that:

"He feints with his left hand and lands with his right. It mildly staggers Rodolpho. Marco rises".

The reader can tell that the punch was clearly much harder than was needed. The fact that Marco, suddenly rises, along with Catherine rushing to Rodolpho, shows that everyone in the room was taken aback by what Eddie had done. Eddie tries to make out that he did nothing intentionally wrong and he accidentally punched Rodolpho too hard, by saying: "I didn't hurt him. Did I hurt you, kid?" We can however understand why Eddie would have punched Rodolpho intentionally hard as he felt jealous and somewhat threatened by him.

A key turning point in the play is during an argument between Catherine, Rodolpho and Eddie. When Eddie witnesses Catherine and Rodolpho leaving the bedroom together he quickly becomes infuriated. Instead of picking a fight with Rodolpho, Eddie firstly kisses Catherine then kisses Rodolpho. Rodolpho tries to stop it but Eddie pins his arms, laughing, and suddenly kisses him. Eddie was trying to convince Catherine that Rodolpho is a homosexual. By kissing Catherine he shows his affections for her and soon after kisses Rodolpho to try to bring out his homosexual feelings out in front of Catherine. By doing this we begin to question Eddies masculinity. Why would Eddie do this if he hated Rodolpho and was trying to prove the point that Rodolpho was actually a homosexual.

When Rodolpho and Marco are arrested for being illegal immigrants they both react differently. Marco is infuriated that his own family would turn them in to the Immigration office. Marco does not hold any respect for Eddie and spits in his face. After being taken away by immigration officers Marco returns with one idea in mind, to kill Eddie Carbone. Rodolpho on the other hand can see past Eddies mistakes and wants to make peace with him. He even offers to kiss Eddies hand but Eddie snaps his hand away. This shows that Eddie does not want to make amends with Rodolpho and does not want Rodolphos respect. Rodolpho ironically is actually the true man by apologising to Eddie and Marco and Eddie behave more like animals by fighting with one another.

The theme of masculinity is one of the central themes in A View from the Bridge but also is one of the most important.. Miller was well before his time in terms of the views on masculinity. In the 1950s a true man was strong and was able to provide for his family whereas Miller showed that although Rodolpho can cook, sew and sing in the end it was the content of his personality which truly defined his masculinity.

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