Arthur Miller, the author of A View from the Bridge, explores the Sicilian honour code and its effect on everyday society. The play is set, for the significant part, in the flat owned by Eddie and his wife, Beatrice. Therefore the play has a large domestic influence; conflict, of sorts, is ever-present throughout the play, and for the large majority of the time, this centres around Eddie. Another of the main themes is the link between the American dream and their poverty stricken home country, Italy. The reason why the two immigrants, Rodolpho and Marco, came over from Italy and into the land of prosperity, America, was to find jobs and provide from their family. However, this disturbs the fragile equilibrium of Eddies household.
The three conflicting laws which underpin the very core of the play are natural law, American law, and the Italian honour code - these three forces act cohesively on Eddie and ultimately destroy him, his widely unaccepted and concealed lust for his niece, Catherine, brings him to betray the Sicilian code by utilising the American law and snitching on the immigrants. However, we are shown that it is the Italian honour code which is superior in that specific neighbourhood and therefore Eddie is not looked kindly upon when this comes to light.
We are told, symbolically, that they play will result in death - for Alfieri, the constant commentator upon the narrative, talks about a bloody course thus foreshadowing the last scene, Eddies death. Alfieri has a dual role within the play, as a commentator and as a character. It is when Alfieri becomes the analyst, and a narrator of sorts, that we are given an insight into the sequence of events through the means of dramatic monologue. However, when Alfieri enters the narrative he becomes an adviser to Eddie on legal matters, he understands the situation Eddie is in as he himself is an Italian striving for the American dream but he also comprehends the Sicilian honour code that governs life in the Italian run ghettos.
Beatrice is aware of the marital problems, she gives hints towards Eddie throughout the play, for example she eludes towards the lack of a sex life that their marriage holds. But this is the very first time that she has had the confidence to defy her husband and question him she says to him you want somethin else, Eddie, and you can never have her! this is a link towards Eddies continuous advances towards his niece. Beatrice has obviously noted these flirtations but, until now, she has always been his property this outburst by his wife shows that he has truly been rejected by the Italian society as he broke arguably the most important law held by the honour code, by telling the American authorities about Marco and Rodolphos illegal stay in the country. This betrayal, towards his own family, is incredibly significant because in Sicilian culture the family is the most important entity to them, therefore when one violates their own family there are severe consequences. However, she may be trying to save him from his fatal flaw, his lust for Catherine, by attempting to get it into his head that he never can have her as he wants her, she is getting married and he cannot stop that from progressing. Furthermore, Beatrice tells Eddie the truth is not as bad as blood, Eddie! Im tellin you the truth tell her good-bye for ever! which he, of course, does after his death they will never talk again, moreover, Beatrice is correct without the truth there was blood, Eddies death.
This act of defiance also declares to the whole neighbourhood that Eddie is sexually attracted towards his niece, his fists clenched thus showing his anger and also his readiness to fight and defend himself but, as he knows, he never could beat the Italian honour code. Catherine, as shocked as Eddie at this remark, screams B.! this shocks Catherine because she had not realised her uncles advances upon her, the high levels of innocence and naivety within Catherine prevented her from picking up on the comments given to her by Eddie. Moreover, earlier in the play, Eddie kissed Rodolpho, which also shocks Catherine, this not only an open insult to Rodolphos masculinity but it also shows that Eddie is pushing the boundaries with respect to his lust for Catherine even further with this more conspicuous display of affection and defence of her. This overt accusation brings to Catherines mind the realisation that all of those comments, compliments and other such niceties that she had merely assumed to be normal familial conversation had lustful and flirtatious motives behind them. Rodolpho too finds the sudden outburst somewhat embarrassing, that his uncle-in law to be is his love rival. The stage directions attached to Catherine and Eddies reaction, shocked and horrified, are placed there for dramatic effect, to intensify the tension and create an atmosphere of opposition.
And now, Marco enters the scene, thus intensifying the tension and adding another layer on top of that one of violence and ferocity that will inevitably end in death, as we were told via Alfieri in act one a tragic end, a bloody course. The way Marco enters is highly effective dramatically, he appears outside, walking towards the door from a distant point this increases tension but also shows that he is powerful and strong, and therefore this increases tension even more because we know the fight will be intense. Furthermore, the use of Eddies full name to call after him, shows formality of the situation there are unwritten rules to the Italian honour code and both parties know these and their consequences. The use of his full name may also represent a jury, judging how harsh these penalties should be. Beatrice clearly recognises the struggle that is about to occur and she makes an attempt to forestall this. The stage directions attached to Eddie are representative of his inner pain, torture and maybe even remorse crying out in agony, the agony of realisation that what he has done is in violation of natural law, and also his fists clench his head as though it will burst this is as if he is fighting against his inner self, his mind trying to come to terms with what has happened and it pains him to realise it. Eddie repeats his full name, three times, in such a way that it is challenging and aggressive towards Marco, this is dramatically effective as it builds tension and also shows that both have acknowledged each others hostility. Beatrice, yet again, tries to save her husband by ordering him back into the house, however this again fails.
Next, Eddie tries to justify himself, he comes to address the people within the highly effective and dramatic monologue, to the neighbourhood, but also to himself he seems to try to, somehow, make what he felt for Catherine right in his mind. Within his monologue aimed at the audience, himself and the neighbourhood, he uses many rhetorical questions such as He knows that aint right. To do like that? To a man? Which I put my roof over their head and my food in their mouth? Like in the Bible?, showing his state of chaos and also his attempt to justify what he has done to himself, continuously questioning his reasoning to himself this is a highly effective way to convey this feeling. In addition, he refers back to Catherine and how they came out of the water just to grab a girl for a passport? This is what he has got stuck into his head, Eddie endlessly attempts to justify this to himself and those around him. Further showing of his erratic speech lies within his direct speaking with Marco, Wipin the neighbourhood with my name like a dirty rag come on, liar, you know what you have done he has constructed a whole other truth within his mind, it seems real to him a sign that his mind has turned against him, it too has rejected him and left him mentally unstable. This fight is not only just between Marco and Eddie it is also, on a more symbolic level, a fight between American law and the Italian Honour code sparring in the streets of an Italian ghetto, with only one obvious victor. The stage directions illustrate to us an image of a crazed animal trapped in a corner, surrounded by opposing forces, little bits of laughter even escape him as his eyes are murderous and he cracks his knuckles in his hands with a strange sort of relaxation this presents a mad image of Eddie, trying to claw back some scrap of his previous reputation by denying any form of accusation against him. Further evidence towards his madness is presented, again in the form of stage directions, hes incensing himself, the internal conflict is growing and he cannot stop it, it is driving him mad and his words are becoming irrational akin to a child trying to get out of something it has done wrong. However, against all odds, Catherine and Beatrice still care for Eddie, telling him to stop Eddie! Eddie, dont Eddie! trying to prevent the situation from worsening but, yet again, failing. This is dramatically effective as it shows how desperate the situation has got, forcing both Catherine and Beatrice to try to help the man of the house, and for them to be of a higher status than him. Marco calls Eddie an Animal!, this is representative of his lower status now he has been rejected, but is also referring to his physical and mental state he is a caged animal, within his head and within the neighbourhood. Marco calls for Eddie to go on your knees to me [Marco], to submit to him, to show he is worthless this is a highly aggressive move and one that will inevitably end in violence if Eddie refuses, and he no doubt does.
The violence begins, Eddie refuses to let his name be dragged down to the gutter he demands that Marco should gimme me name and we go to the wedding this shows that Eddie will not back down, will not give in to Marco, even if violence is necessary . Eddie goes down with the blow and Marco starts to raise a foot Eddies lower physical position is also representative of his lower status within Italian society at present. Marco tells him to go on your knees to me, to submit to his will. Eddies lower position also shows that Marco is capable of squashing him, due to the incident with a chair previously, like an ant small and insignificant on the floor, with little, if any, consequences to its death. This is very similar to the situation at hand because it was Eddie that violated the Italian honour code and his death would therefore be seen as the right thing to do and in a neighbourhood of all Italians, Marco would not have been imprisoned for it as it would have been denied and brushed off as an accident.
We see the progression of Eddie from a reasonable man, with a single fatal flaw, to an animal, murderous and he cracks his knuckles. This also shows Eddies willingness to kill Marco in defence of his own life. The two opposing forces then square up to one another and Eddie lunges for Marco, this is a highly aggressive move and one that shows little consideration of the consequences. a great hushed shout goes up from the people this means that they are expecting this affair to end with the spilling of blood, as if it was obvious. The act of Marco proclaiming that Eddie is an animal shows that there has been a reversal of roles and status because it is now Eddie that is of low status, no rights in the eyes of the Italian honour code, and Marco is the one with high status, after being a low status immigrant, he is asking for mercy from Eddie. This shows that Eddies status and reputation are very rapidly disintegrating; furthermore it also shows that Marco has become hungry for power and has a lust for control. When Eddie springs a knife this upsets the balance, and also increases tension and the emotion within the scene, this is highly effective dramatically. The very fact that Eddie has a knife shows that he was prepared to fight, to defend himself and to attack thus showing he was aware that his fate lay in the outcome of an inevitable fight with Marco. In addition, after the show of strength from Marco when lifting the chair with one hand, Eddie may see himself as weaker physically than Marco, recognising his dominance and moral superiority within the situation he has created. Contrary to this, the other stage members, which includes Rodolpho, presume that Eddie will be the victor thus killing Marcos family back in Italy because Marco sends money for food for his family, and medicine for his son without it he will surely die and that was made very clear to us previously, this is shown when the scream Eddie, please, he has children! You will kill a family!
Louis comes into the scene as a pacifier he rushes in towards Eddie this symbolises that it is Eddie that is the cause of all of the conflict, the root of the problems which he most certainly is. In addition, Louis halts and steps back when Eddie raises the knife this is to show that there is no hope of peace, this will end in bloodshed. Moreover, he is also a metaphor for the community as a whole, he, and Mike, rush in and separate the conflict between Eddie and Marco. Then Eddie falls to his knees in front of Marco symbolising the victory of the Italian honour code and its significance in the ghettos over American law, and also the fact that Eddie has been rejected completely by the society in which he used to live. Significantly, Marco grabs his [Eddies] arm, turning the blade inward thus pointing towards Eddie, this could easily be shown to be murder but in this situation I believe it is self-defence, because Eddie pulled the knife upon Marco however it gives Marco the opportunity he wanted, to kill Eddie. Beatrice and Catherine try to forgive what Eddie has done and as a result rush in, calling his name, and Beatrice covers him with her body showing forgiveness and the rekindling of love between them. As a consequent of all of this, there is chaos between everyone, Catherines cousin in law to be has killed her Uncle for example, and all the community do is watch, observing the agony in front of them. We, the audience, are shocked at this murder but the Italian honour code has been upheld and Eddie has paid the price he knew would come; consequently there are many mixed and intense emotions.
With Eddies death the prophecy that predicted a bloody course becomes true, the play ends in death however, was it justified? That depends on which of the two main codes one abides by, from the of view of American law it was unjust but contrary to that view the Italian honour code would see it as the right thing to do. Catherine apologises to Eddie, saying she never meant to do anything bad to you [Eddie], Beatrice covers his dying body with her body, encasing him in love thus symbolising reconciliation in their marriage, they both love one another, until the very end until death do us part this is part of religious law, and on they have stuck too. Natural law has also prevailed; the notion of possible incest has died along with Eddie. It is also dramatically effective in the sense that he died by his own knife, he constructed his own death, set himself up for the inevitable fatal consequence. By going against the Italian honour code knowingly, there were consequences to be faces and those consequences were known to him from the very beginning.
The only moment of intimacy in the whole play between Beatrice and Eddie is that when she covers his dying body with hers, she still tries to protect him from the crowd? From Marco? Or from himself? The scene ends with weeping women and those in the crowd praying; a calm image when compared with previously in the scene, but it is also incredibly emotional as were previous scenes but this is a more soft emotion, highly upsetting and intense, however before the stage was full of anger and hate. After Catherine says to Eddie I never meant to do nothing bad to you, Eddie replies with then why as if questioning the fact, that somehow it was Catherines fault that he was sexually attracted to her. Catherine and Rodolpho still do not get their blessing, and they never will however, Eddie spends his last words on Beatrice, My B. This is highly affectionate but also possessive and shows that she is the only thing he has left; even his life is slipping away. The fact that he does not use those last words to bless Catherine and Rodolphos marriage shows that he still has lustful feelings towards his niece. The drama ends, the lights have gone down, fading on the neighbourhood, which is representative of Eddies death moment before, and then the lights rise again, on Alfieri, and this symbolises insight. Alfieri gives constant commentary and an insight to a deeper level throughout the play guiding us through, very similar to authorial intervention both highly effective dramatic devices.
Alfieri then, in another monologue, sums up what has happened. Throughout the play Alfieri has acted as a legal adviser to Eddie, telling him what he can and cant do with respect to American law, but with a sympathetic slant towards the Italian honour code also. Alfieri comments upon Eddies marriage with Beatrice and lust for Catherine, most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better this is an observation upon Eddies relationship with Catherine and Beatrice the fact that he is married to Beatrice but wants more, he wants Catherine thus upsetting natural law and the universe had to correct that this was done via his death and the aid of the Italian honour code and Marcos revenge.
Eddie tried to go a step further, again and again, until it was too much and he couldnt be stopped with words his lust for Catherine was too great, natural law was at an imbalance. This imbalance had to be corrected and after Eddies death this was true, truth is holy refers to all three of the laws: natural, American and the Italian honour code, being balanced again. Then, Alfieri says I think I will love him more than al my sensible clients this means that, although Eddie is the hero with a tragic flaw that backfires, he is true to himself even if slightly foolish sometimes. Alfieri then advises the audience to think things through and to settle for half, not to be greedy and keep doing as revenge spirals out of control.
Miller could have used many different endings, for example, the killing could have been more spontaneous, with Eddie embracing Catherine and pleading her to choose him, Marco enters the scene and again turns Eddies knife upon him this would also have shown that it was Eddies fault he was killed; his own knife, he knew there would be fatal consequences to the actions he chose, but he ignored them due to his lust for Catherine. Another ending is one in which Marco kills Eddie, and therefore the death of a tragic hero. Furthermore, Miller makes a reference to another possible ending to the play which involves Catherine killing Eddie I dont think this would be as effective because it does not involve Eddie being killed by his own sword thus showing he was the one that made his death a certainty. In addition I do not believe Catherine would have killed Eddie has, even though he had that one tragic flaw, she loved him as an uncle this is shown when she still went over to hold him at the end of the current ending of the play. Another ending, that Miller changed in Paris, would be one where Eddie, so rejected by the Italian community and thus realising that it was his own doing that resulted in the loss of his good name, and therefore kills himself out of shame. This would have possible been more effective with the self realisation on Eddies part but I do not believe that the Italian honour code would have allowed Eddie to escape what he had done, I think that Marco would have killed him one way or another.
I truly believe that the most powerful moment within the play is the very ending moment when Beatrice is holding her husband within her arms whilst he slowly drifts off forever, as it is the realisation within Eddie that he has done something wrong and he has to pay for that, furthermore it is the only show off affection between Eddie and Beatrice within the whole play. I believe that Eddies death was justifiable under the situation he was knowingly in and therefore his own fault he followed his incestuous lust for Catherine thus breaking natural law that had to be corrected and this was followed through via the Italian honour code. Therefore I do not feel sad at the death of Eddie, not nearly as much as if his death wasnt his own doing. I believe that what Alfieri said can be applied to most situations in modern-day life, I agree that one should not be greedy and settle for half if taking any more would cause harm or damage. However, I believe that we should strive for what we want, for everyone has the capability to achieve everything they would like to, it is just a matter of setting ones mind to it and starting early in life. But, of course, Alfieris Italian-American roots have some effect on the way he sees life and different aspects of it.