But this is Red Hook, not Sicily. This is the slum that faces the bay on the seaward side of Brooklyn Bridge. This is the gullet of New York swallowing the tonnage of the world. And now we are quite civilized, quite American.
The Bridge in the play's title refers to the Brooklyn Bridge, which links Manhattan and the borough. The play suggests a symbolic bridge uniting Old Italy and the New. Red Hook and Sicily are kinfolk, but estranged. Red Hook is ostensibly more civilized, relying on law and progress and modernity. Sicily in turn is primitive and traditional (as symbolized by Marco). Ironically, though, Eddie is more Sicilian at times than American in his behavior and morals—he hates that American law can do nothing for him, and he fixates on getting his "name" back from Marco. He does not quell his passions in order to "settle for half."
You're the madonna type.
Eddie's early comments to Catherine reveal right away that something is a bit off about his relationship with her. He is overly affectionate but then swings wildly to anger and despair when he hears she is getting a job. He counsels her to walk a certain way, not wear certain shoes, and avoid encouraging men by waving to them. This comment is even more problematic as it simultaneously exalts and infantilizes her; she is a perfect virginal child and he her benevolent guardian of her virtue.
Now, as the weeks passed, there was a future, a trouble which would not go away.
Eddie's troubles have existed for a long time. It becomes clear he has harbored feelings for Catherine for a long time and has not been able to have sex with Beatrice for awhile. However, the arrival of the brothers presents the first major challenge to his way of life. He had been able to keep some sort of equilibrium, denying his feelings, placating his wife, perceiving Catherine as a child who would forever be in his home. Now, though, a young man has come to take Catherine away from him and to possibly cause him to confess his own feelings of nascent homosexuality. There is nothing particularly special about Rodolpho; it is implied that if it was not Rodolpho courting Catherine, it would be someone else. Thus the irony when Eddie begs Catherine to wait for someone better than the young immigrant; Eddie will never tolerate Catherine moving on.
I can't. I can't talk about it.
Eddie exemplifies the trait of self-denial. Tragically, he cannot admit to himself that he loves Catherine, that he is not interested in his wife anymore and is not fulfilling the role of a husband, and perhaps even that he is gay. He buries these thoughts that disturb him deep within his mind, refusing to let them surface so he can work through them. He consistently turns away from analyzing his own motivations as well as from listening to the advice and probing questions of others. He is untrustworthy and secretive, but projects those traits onto others. He claims others are stealing from him when he exhibits the same tendencies. He completely loses his sense of self, which eventually leads to his death.
I don't know...he was just humorous.
Eddie is convinced that Rodolpho is a homosexual, but Catherine, Beatrice, and Alfieri refuse to believe him and see his obsession with this theory as evidence of his paranoia and immoral love for Catherine. However, Louis and Mike are important here because they too notice something "funny" about Rodolpho. They claim Rodolpho is funny, they nickname him "Paper Doll," they laugh at his looks and his remarks. Eddie is not the only one who has his suppositions, which, with the additional testimony of Louis and Mike, may be true indeed.
I mean, he looked so sweet there, like an angel—you could kiss him he was so sweet.
One of the most compelling theories regarding Eddie's behavior and the nature of his obsession is that he harbors homosexual tendencies, but buries them so deeply that his tortured feelings manifest themselves in an obsessive love for Catherine. There are many clues that point to the plausibility of this explanation. First, before Eddie even knows of Rodolpho and Catherine's feelings for each other, he expresses a discomfort with the young man. Second, he only briefly entertains the idea that Rodolpho wants to marry Catherine for her passport before obsessively dwelling on how "weird" and "funny" he is. And then there is this quote—a strange and dreamy comment that seems out of place. Indeed, Eddie DOES kiss Rodolpho later in the play; it is ostensibly to prove that he is homosexual and thus protect Catherine, but it is so odd and spontaneous and inappropriate that the audience's suspicions are certainly raised.
You won't have a friend in the world, Eddie! Even those who understand will turn against you, even the ones who feel the same will despise you!
This quote encapsulates the problem with Eddie's choice to turn the brothers in to Immigration, and to the extent to which Eddie's obsession has taken over. First, it may be the legal thing to do to turn over illegal immigrants to the authorities, but it violates the norms of the community. The Italians in Red Hook are like family; they only have each other as they work and fight and try to eke out a living. They must work together and look out for each other because life is difficult. No matter what personal wrong Eddie thinks he has suffered, he should not have turned them in. Second, the fact that Eddie has even gotten to the point where he is considering this (especially as he had definitively ruled it out earlier) shows just how frustrated and flummoxed he is with how his life is spinning out of control. His path is laid before him; destruction is imminent.
That one! I accuse that one!
Marco's accusation of Eddie looms large in the play because it forces Eddie to think about what he has actually done. Of course, Eddie does not really want to entertain the truth and channels his inappropriate feelings for Catherine and jealousy of Rodolpho into raging against the loss of respect for him he thinks Marco's comment has caused. He knows deep down that all is lost for him—his family hates him, the neighborhood has turned against him, and he has violated moral law. He fixates on Marco's accusation because it threatens the only thing he has left—the last shards of a self.
All the law is not in a book.
The law is one of the main themes of the play—more specifically, the multifaceted nature of the law. There is the official law, which is codified by the government and which grounds punishment and, ostensibly, renders justice. Then there is the moral/natural law, which is more difficult to pin down and can transcend or even defy the official law. Eddie and Marco both have problems with the official law—Eddie because he can do nothing to stop Rodolpho and Catherine and Marco because he cannot avenge his brother. Marco, however, has moral/natural law on his side and reverts to a primitive form of it to seek his retribution. Eddie does NOT have this on his side, though, as his love for his niece is unnatural and his turning over the brothers to immigration violates the norms of his own community.
...he allowed himself to be wholly known and for that I think I will love him more than my sensible clients. And yet, it is better to settle for half, it must be!
Alfieri isn't condoning Eddie's actions, but he is acknowledging that there is something pure in his unfettered pursuit of his desires. Eddie refuses to quell his inappropriate feelings, refuses to back down, refuses to change. He eventually allows his rage and passion to take over, preferring to let it out rather than continue to repress it. His fire is rare in a world of sublimation and toil, and it is this that Alfieri lauds. Of course, Eddie's personal problems manifest themselves in trauma for his family and community, so it certainly bears discussing whether or not a person being true to themselves is the best course of action if it results in harm to others.
A View From the Bridge Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for A View From the Bridge is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.