The law is multifaceted in this play. As a lawyer Alfieri speaks for the official law, but it is clear that this kind of law cannot reach into the personal lives of the characters and accomplish what they want it to. It cannot provide real justice and serves to frustrate and rend lives apart (as with the brothers being rounded up by Immigration). Moral law is different. While Eddie adheres to the official law when he reports on his wife's cousins, he breaks a moral code, and his community condemns him for it. Marco, by contrast, violates the official law but adheres to the moral law. It is this tension between the types of law that provides nuance and complexity to the story.
Desire in this play is fraught with tension because it is not directed in the proper channels. Eddie desires Catherine, his niece. Even though they are not related by blood he is her guardian and has raised her like a daughter. He ignores his own wife while he acts in an immoral and harmful fashion toward Catherine, at times raging, treating her like a baby, kissing her, mocking her, and forbidding her from marrying and moving out. He may also desire Rodolpho, his buried homosexuality manifesting itself when he kisses him. Here, his desire is cruel and spiteful, reflecting his discomfort with his latent thoughts. Overall, desire broods, simmers, and eventually explodes in violent ways.
Money and social class lurk below the surface of the characters' tempestuous emotions. They all talk of work and money and "stealing"; their goals are to make money to support themselves or their family, be comfortable and be able to buy luxuries like a motorcycle, and/or be autonomous. Eddie uses the fact that he provided materially for Rodolpho to condemn him for "stealing" Catherine, while Marco's temper flares not only because of the shame brought upon himself and his brother but because Eddie's snitching has essentially doomed Marco's children because they will no longer be able to rely on their father for financial support. Though the romantic tensions might be there regardless, money clearly exacerbates them.
While the community of Italian-American immigrants and naturalized citizens is largely in the background except for Louis, Mike, and Alfieri, it is very clear that it is nonetheless an important component of the story. Eddie isn't just hurting Catherine, Beatrice, Marco, and Rodolpho by turning the brothers in to immigration officials; he is betraying his community by ignoring the dangers of working with the government, getting Lipari's relatives deported, and generally eschewing the unspoken rule that one looks out for one's own. In America, ethnic enclaves were tightly-knit because they had to be; they needed to survive in a country hostile to them.
Eddie is a paragon of self-denial. He has inappropriate feelings for Catherine and sublimates them so deeply that he can no longer think clearly. He accuses Beatrice of disrespecting him when he has not slept with her for months, rages at Catherine for favoring Rodolpho, convinces himself that Rodolpho is after Catherine's passport, and eventually becomes convinced the best course of action is to betray his community by turning the brothers in to Immigration. He continues to deny his true feelings almost until his dying breath. Furthermore, he may even be sublimating homosexual tendencies, which would add the incredible depths of denial this man possesses.
Gender roles in this play reflect the traditional ones that predominated in 1950s America. Men speak for women, control them, and mostly dictate what they wear and where they go. Beatrice chooses to stay with Eddie even though he treats her miserably, which may be because she sees him as the authority, or she does not respect herself, or she knows she needs him because a single woman of her age and social class would find life very difficult. But the men are also stuck; what is masculine and what is manly is clearly defined and when someone deviates from that, such as Rodolpho, they are subject to mocking, curiosity, and/or outright hostility. If Eddie does indeed have homosexual leanings, it is no wonder he buries them.
Home means different things to different characters, but all try to mediate between the Old World and the New. While Marco sees Italy as his true home, Rodolpho wants to make his in America. Catherine is a product of America as well, but Eddie and Beatrice seem to retain more traditional views regarding gender, authority, and freedom. Alfieri is the bridge between these homes, but his uneasy position and his lack of ability to influence events calls into question whether or not it is possible to be truly part of both worlds.
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.