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A View from the Bridge

Arthur Miller

Character Analysis

Character List

Themes, Motifs and Symbols

Eddie Carbone

Eddie Carbone is the tragic protagonist of The View from the Bridge. He is constantly self-interested, wanting to promote and protect his innocence. Eddie creates a fictional fantasy world where his absurd decisions make sense—where calling the Immigration Bureau in the middle of an Italian community that prides itself on protecting illegal immigrants has no repercussions. In Eddie's world, he imagines protecting Catherine from marriage or any male relationship and wants her for himself. While Eddie wavers and switches between communal and state laws and cultures, his motivations do not change. Eddie constantly looks out for himself at the expense of others and is ruled by personal love and guilt.

There are several moments in the text where the audience is given clues that Eddie's love for Catherine may not be normal. For example, when Catherine lights Eddie's cigar in the living room, it is an event that gives Eddie unusual pleasure. This possibly warm and affectionate act between niece and uncle has phallic suggestions. Depending on interpretation by the actors, this moment many have more or less sexual undertones. Eddie's great attention to his attractive niece and impotence in his own marital relationship immediately makes this meaning clear. Although Eddie seems unable to understand his feelings for his niece until the end of the play, other characters are aware. Beatrice is the first to express this possibility in her conversation with Catherine. Alfieri also realizes Eddie's feelings during his first conversation with Eddie. Eddie does not comprehend his feelings until Beatrice clearly articulates his desires in the conclusion of the play, "You want somethin' else, Eddie, and you can never have her!"

Eddie does not realize his feeling for Catherine because he has constructed an imagined world where he can suppress his urges. This suppression is what devastates Eddie. Because he has no outlet for his feelings—even in his own conscious mind—Eddie transfers his energy to a hatred of Marco and Rodolpho and causes him to act completely irrationally. Eddie's final need to secure or retrieve his good name from Marco is a result of Eddie's failure to protect Catherine from Marco. Eddie fails in his life, but seeks redemption and victory in death. By avenging Marco, Eddie believes he will regain his pride in the community—another wholly self-interested act. Eddie escaped restraint because he escaped all thoughts of other people or the community at large. Eddie's "wholeness" is a whole interest in himself. Eddie's tragic flaw is the bubble, the constructed world he exists within, but is unable to escape or recognize.

Alfieri

Alfieri is the symbolic bridge between American law and tribal laws. Alfieri, an Italian-American, is true to his ethnic identity. He is a well-educated man who studies and respects American law, but is still loyal to Italian customs. The play told from the viewpoint of Alfieri, the view from the bridge between American and Italian cultures who attempts to objectively give a picture of Eddie Carbone and the 1950s Red Hook, Brooklyn community. Alfieri represents the difficult stretch, embodied in the Brooklyn Bridge, from small ethnic communities filled with dock laborers to the disparate cosmopolitan wealth and intellectualism of Manhattan. The old and new worlds are codified in the immigrant-son Alfieri. From his vantage point, Alfieri attempts to present an un-biased and reasonable view of the events of the play and make clear the greater social and moral implications in the work.

From his narration, it seems that Alfieri has decided to tell the story for his own reasons as much as anyone else's. He does not find a conclusion after telling the Carbone story, but tells it nonetheless and he speaks and reveals his honest view of the facts. He is cast as the chorus part in Eddie's tragedy. Alfieri informs the audience and provides commentary on what is happening in the story. The description of the people within the play and narration at the beginning of every scene change helps to distinguish the short chapters of the tale. Alfieri is fairly inconsequential in the action of the play in general, but more importantly frames the play as a form of a modern fairy tale. Alfieri admittedly cannot help Eddie Carbone, but must powerlessly watch the tragic events unfold before him. There is no illusion of reality, Alfieri purposely breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience during the reenactment of the story. Alfieri is in many ways like Arthur Miller, when he first heard the tale of the Longshoreman. He is the teller of and incredible story that he cannot change.

Rodolpho

Rodolpho, the platinum blonde is a cooking, sewing, and dancing full-blooded Italian, and the greatest threat to Eddie Carbone. The play really does not fill out the character of Rodolpho as an individual, whose motivations are left as unknowns. Unlike Beatrice and Catherine, who we hear talking together about their thoughts and feelings, Rodolpho reveals little about himself. There are many questions left unanswered including his sexuality, his love for Catherine, and whether he actually forgives Eddie at the play's conclusion. Much depends on the actor playing Rodolpho to make clear character choices for this character because he is rather vague in the script.

The audience really never even knows if Rodolpho truly loves Catherine. Their romance is curiously devoid of passion. Unlike his Italian brother Marco, Rodolpho does not seek revenge on Eddie for calling Immigration or abusing his fiance in front of him. It is very clear that Rodolpho wants to be an American citizen at all costs and there is a great possibility that he does not love Catherine. Like Eddie fears, Rodolpho may only want to gain citizenship through their marriage. The conversation between Rodolpho and Catherine in the beginning of Act II does little to clarify this issue. Catherine does ask him whether he would marry him if they had to move to Italy, but Rodolpho does not seem sincere. Rodolpho never once describes why he wants to marry Catherine, he just wants to get married to someone in the U.S. where there is work. Rodolpho is a complex character and seems more a montage of conflicts to heighten the action of the play rather than a full person. Rodolpho is constructed as a foil for Eddie Carbone, but like the women of the play, he has little life of his own.

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