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A View from the Bridge

Arthur Miller

Act II

Act I (continued)

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

From his desk, Alfieri once again frames the action of the scene. It is the twenty-third of December and Catherine and Rodolpho are, for the first time, alone together in the house.

While Catherine cuts out a pattern of cloth, Rodolpho watches her intently. Catherine asks Rodolpho if he would still want to marry her if they had to move back to Italy. Rodolpho, indignant, tells Catherine that he would not marry her if they had to live in Italy. Rodolpho wants Catherine to be his wife and he wants to be a citizen; however, Catherine is wrong to think he would marry her just to gain citizenship. Rodolpho insists the only reason he wants to be an American is to have the opportunity to work, that is the only advantage. Catherine reveals that she is fearful of Eddie's reaction toward her marriage and Rodolpho eventually calms her. Catherine weeps in his arms and Rodolpho takes her to the bedroom.

Eddie, drunk and unsteady on his feet, appears below the apartment on the street. Eddie enters the apartment as Catherine walks out of the bedroom. Eddie sees Rodolpho also come out of the bedroom and instantly orders Rodolpho to pack up his bags and leave the house. Catherine moves toward the bedroom and tells Eddie that she is the one that needs to leave. Eddie grabs Catherine and kisses her on the mouth. Rodolpho tells Eddie to respect Catherine, his wife to be. Eddie taunts Rodolpho and Rodolpho lunges toward Eddie, but is pinned by Eddie. Laughing, holding Rodolpho's arms, Eddie suddenly kisses Rodolpho. Catherine tears the two apart.

Alfieri's office is once again lit on the stage. It is December 27 and Eddie has come once again to Alfieri's office for advice. Again, Alferi tells Eddie he must let Catherine marry Rodolpho; the law cannot help him. After leaving Alfieri's office, Eddie calls the Immigration Bureau and reports Marco and Rodolpho. When Eddie returns to the house, he finds Beatrice packing up Christmas decorations. Marco and Rodolpho have been moved upstairs to live with Mrs. Dondero. Beatrice and Eddie argue about their relationship and Beatrice tells Eddie that Catherine and Rodolpho are going to be married next week. Beatrice advises Eddie to give Catherine and Rodolpho his good word and even attend the wedding. Eddie refuses to talk to her and moves toward the door. As he does so, Catherine enters the apartment.

Catherine tells Eddie that the wedding is on Saturday and he can come if he likes. Eddie once again attempts to convince Catherine otherwise, but she is resolved. Eddie suddenly tells Catherine that she must make Marco and Rodolpho move. Eddie thinks it is unsafe for them to be living with Mrs. Dondero because she is housing two other illegal immigrants. As Eddie is speaking, the Immigration police appear outside the house. Catherine hurries upstairs to try and get Marco and Rodolpho out of the house before the police enter, but she is unsuccessful. Marco, Rodolpho and the two other immigrants are taken to jail. As they leave, Marco spits in Eddie's face. Alferi pays bail for Marco and Rodolpho, with a promise that neither will hurt Eddie in any way. Rodolpho will still marry Catherine and be an American, but Marco will be deported in a few weeks.

It is Catherine's wedding day and she is getting ready in her bedroom. Eddie still refuses to go to the ceremony and stubbornly sits in his rocking chair. Eddie has lost all respect in the community because he called Immigration on Rodolpho and Marco. Rodolpho enters the room to collect Catherine and Beatrice for the wedding and suggests that Eddie leave the room because Marco is coming, but Eddie refuses. Rodolpho apologizes for everything and even reaches to kiss Eddie's hand, but Eddie pulls it away. Marco appears outside the apartment and calls out Eddie' name. Eddie and Marco exchange words and Eddie desperately attempts to justify his cause in front of the crowd of community members that have gathered. Eddie tries to stab Marco, but Marco grabs his arm and turns the blade inward toward Eddie. Eddie dies in Beatrice's arms.

Analysis

The central conflict for characters in A View from the Bridge is negotiation between tribal and country law. In other words, the characters must reconcile between the social laws of the Red Hook Sicilian-American community and the laws that they are bound to by the state. Eddie Carbone purposefully holds allegiance to the state law that bans illegal immigrants. He is consequently punished by the Red Hook community, which accepts and protects immigrants. Marco and Rodolpho, although wanting live in the U.S., break American law by entering the country illegally. Influenced by the fact he has already been deported, Marco has especially little allegiance to American law or custom, but abides by Sicilian practices of revenge against Eddie. Rodolpho, with the possibility of being a citizen, offers his apologies to Eddie. Alfieri, the Italian-American lawyer who narrates the play, is the great compromiser between Sicilian law and American laws. Alferi is able to negotiate between social mores in Red Hook and the demands of American citizenship.

Eddie's allegiance to the U.S. is not seen until the conclusion of the play. When Marco and Rodolpho first come to stay with the Carbone's, he is happy and proud to be housing "submarines" in his home. With the power of his "subs," Eddie rebels against American immigration laws and brings Italians into the county, encouraged and honored by the surrounding community. Eddie is forced to ignore this tribal law when he is threatened by Rodolpho's relationship to Catherine. Eddie goes to the lawyer, Alfieri, to see if there is a way to negotiate American law to simply stop the marriage, but he realizes that the only way is to go against Sicilian social-community law ("the law is not interested in this you have no recourse in the law"). Eddie's decision to break community law is also influenced by his love for Catherine; his betrayal is out of self-interest. Eddie would break natural law, a more stigmatizing and damning force than either Sicilian or American laws. Ironically, the failure of American law to prevent the marriage of Rodolpho and Catherine causes Eddie to once again revert to his community customs and seek a final Sicilian revenge against Marco. What is important to Eddie, in the end, is his name. Eddie attempts to kill Marco rather than offer the forgiveness. Eddie's inability to negotiate between Sicilian and American cultures destroys him.

Marco and Rodolpho follow Sicilian law and social custom. However, Marco follows these laws more strictly than Rodolpho. At the play's conclusion, Marco has seeks revenge whereas Rodolpho asks for forgiveness from Eddie and even offers to kiss his hand before marrying his daughter. The lawlessness of Marco and Rodolpho are far overshadowed by Eddie. Whereas Marco and Rodolpho break laws in order to escape poverty in Italy and provide for their families, Eddie acts solely to protect himself and his virginal prize.

Alfieri, the bridge between Italian custom and American law, reveals an objective view of the community and Carbone family. Although his objectivity may be questionable as the "engaged narrator," Alfieri, as a character, represents a possible merger between American and Sicilian cultures and articulates the greater moral and social implications for Eddie and the audience. The play is Alfieri's memory narrative; the narrative is in the past, but enacted in the present. The final conflict, for Alfieri, is not between tribal and state law, but between personal and communal truth.

Alfieri, like Miller, is ultimately confused. The conclusion of A View from the Bridge disproves the existence of ultimate law. Modern society cannot distinguish or rightly weight personal truth against communal truth and we are thus left "half way."

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