An exploration of honor in Arthur Miller’s play A View from the Bridge could lead to some rather troublesome and unsettling discoveries.
Before considering the importance of honor in Miller’s play, it’d probably be best to define the term. The New Oxford American Dictionary provides two definitions that are applicable to the play. The first one involves doing what’s right and adhering to traditional behavior. The second definition is dated, alluding to the notion that it’s honorable for a woman to abstain from premarital sex.
Taking the second definition into account, it’s possible to argue that Eddie is trying to protect Catherine’s honor. His determination to get Rodolfo out of the house is centered on his belief that Rodolfo is having sex with Catherine and thus compromising her honor.
Today—or even in Miller’s time, during the 1950s—Eddie could be called sexist or backwards because of his old-fashioned view about women and sexuality. Alfieri, alas, expresses admiration for Eddie’s conduct. Of course, Alfieri talks in a sophisticated manner. Alfieri is educated; he’s a lawyer. Alfieri’s affinity for Eddie indicates that honor and enlightenment—as well as honor and the law—aren’t one and the same.
The structure of the play reinforces the tension between honor and law/education. Alfieri starts the play by noting the prevalence of justice and civilization in America. He ends the play by confessing esteem for Eddie and his uncivilized character. When considering Eddie’s life, Alfieri admits that “something perversely pure calls” to him. Indeed, in Miller’s play, the characters and structure not only bring out the importance of honor, they also reveal the problematic role that it sometimes plays in society.