A View From the Bridge

by Arthur Miller

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Student Question

Is Eddie from A View From the Bridge a sympathetic character? How has he changed?

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It is difficult to describe Eddie Carbone as a sympathetic character. For one thing, he is an extraordinarily self-centered man who expects the whole world to revolve around him. Everything he does in the play is related to his own needs and his own elevated sense of self-importance. More than anything else, he cannot face up to the reality of everyday life. As a result, he constructs a fantasy world all of his own where he is the center of attention and the dominant figure always in control.

However, he cannot control events, not least because he cannot control his own emotions. He tries to suppress his true feelings for Catherine, but it eventually becomes obvious to those around him how much he desires her. Eddie has painstakingly constructed this nice little world for himself in which he is the undisputed boss, but his repressed emotional life threatens to destroy everything he has.

Despite his many faults, Eddie is nonetheless a fascinating character, riven with complex and often contradictory motives. He develops throughout the play, albeit not in a particularly admirable way. The arrival of Rodolpho and Marco at his apartment represents the moment when he begins to change. He is no longer in control; the center of attention in everybody's life has shifted elsewhere. Catherine, the girl he secretly lusts after, arouses his jealousy when she starts spending more time with Rodolpho. Eddie's insinuation that Rodolpho is gay is a way for him to deal with his own complex sexuality. When he was head of the house, Eddie could play the part of the macho Italian-American patriarch without too much difficulty. However, the presence of Rodolpho changes all that. The one-dimensional facade that Eddie has presented to the world outside all these years is starting to crack and all his inner demons are now coming to the surface.

Eddie begins to start acting irrationally. He knows that his life is spiraling out of control, and he desperately wants to get it back. The fateful decision to contact the Immigration Bureau and snitch on Marco and Rodolpho should be seen in this light. All the things that previously meant so much to Eddie are now to be sacrificed in a last-ditch attempt to save the identity he has built for himself, which keeps his deepest, darkest feelings and drives in check.

The manner of Eddie's death at the hands of Marco provides a redemption of sorts. However, in some ways, it is also deeply regressive, a throwback to his traditional self-image of the macho paterfamilias achieving validation through an act of heroic violence. In his last few moments on earth, Eddie has come full circle. He has finally been freed from the tempestuous impulses that led to his destruction. He has also finally escaped from his self-constructed fantasy world. However, he could never have truly lived outside of that world, and he could only ever have achieved freedom from himself in death. Therein lies his tragedy and also any sympathy we may have for him.

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