A View from the Bridge


Major themes


Gender Roles:


Written as it was in the 1950’s, A View from the Bridge, generally reflects the accepted gender roles of its day. The men (in the case of Eddie and Marco) are bread-winners; they are workers providing for their families while the women must be demure, ladylike and stay at home cooking, cleaning and nurturing the children. Although some women can escape from their domestic role, e.g. Catherine’s potential employment at the plumbing company, it seems that the height of female aspiration is, in Eddie’s words ‘Some day … [to] … be a secretary.’ a position of inferiority within a company that usually involves following the commands of a male boss. In addition, it is clear that, within the Carbone household, nothing is done without Eddie’s say so: hence whether or not Catherine takes the job that she has been offered hinges on Eddie’s approval. Note that she does not challenge Eddie’s right to decide whether she should take the job or not (that is given), all Catherine can do is cajole and encourage him into allowing her to go to work. Instead of asking the question, ‘Will Eddie approve?’ Catherine really should be asking what right he has to decide her future. The fact that the male dominance of the Carbone household is never challenged and we end the play on a typically masculine fight over the macho concept of honour with the women passively looking on means that this play reinforces the perceived gender roles of the 1950’s – that men are active, strong providers while women are passive and weak nurturers.


More interestingly, focusing as it does on Eddie’s forbidden (if largely unconscious) sexual desires for his niece, the play also reflects the general desire of men to control female sexuality. Eddie’s comments that Catherine’s skirt is too short and that ‘the heads are turnin’ like windmills’ when she walks ‘wavy’ down the street clearly demonstrate his attempt to prevent other men from finding her attractive and, thus, limiting her sexual opportunities. From a feminist perspective, female sexuality and the ability to reproduce can be seen as a great threat to male power and dominance as, through their power to give birth, women actually have control over the most important act of creation that the human race is capable of. As such, unable to give birth themselves, men are forced to do the next best thing – which is control when, where, how and with whom the women can reproduce.


A feminist may also challenge Beatrice’s claim at the end of the play that ‘Whatever happened we all done it.’ where she seems to accept partial responsibility for Eddie’s imminent demise. Miller is no doubt referring to the fact that if she had spoken up sooner and challenged Eddie about his feelings for Catherine this disaster may have been prevented. Catherine also is ‘to blame’, presumably for her flirtatious behaviour towards Eddie. However, a feminist may argue that this is ludicrous and that Catherine’s behaviour is simply naïve innocence – how can she be held responsible for the fact that a man finds her attractive and kills another man as a result. Our feminist may point out that men have a history of blaming women for their own mistakes (Eve in the Bible is the best example of this – she is the one who eats the Forbidden Apple in the Garden of Eden at the Devil’s suggestion and then tempts Adam to do the same, thus damning the whole of the human race for all eternity – hardly fair!) Miller’s attempt to hold Catherine in some way responsible for her own sexuality is analogous to this and similarly unfair. Equally, in defence of Beatrice, it may be pointed out that, living as she does in a society where ‘a wife is supposed to believe the husband.’ and where her livelihood depends on keeping that husband on her side, Beatrice could not possibly have done anything to challenge Eddie’s behaviour. In fact, rather than being a cause of the problem, Beatrice may better be viewed as a victim: a victim of the social and economic conditions of the time in which she lives where she is forced to continue living with a man who she knows has sexual designs on her niece.


Finally, Catherine’s inability to find her own way in the world reinforces the idea that women are dependent on men. Essentially, she swaps one father figure / lover for another when she replaces Eddie with Rodolpho and submits to Rodolpho’s control just as she once did to Eddie’s. Hence her dependence on him to ‘Hold’ her and ‘Teach’ her and Rodolpho’s position as the active one in the relationship who ends the scene by ‘leading her towards the bedroom.’ At no point do we really see Catherine asserting herself as an independent woman.



Page No




Eddie warns Catherine ‘You gotta keep yourself more. You can’t be so friendly’ in her relations with men




Eddie is ‘strangely nervous’  on p.18 when Catherine announces that she has been offered a job and ‘somehow sickened’ on p.20 when he hears about the neighbourhood in which she will be working




‘Look, did I ask for money? I supported you this long, I support you a little more.’




Eddie does however look at Catherine ‘with a sense of her childhood, her babyhood and the years.’




Eddie says to Beatrice ‘You lived in a house your whole life, what do you know about it? You never worked in your life.’




In the stage directions ‘Eddie is standing, facing the two women.’




Catherin gets Eddie a cigar and says ‘Here, I’ll light it for you.’ Eddie responds, ‘you’d better go help with the dishes.’




Marco leaves his wife in Italy with their children ‘She feeds them with food from her own mouth.’




The lyrics to the song, Paper Doll are ‘I’m gonna buy a  paper doll that I can call my own. A doll that other fellows cannot steal.’




When Catherine and Rodolpho go to the pictures, Eddie is ‘standing at the doorway of the house.’




Of Catherine, Eddie says ‘I worked like a dog twenty years so a punk could have her.’ He also describes Rodolpho as ‘a goddam thief’ who is ‘stealing from me.’




When Marco and Rodolpho talk of their trip to Africa, Beatrice says ‘Must be nice to go all over in one of them fishin’ boats … but the women don’t go along, I bet.’




Eddie points out the feminine side of Rodolpho’s behaviour in an attempt to undermine him ‘He’s a cook too … he cooks, he sings.’ Similarly, on p.47 he used Rodolpho’s ability to ‘make a new dress’ as quickly as ‘one, two, three’ to attack his credibility, concluding that when dress making Rodolpho ‘looked like an angel – you could kiss him he was so sweet.’




Rodolpho says to Catherine ‘You are not a horse, a gift, a favour for a poor immigrant.’




Catherine asks Rodolpho to ‘Teach me’




Eddie argues with Beatrice about ‘What I feel like doin’ in the bedroom and what I don’t feel like doin’ and claims that ‘a wife is supposed to believe the husband.’