Arthur Miller gave Eddie an ‘Instinctive Need’

Arthur Miller was born in New York in 1915. His father was a ladies-wear manufacturer and shopkeeper. He didn’t show any signs being at intellectual and after graduating high school he went to work in an automobile parts warehouse to earn money for college. After reading Dostoevsky’s novel ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ Miller decided he wanted to become a writer. He enrolled at the University of Michigan to study English, where he won three awards for playwriting. His first play ‘The Man Who Had All the Luck’ was staged in 1944. It closed after four performances.

He wrote 3 plays thereafter but in 1949 he won international success with his play ‘Death of a Salesman’. It has become one of the major achievements of Modern America theatre. In 1955 he wrote two short plays under the collective title ‘A View from The Bridge’. The play is about incestuous love, jealousy and betrayal. Eddie is the hero in this play. His death epitomizes his absolute refusal to admit his love for Catherine. He won’t let himself acknowledge his incestuous feelings and it is this refusal that brings about his untimely death.

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Eddie’s problems being when Beatrice’s cousins Marco and Rodolfo come from Italy so they can escape the terrible situation there. Life in Italy is very hard for the brothers. They spend days just sitting waiting for work, while Marco’s children and wife struggle to survive. One of his sons is ‘sick in the chest’ and he has come to America to send money home so his wife can buy medicine. Catherine starts to take an interest in one of the cousins and Eddie doesn’t like this because he knows he might be losing Catherine.

He has been in love with Catherine for some time and Beatrice shows that she is aware of his love for Catherine near the end of the play. What we don’t know is how long Beatrice has known for. We also don’t know if Beatrice is aware that Eddie can’t help feeling the way he does for Catherine. This creates audience tension. The audience is sitting there throughout the play wondering whether Beatrice is going to say something or not. At the beginning of the play Catherine has been offered a job at a local pier, working in the office as a receptionist.

Eddie is very hard to persuade when the time comes to let her go to work. He wants to keep her at home for as long as possible. Miller knows how hard it is working in the pier; he is trying to show the audience that Italian immigrants always struggled with good work. It is his fear of losing her that makes him keep her at home. When Beatrice sees signs of resistance she starts to become annoyed with Eddie ‘(She is angering) I don’t understand you; she’s seventeen years old, you gonna keep her in the house all her life? ‘ this could also show that she might know that Eddie is in love with Catherine.

He responds by being ‘(insulted)’. This may just be an automatic response to hide his feelings for Catherine. He isn’t even aware of the strength of the feelings. Secondly he knows that if she is working her chances of meeting another man greatly increase and she might leave home. Eddie isn’t even conscious of his own actions and what they are showing when ‘(he has been unconsciously twisting the newspaper…… it eventually tears in two). ‘ He has become furious but he is holding all of his anger back. The audience can see how angry Eddie is and this creates dramatic tension.

Rodolfo has revealed he has many talents and Eddie is turning these talents into negative traits. He starts to turn these talents into what he would like Rodolfo to be. He wants Rodolfo to be homosexual, so then he would not have to let go of Catherine. Eddie continues to use the idea that Rodolfo is homosexual throughout the play and this is his way of trying to convince everyone that he should leave. He isn’t thinking reasonably, solely on his need for Catherine, he just wants Marco and Rodolfo out of his house; moreover he wants them out of his life.

During a conversation with Alfieri Eddie talks about reporting Marco and Rodolfo, a telephone box on the other side of the stage begins glowing blue. This represents the Italian community and the respect he will lose if people find out that it was Eddie who reported Marco and Rodolfo. The glow also represents a sub-conscious idea in Eddie’s mind of reporting the brothers to immigration. Eventually Eddie reports Marco and Rodolfo to the Immigration Bureau. He is so blinded by his ‘need’ for Catherine he doesn’t think about the consequences.

He is empty and only thinks of Catherine during this part of the play, his ‘eyes were like tunnels’. His instinct and need for Catherine have taken over. His last words before he contacts the Immigration Bureau are ‘(Angering) didn’t you hear what I told you? ‘ He will do anything to keep Catherine from getting married to Rodolfo. He isn’t scared of the consequences. He is almost like an animal, who wants to protect what is his and does all he can to survive. The audience will start to think a lot less of Eddie after this moment. If they don’t start to feel sorry for him, they might just pity him.

He has fallen to such a low. It will become impossible to forgive him for what he has done. Although throughout the play, Beatrice has outmost Respect for Eddie, Eddie doesn’t want to seem to see it this way. During an argument Eddie tells Beatrice ‘I want my respect’, then a little while after he says ‘I don’t like the way you talk to me, Beatrice’. He doesn’t want to admit to himself that he knows Beatrice is only looking out for Catherine’s best interests (going to work, going out with Rodolfo). He just sees Beatrice against him, therefore she is loosing respect.

In the Italian community, a wife should do as her husband says and what Eddie says, is correct. Things like this drive him further in his want for Catherine; he is acting on Instinct, not thinking rationally. Finally Eddie’s ‘obsession’ with Catherine is something he is willing to protect at any time. He will show it through his actions but he will never say it. It his stubbornness and refusal to see what is the right thing to do, that brings about tragedy. As soon as someone even mentions his liking for Catherine he angers very quickly ‘(Furious)’ what’re you talking about, marry me!?

‘ He doesn’t ever want to verbally admit he love’s Catherine because he knows how wrong it is and he would lose respect from his family and the community. This is something that also angers him very much. If he loses respect from others he becomes very furious. Just like an animal, Eddie’s ‘instinct’ will make him do everything possible to escape a bad situation. There are many subtleties throughout the play showing Eddie’s instinctive need. When Catherine tells Eddie she is going out and she is ‘dressed up’.

He immediately questions her in such a tone that, he’s almost telling her: ‘you’re not going out dressed like that’. Another example is when Rodolfo first comes into the house and Eddie can see a potential threat ‘(he is coming more and more to address Marco only)’ and ‘he is sizing up Rodolfo, and there is a concealed suspicion)’ Eddie does many things through out the play like this showing his ‘instinct’ but not realizing what he is doing. His sub-conscious has come in to action and is controlling Eddie’s actions. As much as he shows it, saying it is something very different.

This refusal to admit what’s wrong leads to Eddie’s end. Even at the end of the play, Rodolfo offered Eddie his hand showing an apology but Eddie ‘(snaps it away)’. He doesn’t want to listen to reason, which is something he vitally needed to do to avoid his end. Eddie was living in a society that didn’t allow expression and the situation he was in doesn’t allow for instinct alone. Alfieri said at beginning and at the end of the play ‘if it is better to settle for half, then it must be’. This is something he should have said to Eddie because Eddie wanted Catherine and he wanted everything his own way.

He was fed up with the Italians and himself not getting everything they wanted. He always had to put up with sub-standards simply because he was an immigrant. Everything that happened to Eddie in the play was due to the fact he was an immigrant. He constantly had to suppress his feelings throughout the play. He wasn’t given the respect he deserved by others out side of the Italian community and this infuriated him. Miller wanted to highlight the situation for Italian immigrants and he shows it through Eddie in this play. Miller admires Eddie for that, he goes with his instinct and he goes after everything he wants, not just half.