A View from the Bridge: Characters & Quotes

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

In this lesson, we will learn about Arthur Miller's cast of characters in ''A View From the Bridge'' through the dialogue and quotes from the play. We will explore the gossip, hearsay, and stories the characters tell about each other.

Gossip, Hearsay, and Slander

Of the many rules for writing dialogue, playwright Arthur Miller follows one religiously: characters shouldn't talk about themselves. In the domestic drama, A View from the Bridge, Miller crafts a dynamic web of family, love, and justice. In two acts, we learn more about the characters from how others treat them. Its mixture of gossip, hearsay, slander, testimonials, and direct narration amount to a complete portrait of Miller's repertoire.

All in the Family

The playwright goes out of his way to make the audience empathize with Eddie as flawed, tragic hero. Eddie is ''a husky, slightly overweight longshoreman.'' He's emotionally repressed and inarticulate. He abuses his power as the man of the house, insistent on getting his own way. He is proud of his American citizenship, his Italian heritage, and his working class identity. He values respect for elders and the camaraderie that comes with the close-knit community in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

The Women

When his sister passed away, Eddie took his niece, Catherine, under his wing. He likes to call her Katie. Eddie takes the role of surrogate father a little too seriously, though. His need to protect Catherine leads to much tension in the household. He objects to her decision to leave school in order to take a job as a stenographer (a secretary skilled in shorthand transcription). ''Work is the best practice anyway,'' argues Catherine, trying to convince Eddie to allow her to skip a year of school.

stenographer

Catherine is almost as headstrong as Eddie. She longs to experience all the world has to offer, but in order to do so, she must break free from Eddie's suffocating grasp. She is innocent, naïve, and impressionable.

Beatrice is Eddie's wife. In contrast to Eddie's violent tendencies and irrational rants, Beatrice is the vision of sanity. She provides Eddie with a strong, assertive companion. Beatrice is loving, fiercely loyal, and compassionate. Eddie remembers the time they took in Beatrice's parents.

Eddie: ''When your father's house burned down I didn't end up on the floor?''
Beatrice: ''Well, their house burned down.''
Eddie: ''Yeah, but it didn't keep burning for two weeks!''

The Italians

The central tension erupts in A View from the Bridge when Beatrice's Italian cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, arrive. They enter the country illegally by stowing away on a freighter, paying off officials and falsifying their paperwork. Beatrice assures her cousins that they can stay for as long as they want (to Eddie's disdain). They're already off to a bad start. But things get worse when Catherine takes a shine to Rodolpho.

Miller describes Marco as ''a square-built peasant of thirty-two, suspicious, tender, and quiet-voiced.'' Marco's wife and three children are still back home in Sicily. Rodolpho jokes, ''He trusts his wife.'' Back in Sicily, Marco and Rodolpho worked as stone masons, taxi drivers, and field workers during the harvest period. But in America, they hope to get work on the docks and save up some money for when they return to their homeland. Eddie estimates that they can earn 30-40 dollars a week working on the docks.

In contrast to Marco, the realist, Rodolpho is a dreamer. He is immediately likable and fun. He regales the family with his jazz rendition of 'Paper Doll.' Unlike Marco, Rodolpho doesn't have any expectations about what the future will bring.

Eddie is already suspicious of illegal immigrants. ''He gives me the heeby-jeebies,'' says Eddie of Rodolpho. When Catherine falls head over heels for Rodolpho, Eddie is suspicious that Rodolpho only wants to marry Catherine in order to get a green card. That would cut the red tape and make Rodolpho a U.S. citizen.

Supporting Characters

The curtains rise on two longshoremen, Louis and Mike, playing a game of pitching pennies. Without a word spoken, their presence, along with the sound of a distant foghorn, indicates the Brooklyn setting, close to the docks and harbor. Louis and Mike, like many other longshoremen, are sons of Italian immigrants. They're American-born and proud of it.

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