‘There are many different ways of being a man.’ Choose two or more male characters and write about them to show how far you agree with this statement.

 

One of the most the most obvious ‘ways of being a man’ in ‘A View from the Bridge’ is by supporting your family as is clearly the case for both Eddie and Marco who have lives that revolve around supporting their wives and children. When Catherine gets a job, Eddie asks ‘Did I ask you for money?’ which effectively suggests that he feels threatened by the idea of someone else providing for the family. Similarly, Marco says ‘My children eat the sunshine’ the sad tone of which indicates Marco’s sorrow at not being able to feed them himself. In addition, the fact that Marco comes all the way to America just for work and is overjoyed that he ‘could send [his family] a little more’ money indicates his deep rooted need to provide for them, a need that was very typical for men at the time. Finally, Eddie says ‘I took out of my own mouth to give to her’ demonstrating the importance of supporting children. This may be used by Miller to portray the poverty at the time in both Italy and Red Hook and how it was seen as the man’s responsibility to provide for his family in these tough conditions. As such Miller’s play appears to be explicitly revealing the gender roles that held sway in 1950’s America where the man was expected to be the worker and bread-winner in the family. Seen in this light, the fact that Eddie seems to be threatened by Catherine’s job could reflect the ‘backlash’ that was underway in America at the time as men responded to the Feminist movement that had been so successful in the early part of the Twentieth Century.

 

On the other hand, Rodolpho is depicted as a far more carefree man. Marco describes him by saying ‘he dreams, he dreams’ indicating the freedom that Rodolpho has as he is not married. Rodolpho states ‘I will buy a motorcycle’ when he returns to Italy which indicates another dream that makes him appear flamboyant, especially in comparison to Marco and Eddie. Throughout the play, we learn that Rodolpho has a great many unusual skills for a man, for example when Eddie says ‘he sings, he cooks, he could make dresses ...’ and clearly the sarcasm in this statement hints to the audience that Eddie believes that Rodolpho is gay. This is reinforced when Eddie says ‘The guy ain’t right’ and the repetition of this statement throughout the play and the occasional references to Rodolpho as ‘a weird’ is enough to make us question Rodolpho’s sexuality. Flamboyance is often associated with homosexuality and in Miller’s time this subject was often unspoken of which is illustrated by Eddie who ‘glances briefly over each shoulder’ before discussing it with Alfieri. Thus Rodolpho’s character is perhaps used to show us that anyone who does not fit in with the accepted stereotype of the hard-working, family man that dominated America at the time was liable to be suspected of homosexuality ... that is, in some senses, to be suspected of not really being a man at all.

 

Another ‘way of being a man’ that we see exemplified through Marco is his love of his family. Marco says ‘My wife’ indicating through his overwhelming emotions that he has a deep and true love for his wife back at home. We also see his respect for family as he greets Beatrice and ‘He kisses her hand.’ This once again shows a love for family because although Marco and Beatrice are cousins, they have only just met and yet he still treats her with warmth and love. This is perhaps used by Miller to indicate the strong family values in Italy and to perhaps comment on the lack of this warmth in American society at the time. Miller also portrays a deep understanding and love between the brothers as after they are arrested, Marco says ‘we did something’ as he ‘lays a palm on Rodolpho’s arm’ indicating that he is pleased that Rodolpho will be able to stay in the country as Catherine’s husband despite the fact that he will have to go back to Italy. The sense of community between Italian men in the play is yet another way of being a loving and kind man.

 

Contrastingly we are presented with a very different portrayal of love through both Rodolpho and Eddie. At first, Rodolpho seems to be in love with Catherine in the same way that Marco loves his wife as ‘he’s got all kinds of respect’ for her and Catherine even tells Eddie ‘he loves me!” as they argue about Rodolpho’s intentions. This is the kind of deep powerful love that we see in Marco. However, Eddie argues that Rodolpho is only interested in Catherine because she is ‘a green kid’ and that ‘he’s only bowin’ to his passport’ which disturbs Catherine. Although she repeats ‘I don’t believe it’ we are able to see that it does affect her as later in the play, Catherine asks Rodolpho ‘suppose I wanted to live in Italy?’ His responses vary from ‘I would be a criminal stealing your face’ which once again indicates his passionate love for her, to ‘I will not marry you to live in Italy’ which suggests that there might be at least some truth in what Eddie was saying. Rodolpho also says that ‘the only wonder here [is] work’ which once again raises questions in the mind of the audience as we are unsure of his love for Catherine as he hasn’t mentioned her. I believe that Miller leaves Rodolpho ‘s feelings ambiguous as this uncertainty draws the audience into the play as we try to  understand his  intentions. Either way, the fact that Rodolpho’s feelings for Catherine are under suspicion in a way that Marco’s feelings for his wife are not once again suggests that anyone who does not behave in a manner which is deemed acceptable for a man is likely to come under close scrutiny.

 

We sometimes see a similarly unacceptable view of family love within the Carbone family. There are two sides shown to Eddie’s character; first as a controlling figure who harbours a secret and unacceptable desire for Catherine. When we first see Eddie and Catherine, he is ‘pleased and therefore shy’ at her conversation and interest in him. This seems to suggest emotions that are more than fatherly and makes us question his relationship with Catherine. Everyone except Eddie seems to realise that he has these feelings as Alfieri says ‘there is too much love for the niece’ and Beatrice comments towards the end of the play that ‘you want something else and you can never have her.’ The fact that Eddie’s love is ‘too much’ and that he can ‘never have’ what he loves clearly suggests that his desires are falling outside the range of what is acceptable in a man. Yet, at other times, Eddie does appear to play the more acceptable role of a caring father figure when he cautions Catherine about ‘walkin’ wavy’ and encourages her to improve her lot in life when he says ‘if you’re gonna get outa here then get out; don’t go practically in the same kind of neighbourhood’ which seems much more loving as he also says ‘I only wanted the best for you, Kate.’

 

In this light the audience is inclined to judge Eddie much more generously which only goes to reinforce the fact that, although there are many different men in the play, there is really only one role that it is acceptable for them to play: that of the hard working, caring, honourable, family man. Rodolpho does not live up to this ideal and is mocked by Louis and Mike and the other men at the docks who call him ‘Paper Doll’ while Eddie is acceptable to the audience only insofar as he remains the caring father figure. The only character who adheres to the acceptable role of a man throughout is Marco and this perhaps explains why the sympathy of the audience lies so strongly with him at the end of the play.