‘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.
This statement appears to be superficially true to the extent that Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” has a number of male characters that are markedly unlike another. The three major male characters in the play; Eddie, Marco and Rodolpho are all different however Miller uses these differences as well as some similarities between them to create the impression that, although there are many different men, there is (in Red Hook at least) a much more narrowly defined set of expectations about how a man should behave.
Firstly, the three different characters are all similar in the respect that they all work. Indeed, the sole purpose for which Marco came to American was to find work to provide for his family who he described as being in such poverty that they “eat the sunshine” accentuating this further when he explains that his wife “fed [his children] from her own mouth”. The fact that the three of them work portrays them as men as in the time in which the play is set the gender roles in society dictated that only the men were to work and the women would remain at home. In addition, the three are all longshoremen and so it is implied that all three of them have considerable strength which once again accentuates the typical gender roles of the time and to portray them all as men.
However, there is a great contrast between the reasons for
which the men work. On the one hand both Eddie and Marco are working to
“support” their respective families while Rodolpho is
shown to be working so that he can purchase new things such as “records” and a
“snappy new jacket” and enjoy a better life that he previously had in
Further differences become apparent between the men when we consider their humility. Miller creates the impression that Marco is a humble and honorable man when he first arrives by making him repeatedly say “Thank you” to Eddie while telling him that “when you say we will go” demonstrating how he is appreciative of what Eddie is doing for him. Miller emphasises Marco’s sense of honor to us when Marco tells Alfieri that to promise not to kill Eddie is “dishonorable” as he believes that Eddie must be killed as retribution for his betrayal. Eddie, on the other hand is shown to be dishonorable as he “springs a knife into his hand” while fighting an unarmed opponent and also is shown to be petty and unable to accept that he has lost by forcing Beatrice to not attend Catherine’s wedding by presenting her the ultimatum, “you’re either on my side of theirs” which he knows she cannot go against. Although Eddie’s death is tragic we do not, perhaps, sympathise with him in the same way that we do for Marco because of his less than honourable behaviour and this once again suggests that, although there may be different ways of being a man, there is really only a limited set of behaviours that it is acceptable for a man to display.
The importance of masculine honour is further emphasied by the fact that all three of the characters engage in fights but they do so for different reasons. Marco and Rodolpho’s motives for fighting are shown as being more honorable as Rodolpho ‘attacks’ Eddie in order to be with to be with Catherine and Marco fights Eddie as he believed that he was honor-bound to bring about retribution for Eddie’s betrayal. In contrast Eddie’s motives were shown to be dishonorable as he fights with Rodolpho in order to try and prove to Catherine that Rodolpho was “a weird” and “ain’t right” and he fought with Marco in order to try and reclaim a “name” and reputation that he did not deserve.
Another trait that the three men share is that Miller portrays them as being knowledgeable in comparison to the female characters in the play. Miller makes this very clear when Eddie snaps at Beatrice that she had “never worked” and Beatrice is fascinated at the thought of “sardines in the sea!” This creates a strong contrast to Marco and Rodolpho who have “travelled the world”.
Yet, once again, there is a clear contrast between the characters in their treatment towards woman. Miller portrays both Marco and Rodolpho as being highly respectful to woman as when Marco is asked about his wife he explains that “she understands everything” which shows that Marco respects his wife’s intellect and knowledge. Rodolpho is also shown to respect woman as Catherine state to Eddie that Rodolpho “respects” her and when Eddie kisses her he demands that Eddie “respect her”. In contrast Eddie is shown to be disrespectful towards woman, as he kisses Catherine despite her decision to be with Rodolpho.
Ultimately, it may be argued that Miller shows that there are many different ways of being a man by portraying Rodolpho as a male character that “sings, dances and can make dresses” as these are all stereotypical female characteristics which contrast greatly with the established male gender roles of the time. However, because, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that it is precisely these behaviours which call Rodlopho’s masculinity into question which suggests in turn that although individual men may be different to one another there is really only one way to be a ‘real’ man.