Discuss the significance of the theme of jealousy in the play 'A View from the Bridge'.

 

Jealousy is a universal theme, explored centrally in the play 'A View from the Bridge'. It is significant in many ways, as it affects the relationship between pivotal characters, dramatizes the events in the play and is arguably the catalyst that leads Eddie to his tragic downfall. The theme is also used as an instrument to create tension within the Carbone household and to link and help present other universal and central themes in the play.

 

Arguably, Eddie Carbone's jealousy towards Catherine and Rodolpho's relationship and his inability to control those incestuous feelings could be seen as the protagonist's tragic flaw. Alfieri warns Eddie that 'there's too much love for the niece' and yet he still allowed it feelings to overwhelm and control him until ‘his eyes were like tunnels’. Blinded by jealousy, Eddie constantly find faults in Rodolpho’s character, accusing the ‘thief’ who ‘aint right’ of ‘stealing from (him)’. Eddie eventually succumbs to his overwhelming emotions. He allowed it to take over him, and ‘snitched’ to the ‘officers’ about the ‘submarines’, ‘killing’ Marco’s ‘children’ and which in turn, lead to Marco taking his life.

 

Eddie’s jealousy can also be held partly accountable for the changes and developments in the protagonist’s character from the beginning to the end of the play. Initially, Eddie is presented as a conventional father figure who would lightheartedly pester Catherine about the length of her ‘skirt’, tell her to stop ‘walkin’ wavy’ or ask her ‘what’s the heel for’. He is also seen as a good husband and bread winner, who is prepared to support his wife’s family and ‘end up on the floor’, welcoming Beatrice’s relatives while putting himself at risk for being caught helping the ‘submarines’. Eddie is seen at first as a moral and respectable character who would never ‘rat’ or ‘snitch’ to the ‘officers’. Nevertheless, with Rodolpho and Catherine’s romance blossoming, his jealousy deepened, causing him to become a bitter and disturbed man with ‘tunneled vision’, one who is constantly preoccupied with faults in Rodolpho.

 

The tension between Rodolpho and Eddie escalates as both characters struggle to win over Catherine. Ironically, even though Rodolpho had escaped from the poverty of Sicily, he is to Catherine, like an escae from the limited horizons of the Carbone household. His energy and exhillarting approach to life excites Catherine. After Rodolpho satisfies Catherine’s wish of wanting him to ‘teach(her)’ and ‘hold (her)’, they walk out the Carbone’s bedroom to meet Eddie. Here, Rodolpho ‘nods testingly at Eddie’ as if to challenge his authority. A subversive feminine perspective may see this act as a way to emphasize to Eddie that he has replaced him as Catherine’s male role model. Moreover, Rodolpho ‘crosses to rocker’, a motif for power and control. This evidence suggests that Rodolpho does contribute in teasing with the balance of power and control in the Carbone household. His actions may be the result of his jealousy for the intimate bond shared between Eddie and Catherine as she has made him clearly aware that it’s not ‘easy to turn around and say to a man he’s nothing to (her) no more’. Catherine ‘like(s Eddie)’ and is not prepared to hurt Eddie even though the protagonist holds her ‘like a little bird’ and ‘will not let her out of (his) hands’.

 

Beatrice and Eddie’s deteriorating marriage may be another result of Eddie’s incestuous feelings for her niece. Beatrice’s jealous is clearly illustrated in the play as she confronts Eddie about how ‘it’s been six months’ and demands to know ‘when (is she) going to be (his) wife again’. She explicitly tells him that he’s ‘just jealous’ for Rodolpho and that he ‘wants something else and (he) can never have her’, forcing Eddie to accept the uncomfortable truth that ‘there’s too much love for the niece’. Beatrice ‘gives (Eddie) a cold look’ when he gets irritated by Catherine and Rodolpho’s romance, and encourages both Rodolpho to ‘go ahead (and) dance’ and Catherine to ‘be the way you are, Katie. Don’t listen to him.’ As a result of the jealousy she feels, Beatrice, intentionally or not, pushes her niece farther away, telling her that ‘the time comes when you gotta say goodbye’.

 

The theme of jealousy is also employed to bring in other key ideas and themes into the play. Attempting to fix her marriage with Eddie, Beatrice confronts him and as a result, Eddie responds by telling her that ‘a wife is supposed to believe her husband’. He will do ‘what (he) feels like doin’, irrespective of her pressuring him. This depicts the socio-economic circumstances of the conventional female role in a patriarchal society, in Redhook, Brooklyn in the 1950s, when the play was set. Furthermore, the powerful and raw, absolute truth in jealousy brings out the element of ‘romanticism’ in Eddie. The ‘passion….(that) moved into his body like a stranger’ and mental conflict that Eddie struggled with towards the end of the play is ‘perversely pure’. They are so powerful that they take precedence over reason and thus, in a sense, this diminishes the gravity of Eddie’s mistake and induces sympathy on the audiences, as the protagonist is not in full control of his body and mind.

 

Fundamentally, the recurring theme of jealousy dramatizes the course of the play and transforms and develops Eddie’s character. It changes relationships and adds tension between pivotal characters, helps introduce other themes and significant ideas such as ‘women’s socio-economic circumstances’ and essentially, leads Eddie Carbone to his impending downfall.