Betrayal is an important theme in the play. Explain how Miller uses the characters to examine this theme.

 

Essentially, Eddie’s demise is the result of his betrayal of his relatives, Marco and Rodolpho, to the US Immigration authorities. This is the ultimate betrayal, but not the only betrayal that takes place in A View from the Bridge (AVFTB).

 

Betrayal is a very serious crime in the Sicilian-American community of Red Hook. At the time, there were very strict immigrations laws in place, so many illegal immigrants (“submarines”) arrived in search of the American Dream. Two such submarines are Marco and Rodolpho, who arrive from Sicily, where people live in such poverty that Marco’s children ‘eat the sunshine.’ The risk of harbouring an illegal immigrant is very high, as exemplified by Beatrice’s reaction to the news – ‘half in fear, half in unutterable joy.’ It is extremely important that no one say a word because ‘they’ve [the authorities] got stool pigeons all over the neighbourhood.’ In an example of foreshadowing, it is Eddie who is impressing the importance of the Italian custom of “omerta” (silence), when later on in the play, he is the betrayer, which is the dramatic irony in AVFTB. He uses Vinny Bolanzo as an example, saying ‘you won’t see him around here anymore’. Moreover, Catherine’s shocked exclamation of ‘the kid snitched on his own uncle?’ conveys to the audience the severity of this cultural crime, although it is obeying the law, which links it with the theme of law versus justice. Furthermore, Eddie threatens Beatrice and Catherine with ‘If everybody keeps his mouth shut nothin’ can happen’ and ‘you could quicker get back a million dollars you stole than a word that you gave away.’ Ironically, at the end of the play, it can be said that Eddie Carbone becomes the new Vinny – a warning against betrayal.

 

Despite his threats at the start of the play, Eddie experiences ‘peripeteia’ (reversal of intention), an element of Greek Tragedy, and ‘snitches’ on Marco and Rodolpho. Foreshadowing of this event is created by his warnings in Act 1 and the phone booth, that ‘can be covered or left in view.’ Edie is driven to this by his jealousy of Rodolpho as a result of his incestuous feelings for Catherine. Eddie’s betrayal, just like Vinny’s, has dire consequences. Marco, who came to America to support his starving family, ‘[accuses] that one [Eddie]. He killed my children.’, and because of his Sicilian code of honour and sense of justice (‘In my country he would be dead by now’), kills Eddie. Additionally, in his betrayal Eddie also inadvertently causes the capture of two more submarines – relatives of Lipari, the butcher – and society turns against him.

 

However, it is Eddie’s on knife that Marco ‘turns inward into his stomach’, so Eddie can be said to be betrayed by himself, by his own ‘hamartia’ (tragic flaw). It can also be argued that Eddie is betrayed by Catherine, who’s affections shift from him to Rodolpho, as exemplified by ‘I’ll kill ya!’ and ‘I’m marrying him’ whereas initially she is ‘almost in tears because he disapproves.’ Likewise, Rodolpho too perhaps betrays Eddie’s trust by sleeping with Catherine before marriage in his house, and Eddie accuses him of ‘stealing her from me.’ Additionally, Marco also betrays Alfieri’s trust by promising him not to kill Eddie, but does it anyway, refusing to heed Alfieri’s plea that ‘to promise not to kill is not dishonourable.’

 

Ultimately, betrayal is a salient theme in this play, and creates the ‘catastrophe’ (change in fortune) of Eddie’s death. Indeed, in an interview, Miller did state that he considered betrayal to play a key role in tragedy, something he put into effect in A View from the Bridge. Furthermore, Miller very effectively manipulates plot, character and a host of other dramatic devices, including set and dramatic irony, to convey to the audience the theme of betrayal.