'Is Eddie a caring father figure or a controlling patriarch? Explore the tensions created in Eddie's character at the beginning of the play.'

 

At the beginning of ‘A view from the Bridge’, Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman in Brooklyn is introduced as the father figure of Catherine, his orphaned niece. Throughout the first Act, many linguistic features such as dialogue, level of formality, interruptions and imperatives portray Eddie as a very kind and caring father who has his “daughter’s” best interest at heart. On the other hand, he is also portrayed as a sexist patriarch who does not believe that women are capable of supposedly manly jobs. Additionally, he is made out to be the leader of his family who wants to keep all power.

 

In the first scene, Eddie’s genuinely nice comments, ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Yeah, it’s nice’, directed at his neice, Catherine, show that he is loving and that he cares enough about her to compliment and reassure her. This also shows he wants to boost her confidence which suggests that he is affected by how she feels. Not only does he give positive compliments, he gives her his own negative opinion on her clothing as well although, the subtle and gentle way in which he does so, ‘Catherine, I don’t want to be a pest, but’, demonstrates how he wants to get a point across without making her feel as though she has disappointed him. He does so out of the desire to keep her safe from the men in the area or any trouble that she is oblivious to.

 

Another way Eddie is portrayed as a kind father is by his show of concern when Catherine tells him she is planning to take on a job. His immediate disapproval, ‘What job? She’s gonna finish school’ is borne out of concern and worry. Knowing the type of people she will be surrounded by, he is hesitant to allow her to go as he wants her to achieve more than that and to get a job ‘someplace in New York’. Wanting a better life for Catherine, across the “bridge” that divides the successful and the poor causes him to make these remarks. By following with eventually allowing it, ‘All right, go to work’, Eddie is able to convey that, in truth, he wants to please her and does give in to her request because he doesn’t want to see her upset. Eddie knows that she really wants this and although this isn’t what he wants, it is clear she is eager and therefore she will be followed. Furthermore, letting her go shows he has enough faith and trust in her. Lastly, we see that Eddie is very sad to have her gone, ‘sadly smiling’, and by this we see how despite being a strong male figure, he has strong emotions of sadness as well and he is compassionate and very affected by losing her. We see how his relationship with her is very deep for him to be so affected which again, suggests how he is a loving and caring father.

 

However, the First Act also has evidence to show that Eddie is in fact a dominating, ominous patriarch. His commands ‘Come over here. Talk to me’ and authority in the house suggest he is a ‘don Juan’ at home and expects to be waited on hand and foot, ‘I’ll get you a beer, all right?’. This suggests his total power over the women in his household which makes him out to be a sexist male who may, in a manner, look down on women or think them to be less capable than him. The way in which Eddie must know everything, ‘Where you goin’?’ ‘What happened to you hair?’ likens the household to an army sector wherein all information must pass through him. This autocratic style of running his household is evidence to prove he is not caring, but greedy for power and utterly controlling. Also, the fact that it is Catherine who offers to wait on him, ‘Here, I’ll light it for you’ shows that she is used to this dynamic and thinks it normal to serve him, which in our eyes, is wrong because in present day, men and women are meant to be equal.

 

Additionally, Eddie may be seen as a “sinister patriarch” as opposed to a caring father, by the way he keeps both his wife, Beatrice and his niece, Catherine indoors, most, if not all of the time. By the fact that Beatrice has ‘lived in a house’ all her life, we see that Eddie has not let her out and not given her the chance to see the world. This is very possibly because he doesn’t want to let her gain more knowledge or advantage over him. This seems almost cruel to us readers in present day, but in the 1950’s, this was normal which shows he doesn’t want to lose power over them and when Catherine wants to take a job, his unwillingness to let her go, although it may be seen as care, can also be viewed as him not wanting to relinquish control because once she is gone, she will become her own person and he will not be able to audit where she goes and why she has done something.

 

Throughout the first scene, Eddie is portrayed as both caring and menacing. His actions can be viewed in one way or another and during the 1950’s, his attitude towards women and their purpose were normal. Although he sounds very harsh and demanding, he may be doing so partly because  of the nature of their surroundings. He is aware of all the dangers around them, the dangers of the mafia and of justice, their enemy. Eddie is in fact both a sinister patriarch and a kind father. He makes all the decisions at home but also arranges important events such as the illegal arrival of Beatrice’s family. He expects to be served but he is the one who puts food on their table and protects them from what is beyond their four walls.