'Is Eddie a caring father figure or a controlling patriarch? Explore the tensions created in Eddie's character at the beginning of the play.'
Having read the beginning of “A View from the Bridge” (by Arthur Miller), various impressions of Eddie Carbone, a longshoreman, has been created. There are noticeably several reasons to suggest that Eddie is a caring father figure, such as the way he is protective over Catherine, how he hopes for her to have a better life, along with the fact that he is concerned about Catherine’s naivety. On the other hand, Eddie is possessive, he dominates the relationship (between Catherine and him), and Catherine is repeatedly being subservient to him, all to point out Eddie’s role as a controlling Patriarch.
“What job?” Eddie asks alarmed. The thought of
Catherine’s absence is already one thing, though more importantly she will be
missing out on her education. Eddie immediately orders Catherine to “finish
school”, portraying himself as a typical father who says what he thinks is best
for his child. Eddie, “somehow sickened”, knows very well what type of
environment the “Navy Yard” is. Eddie only hopes for a better life for
Catherine, and clearly working in this neighborhood would not bring about a
‘better’ life. Furthermore, this job is in the same world as the one they are
living in, the same world that Eddie had gone through, hence he is old enough
to know it would not bring a life of success. “I mean if you’re gonna get outta
here then get out,” Eddie does not want his history to repeat itself on
Catherine. He means well for Catherine by asking her to do him a favour by
At one point Eddie expresses that Catherine doesn’t “understand certain things” demonstrating his anxiety that Catherine may be a little too naïve for someone “getting to be a big girl now.” For instance, Eddie gives a short lecture to Catherine on how she’s “gotta keep yourself more,” that she “can’t be so friendly” anymore. At dinner, Eddie brings up the story of “Vinny Bolzano” who “snitched” on his own uncle. This idea of family betrayal is Eddie’s fatherly way of educating Catherine about her safety, but to a deeper extent her naivety too. Consequently he brings in the idea of “trust” to help emphasize that “most people ain’t people.” This is to make Catherine realize that the less ‘easy’ she is, “the less you be sorry.” This in turn will put Eddie more at ease if Catherine can prove her maturity to him.
Eddie not liking the “heads turnin’ like windmills” when Catherine walks “wavy” into the “candy store” proves that he is protective over Catherine. Undoubtedly, any other father would feel the same sense of protectiveness over their own daughter. Eddie does not like the way Catherine is provoking the boys (even if she doesn’t realize it), and is therefore concerned for her safety. Later on into the play, Eddie’s surprised reaction after hearing that Catherine will be taking a job, again provides evidence that he is an overprotective father. Eddie still perceives Catherine, 17 years old, as a “baby” not ready to enter the ‘outside’ world, not ready to start working with “a lotta plumbers and sailors.”
The relationship between Catherine and Eddie’s character is quite a significant one at the beginning of the play. Eddie, “sitting,” is the dominant one, though it seems most of the time Catherine, who “sits on her heels beside him” accepts this weaker position. At this point in time, Catherine is bowing down to Eddie’s position of power. When Eddie states that Catherine’s skirt is “too short,” she immediately stands up; “No!” For an instant Catherine has some strength, furthermore, for once Eddie is not completely in control. He reasserts his authority by asking Catherine to “listen,” resulting in the constant struggle for power between the two characters.The triad of imperatives, “tell me, come over here, talk to me” straight away implies the controlling patriarch side of Eddie.
Another reason to suggest Eddie being a controlling patriarch is the fact that both Catherine and Beatrice are subservient to him. An obvious case that Beatrice is compliant towards her husband is when she is afraid that “if I don’t turn out good you’ll be mad at me.” Whereas Catherine is always pleasing Eddie by simple acts, like getting a beer for him, or “a cigar and a pack of matches.”She even lights it for him, which may have us as the audience either, considering if she is over doing it, or setting a role model for the ideal teenager. Moreover, the continuous repetition of Catherine asking “you like it?” (referring to her skirt and hair) reveal that she is desperate for approval from Eddie. His opinion counts probably because Catherine views him as someone older and wiser, therefore more experienced.
However, Catherine does not know that these little, slightly flirtatious comments could be luring Eddie more and more towards her. Eddie’s response to this is either a brief compliment, “yeah it’s nice,” or he completely changes the subject. He cannot make it obvious to anyone that he has feelings for her. Eddie’s sexually possessive attraction was first established at the very beginning of ACT 1. This was when he had just returned from another day at work, and at the presence of Catherine (by the window), he is “pleased and therefore shy about it.”
If the phrase had just ended at “pleased,” then we would assume him as any other fatherly figure whom is delighted to see his ‘daughter.’ But because the word “shy” follows straight after, everything we have assumed of this fatherly figure is at once erased, making us feel perturbed. Eddie (being someone we would refer to as the protagonist in Greek theatre) recognizes it is immoral, yet he cannot help but feel the way he does (termed as his hamartia, the protagonist’s flaw). “You ain’t all the girls” lays emphasis on this particular flaw even further.
Although not only is he possessive of Catherine, but also his own bed. Eddie is unwilling to give up his bed for ‘tired relatives” who will soon be arriving. Eddie brings up an example from the past of when Beatrice’s father’s “house burned down,” trying to argue his point by mockingly asking “I didn’t end up on the floor?” Eddie pointing this out distinctly goes against him, as now the audience depict him as quite self-absorbed man, now possibly too good to be a ‘tragic hero.’
To conclude, Eddie has dual personalities; a compassionate father figure as well as a controlling patriarch. Arguments to imply that he is a controlling patriarch are compensated by all the positive points a loving father should have. [As Aristotle once said “the protagonist is basically good but with a flaw that brings about his own destruction.”