Eddie Carbone from “A View from the Bridge” is a typical immigrant in New York City working as a longshoremen men. He has a wife called Beatrice and looks after his niece named Catherine. Throughout the play, Eddie Carbone is seen as the tragic hero, who at the end, dies from what he believed in. This article will tell you all you need to know about Eddie Carbone.
First let’s get across the facts about Eddie Carbone:
- As I have said, married to Beatrice and an uncle to Catherine (but not by blood).
- He’s a traditional man in the sense that he has a family and works.
- He’s a longshoremen that lives in Redhook.
- 40 years old.
- His pride means a lot which means he won’t back down.
- More importantly, he won’t accept anything to put him down.
Now let’s go into the character of Eddie Carbone a little deeper…
- He’s sensitive but very defensive.
- Jealous that Catherine likes Roldopho (and possibly not himself?).
- He loves Catherine.
- Doesn’t listen to others.
- His opinion always seems ‘right’.
- Very stubborn.
- Hard to control and show his emotions.
- Short tempered.
- In-denial of his love for Catherine.
- But, apologises at the end to his wife ‘My B!’
The main focus on this play is on the relationship between Eddie and Catherine which could be seen as more than paternal love (be it more than father loving son). Here’s a few hints throughout the play why:
– ‘puts his (Rodolpho) filthy hands on her like a god dam thief’ P35 – being very defensive here and exaggerates a lot. Refers to Rodolpho as a thief when they is hardly true.
– ‘he’s stealing from me!’ P35 – to suggest Rodolpho is stealing makes it seem like Catherine is Eddie’s possession.
– ‘I took out of my wife’s mouth’ P35 – he even put his wife Beatrice before Catherine. Shows how much love he has for Catherine.
– ‘it’s breakin’ my heart, y’know’ P35 – this makes it sound like Catherine and Eddie are breaking up like a couple! Well that’s Eddie’s opinion on the matter…
– ‘sometimes God mixes up the people’ – here Alfieri is trying to put across Eddie’s un-paternal love for Catherine.
– ‘there is too much love for the daughter, this is too much love for the niece’ – again trying to explain to Eddie he may have too much love for Catherine.
– ‘she can’t marry you can she?’ (Eddie) ‘(furiously) what are you talking about’ P35 – Alfieri puts it straight that what Eddie wants can’t happen. Eddie turns defensive from the accusation, maybe to cover up the truth?
– ‘But sometimes…there’s too much (love), and it goes where it shouldn’t’ P34 – he’s suggesting the love of Eddie is going to the wrong person being Catherine.
Eddie makes it clear he has more than a paternal through the way he suggests Rodolpho is stealing a possession from him and the way in which he tells Alfieri how it’s making him feel. If you told a person who has never read a view from a bridge to read the section on P35, you would have thought Eddie was Catherine’s boyfriend.
Alfieri understand where Eddie is coming from but tries to explain in nice words that he has too much love for Catherine. He does this because Eddie will see Alfieri as disrespectful to accuse Eddie of such thoughts. What more, Eddie has a short temper which Alfieri is almost juggling with in this conversation.
Beatrice also suggests signs that Eddie has too much love for Catherine ‘I’m not mad, you’re the one that’s mad’. Even Beatrice knows how crazy Eddie has become and says it straight to his face as Eddie has a strong relationship with Beatrice which lets Beatrice speak her opinion which is mostly true.
Later on in the play, when Eddie comes home drunk from a night out and finds Catherine and Rodolpho in bed together, he reaction tells a lot about his feelings: for both Catherine and Rodolpho. He kisses them both. But why? Bare in mind him being drunk released his true feelings towards each person.
Eddie kisses Catherine because:
- He doesn’t want to let Catherine go.
- He’s jealous as he hasn’t had sex in ages.
- He wants to show he loves Catherine.
- He wants to tell Rodolpho that she’s Eddie’s.
Eddie kisses Rodolpho because:
- He tries to prove Rodolpho is gay, ‘you see?’ P48, showing Catherine that because Eddie kissed Rodolpho, Rodolpho is gay.
- Eddie comes up with the stereotype ‘if a man’s gay, he fancies every other man’.
- He’s drunk and mocking Rodolpho.
- He’s trying to insult Roldolpho. Rodolpho tried attacking Eddie but Eddie pins him down and kisses him.
The kiss tells the audience a lot about Eddie as the alcohol makes his emotions just burst out. His feelings for Catherine that have been hidden away have appeared and his anger in Rodolpho has arrived too. Up until this point, Eddie was like a volcano waiting to erupt. At this point, he erupts and you could say this is where his downfall starts to pick up pace.
Eddie Carbone as a Tragic Hero
A tragic hero…
- Descends into chaos and disorder – Yes. Eddie does descend into chaos and disorder and finally dies.
- Is from Noble stock – No. Eddie is a longshoremen in Redhook. He is not from Noble stock.
- Has a fatal flaw – Yes. His love for Catherine and short temper are his fatal flaws.
- Often uses soliloquies (talking to themselves) to vocalise their thoughts and feelings – No. Eddie is the total opposite of this where he finds it very difficult to vocalise or show his thoughts and feelings.
- Is superior and has further to fall – Maybe. Eddie feels superior but falls as he feels he has lost his respect and ‘superiority’ when he hasn’t lost anything really.
Eddie Carbone is not the typical tragic hero but definitely possesses the main traits of a tragic hero. Without the traits that I said he has, he wouldn’t be a tragic hero.
|The Snowball Effect – This is what a tragedy is: something|
that’s small then becomes bigger and explodes at the end.
Throughout this play there is a lot of conflict be it verbal, physical or psychological. The conflict in this play is significant in keeping to the snowball effect.
– Marco calls Eddie ‘Anima-a-al!’
– Marco again, ‘That one! He killed my children!’ P58
– Beatrice says, ‘You want something else, Eddie, and you can never have her!’ P62 (this is also a bit psychological)
– The boxing between Eddie and Rodolpho P41
– Eddie kissing Catherine and Roldolpho P47 (psychological too)
– Marco spits on Eddie P57 (psychological too)
– Marco stabbing Eddie P64
If Eddie's soul were standing outside the Pearly Gates, we wonder what he'd say to finagle his way past St. Peter. He might bring up his years of hard work. This wouldn't be a lie, either. The man was born poor, but he didn't let it get him down. He didn't resort to crime or government handouts. He got a job as a longshoreman and worked his butt off on those docks. Eddie tells Alfieri that, "In the worst times […] I didn't stand around lookin' for relief – I hustled. When there was empty piers in Brooklyn I went to Hoboken, Staten Island, the West Side, Jersey, all over" (1.564).
Why did he do all this? For the good of his beautiful niece, Catherine, whom he adopted out of the kindness of his heart when his wife's sister died. He says, "I took out of my own mouth to give to her. […] I walked hungry plenty days in this city!" (1.564) He'd probably also point out to St. Peter what a warm welcome he gave his wife's Italian cousins when they first arrived. He opened his doors to those that needed him and declared that it was an "honor" (1.75). Eddie might also point out how tolerant he was of Catherine's wishes. He did finally allow her to take the stenographer job, once he realized how much it meant to her.
At this point, St. Peter would slide his glasses down his nose, give Eddie a penetrating glance, and say something like, "That's all very well, Mr. Carbone, but let us examine your feelings concerning your niece. Incest is rather frowned upon here in Heaven." Now, if the Eddie that we see in A View from the Bridge heard such a direct accusation, he'd probably go absolutely nuts. There'd be trash talking, a lot of throwing blame around, and a good amount of foaming at the mouth.
In the play, anytime someone tries to crack Eddie's impenetrable wall of denial, he gets seriously angry. Alfieri says to him, "She can't marry you can she?" (1.567) Eddie furiously responds, "I don't know what the hell you're talkin' about!" (1.568) Beatrice screams at him, "You want somethin' else, Eddie, and you can never have her!" (2.316) He gets so incredibly furious that he barrels down the stairs to his death. Of course, in our little hypothetical situation, he's already dead, so, unless there's such a thing as re-death, Eddie just has to deal with it.
Let's pretend that Eddie learned from his death. In his last moments he realized his folly and is now ready to talk about it. This new rational Eddie might argue that it wasn't really his fault that he loved his niece so much. Can a person really be blamed for the way he feels?
"Maybe, maybe not," St. Peter would say, "but a person can be blamed for how they act on those feelings." The gatekeeper would then go down the long list of Eddie's sins that we find in the play. Eddie cuts his wife off emotionally and gives the bulk of his attention to his niece. Eddie even says to Alfieri, "I took out of my wife's mouth […] to give to her" (1. 564).
Let's see…what else. Oh, yes, he forces a kiss on his niece, symbolically raping her. When Rodolpho tries to stop him, he beats the young guy up, and forces a kiss on him, too. To top it all off, he betrays his family and community by maliciously calling Immigration on Marco and Rodolpho. This sin may very well result in the death of Marco's entire family, not to mention the fact that two other "submarines" get hauled off in the bargain. Rather than fessing up and admitting he's wrong, Eddie throws himself into a bloody duel with Marco, which results in his own death.
By this point, Eddie would probably be hiding behind a puff of cloud. It's pretty tough to have all your sins rained down on you all at the same time. He might try one last defense: insanity. This wouldn't be a total lie, like it almost always is on Law and Order.
In the play, Eddie really is just so deep in denial that it makes him lose his senses. It's not like he ever actively thinks, "Gee, you know what I'd like to do? Run away with my seventeen-year-old niece and leave my wife behind." It's not like Eddie thinks having an incestuous relationship with a minor is a good thing. He's just as horrified by the idea as everybody else, that's why it's so hard for him to face it. We have no idea what St. Peter might say to this defense. We're not sure if the plea of insanity holds up. What do you think? If you were the gatekeeper, would you be moved? Or would you open the trapdoor open under Eddie's feet?
Eddie as Tragic Hero
Eddie Carbone is one of the most villainous heroes in the history of American drama. In the world of literary analysis, a hero isn't always a good guy. He probably won't get an invitation to join the X-Men anytime soon. No, Eddie is a particular kind of hero, a tragic hero. The ancient Greeks were the first to write about these unfortunate souls. Sophocles's Oedipus and Aeschylus's Orestes are some of the most famous examples. Shakespeare created his fair share as well; take Macbeth or King Lear for example.
What does Eddie share with these other famous men? A little thing the Greeks called hamatria, which literally means "error of judgment." It's more commonly referred to as a tragic flaw. Basically, these guys make some mistake or have something destructive tendency that leads to them causing their own destruction. You could argue that Eddie's tragic flaw is either denial or, to begin with, the incestuous feelings.
The damage caused by a tragic hero's downfall usually hurts more than just him; his community and family often suffer, too. Once again Eddie's betrayal does both of these things. Another important aspect of a tragic hero is that his own actions are the cause of his demise. Bad things don't randomly happen to him; he chooses to do the things that prove to be his undoing. This is true of Eddie as well. Everything would've been hunky dory if he'd just let Catherine and Rodolpho get married, but then that pesky old hamatria kicks in and everybody suffers.
Lastly, we'd be selling you short if we didn't point out that Eddie is a little bit different than his famous tragic predecessors. Unlike the fellows before him, he isn't royalty of any kind; he's just your average everyday working man. In his famous essay, "Tragedy of the Common Man," Arthur Miller states, "I believe that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were." Miller goes on to say that it's not the fact that past tragic heroes have been royal that makes them resonate with modern audiences. It's that fact that they share the same problems as we do today, the same flaws, fears, and hopes.
Some critics have said that true tragedy is impossible when your hero is a common man. They say that when a working man goes down, not as many people suffer as they would if it were a king. Doesn't Eddie's family and entire community suffer as result of his actions, though? Furthermore, is the size of a tragedy really limited to the world of the play? Can't we look into the life of a common man and recognize our own flaws? Can't we see those flaws in society around us? Why can't a common man's life have size and meaning?
Miller ends his essay by saying, "It is time, I think, that we who are without kings took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time – the heart and spirit of the average man." Wow, that pretty much sums it up.