In the play ‘A View from the Bridge’ by Arthur Miller, the play’s protagonist, Eddie, has a very particular idea on the qualities that show true masculinity. When other characters in the play do not conform to these ideas, Eddie becomes hostile and in some cases aggressive towards these characters, such as Rodolfo who does not conform to these qualities, and Marco, who does demonstrate these characteristics, but in a way that makes Eddie feel threatened. Eddie feels that all men should show conventionally masculine characteristics.
For example, he believes that all men should be the breadwinner for their families. He shows the audience this as no one else in the Carbone family works, and when his niece Catherine gets a job offer to earn lots of money, Eddie says ‘I supported you this long’ and makes her finish school, as he wants her to get the best possible job. Eddie also believes that it is his duty to protect the women in his family, and he shows the audience this when he criticises Catherine about how she is ‘walkin’ wavy’ as he doesn’t want other men looking at her.
Although, the playwright has also showed the audience that Eddie believes that getting respect from the women is also an important. He shows his kindness when he offers to buy his wife Beatrice a new tablecloth out of complete generosity. Also, unlike many longshoremen at the time who abused their families, Eddie does not threaten Beatrice or Catherine with violence at any stage in the play, so this also shows the audience his respect for the women in his family.
The audience can also tell that Eddie sees physical strength as an essential quality for men as he works as a longshoreman, which is very physical work. These views on masculinity lead to open conflict in the play between Eddie and Rodolfo, and finally Marco. The main reason as to why Eddie shows hostility and aggression to Rodolfo is because Rodolfo doesn’t live up to Eddie’s views on what qualities are needed to be a man.
Eddie suspects Rodolfo almost as soon as he meets him (he talks to Beatrice about how ‘the guy ain’t right), although the audience are likely to expect him to suspect other characters because earlier on in the play he says ‘the less you trust, the less you be sorry’. Although, it is not just Eddie who explicitly shows distrust of Rodolfo, as some of the other longshoremen who Eddie works with comment on how Rodolfo has ‘a sense of humour’, and there are other remarks throughout the play such as ‘Danish’, ‘Paper Doll’ and ‘Chorus Girl’ which clearly suggest that Rodolfo doesn’t conform to the general ideas of masculinity, not just Eddie’s.
This is partly because Rodolfo can sing, cook, and make dresses, and at the time this would have been seen as very unmanly, which is the main reason for the doubt of Rodolfo from other characters. Although, Rodolfo does conform to some of Eddie’s ideas on masculinity as he works as a longshoreman, which is physical work, and he is also prepared to work very hard, and the audience knows this almost as soon as they meet him because Rodolfo says ‘We work hard, we’ll work all day and night’, which shows that he is prepared to work hard for himself.
He also proves Eddie’s opinion that he is gay wrong, as he clearly shows his love for Catherine, which also shows his masculinity. Although, the audience can see that Eddie is slightly jealous of Rodolfo, as Rodolfo can communicate his ideas to the other characters a lot more effectively than Eddie can and so this causes the conflict between them more than anything else in the play.
For example, Eddie ‘teaches’ Rodolfo how to box just as a excuse to hit him, and the audience get the impression that Rodolfo would not have done this, as he as the skills to communicate properly with other characters, so they could possibly be feeling sorry for him because he is masculine in a different way to the other characters, although he is constantly being bullied by Eddie and the other longshoremen because of it. Although Rodolfo doesn’t live up to Eddie’s ideas on masculinity, Marco does so more than Eddie, which is why Eddie is hostile, and towards the end of the play aggressive, towards him.