In Act I of Arthur Miller’s play, A View From the Bridge, Eddie Carbone says to the lawyer, “The guy ain’t right, Mr. Alfieri.” The reference is to Beatrice’s cousin, Rodolpho, who has illegally come to Brooklyn (along with Marco, his married brother) to live with Beatrice, Eddie and their niece, Catherine. Eddie’s statement can be taken to mean more than one thing, and this essay will explore two of the many contexts that quote could include. The first context is the most obvious: Eddie thinks Rodolpho is gay. The second is one that Eddie cannot face up to: he is incestuously in love with Catherine and can not bear the idea that she wants to marry Rodolpho, whom Eddie suspects only wants to marry her to get U.S. citizenship.
“The guy ain’t right.”
Eddie’s Fear of Homosexuality
Eddie is not the introspective type. He does not know what to make of his feelings and he hates Rodolpho at first sight without really knowing why. When he finds out that the cousin can sing in a high voice, cook, sew a dress and dye his hair blond, he decides the man is “queer,” as they said in those days. On a deeper level, he is (or chooses to be) unaware of being in love with Catherine, his niece, although everyone around him (including his wife) can see it. So Rodolfo is a double threat to Eddie: once to his masculinity, and once by taking Catherine away from him.
He has gone to the lawyer to find out if there is any way he can prevent Rodolpho from marrying Catherine. Mr. Alfieri, however, points out that even if the cousin is gay, and even if he wants only to get a green card from Catherine, the law does not care about these matters if two people want to get married. The only legal recourse Eddie has to prevent the marriage is to turn Rodolpho and Marco in to Immigration for being “submarines,” that is, for having illegally entered the country. This would be disastrous, as they would be deported to starve without work back in Sicily; plus, Marco has a wife and two children to feed and they would starve, too.
Eddie is appalled by the law: he struggles to tell the lawyer all the things that “ain’t right” about Rodolpho. He says things like, “He’s a blond guy. Like . . . platinum. You know what I mean?” Mr. Alfieri says, “No.” Then Eddie tries to attack Rodolpho’s singing: “I know a tenor, Mr. Alfieri. This ain’t no tenor. I mean if you came in the house and you didn’t know who was singin’, you wouldn’t be lookin’ for him you be lookin’ for her.” Then he talks about the dress Rodolpho resized for Catherine by cutting it up and re-sewing it. When nothing impresses the lawyer, he talks about the longshoremen and sailors Rodolpho works with: “[T]hey’re laughin’ at him on the piers. I’m ashamed. Paper Doll they call him. Blondie now.”
Later in the play, Eddie tries to show off his manhood by trying to teach Rodolpho to box, in front of Beatrice, Catherine and Marco. Then Marco bests him in a chair-lifting contest, and Eddie is humiliated, even as Marco triumphs (and perhaps makes a statement by using this act to stand up to Eddie on behalf of Rodolpho).
Eddie’s Fear of Incestuous Feelings
Eddie’s feelings for Catherine are complicated, but basically he is in love with her. Mr. Alfieri tries to point this out to him when Eddie cries out that Rodolpho is “stealing” his niece from him. The lawyer says: “She wants to get married, Eddie. She can’t marry you, can she?” Eddie is horrified and yells, “What’re you talkin’ about, marry me! I don’t know what the hell you’re talkin’ about!” On a conscious level, maybe he does not. Beatrice tries to warn him, as well; and Catherine starts getting nervous after Beatrice talks to her. Finally, Catherine decides she cannot live in the same house with Eddie, and her uncle reacts violently, pulling her to him and kissing her hard on the mouth. When Rodolpho tries to intervene, Eddie pins his arms down and kisses him, as if to let everyone know the cousin is gay. (Is Eddie a closet gay and does not know it? Miller does not answer this question in the play). To further humiliate him, he even tries to throw Rodolpho out of the house, but then changes him mind, threatening him and Catherine rather vaguely, instead: “Don’t make me do nuttin’, Catherin. Watch your step, submarine. By rights they oughta throw you back in the water. . . .”
Eddie is confused, angry and determined to keep Catherine from marrying Rodolpho and leaving him. The cousins move in with two other “submarines” (or “subs”), but Eddie still cannot rest. This is the turning point in the play and in his fortunes. He goes back to Mr. Alfieri, the lawyer, for advice, and he is told to let his niece go. If Eddie were to turn in his wife’s cousins to Immigration, Mr. Alfieri tells him, “You won’t have a friend in the world, Eddie! Even those who understand will turn against you, even the ones who feel the same will despise you! Put it out of your mind!”
The deed is done, however, although the lawyer secures a promise from Marco that he will not send someone from Sicily to kill Eddie. In fact, Eddie has “murdered” Marco’s family by depriving him of work in America. They will starve and Eddie will be an outcast in his own community. Then Marco knocks Eddie down and Eddie pulls a knife on him. In the struggle, Eddie is stabbed, crying out for Beatrice and dying in her arms. As Mr. Alfieri says, only God can judge. By trying to take God’s place, Eddie pays the ultimate price.
While the quote can have other meanings in relation to this play, the two contexts that have been explored in this essay concern Eddie’s fear of homosexuality and his fear of losing his niece, Catherine, with whom he is in love. By judging Rodolpho to be gay, inferior and non-masculine in his behavior, Eddie is challenged in his own sexuality and values and is enraged by this situation without understanding it. He loves Catherine and does not want to ever see her leave his house, but she has grown up and is choosing to marry Rodolpho. He could have faced his own (possible) sexual ambivalence, or tried to understand Rodolpho, instead of judging him; or he could have faced his love for Catherine and followed everyone’s advice to let her go. But he despairs, not understanding himself or the others around him — and in his despair, he does the unthinkable: reporting Marco and Rodolpho to Immigration, thereby sealing his own doom.