Discuss the ways in which the final scene in act one from “A View from the Bridge” is dramatically effective. Miller makes the final scene in act one so dramatically effective by using every conversational topic to build up this tension right up until the end when tension is paramount. Throughout the scene, the characters; Eddie, Rodolfo, Catherine, Marco, and Beatrice do not let their rational behaviour slip. Instead, they are fully wound up until the end of the act enabling sparks to fly later on in the play.
The scene opens on Alfieri with his opening line “there are times when you want to spread an alarm.” This indicates that he has strong feelings for Eddie Carbone and his family which he cannot act upon, being in the position which he is, a high-powered lawyer, who should not become emotionally involved in his cases. He therefore feels helpless and trapped. He can foresee the tragic events which happen in the play but is unable to do anything about them. This is an ominous speech. By the end one can sense that tragedy is inevitable.
To put the rest of the scene in context, Eddie has recently found that his niece Catherine has grown from a small child to a beautiful young woman and therefore has mixed feelings for her, both sexually and paternally. He also has mixed feelings for his wife’s cousin Rodolfo, an illegal immigrant from Sicily. Stereo-typically homosexual signs given off by Rodolfo lead Eddie to believe that Rodolfo is gay. Eddie is uncomfortable with this firstly because he is jealous of Rodolfo who is going out with his niece Catherine and also because, as the audience later find out, Eddie has sexual feelings for Rodolfo.
The rest of the scene is set in the apartment of Eddie and begins with him and his family finishing dinner. Marco and Rodolfo are telling Eddie, Catherine and Beatrice about the different places they have visited. Throughout the conversation, Eddie shows signs of resentment and bitterness towards Rodolfo, directing his full attention towards Marco in an attempt to snub Rodolfo. Miller has done this by adding “Marco” to Eddie’s lines and also “to Marco” before Eddie’s lines in the stage directions.
Eddie’s behaviour comes across as immature and naive in this time of heightened emotions. He and Beatrice also show that they have been poorly educated when Beatrice says “You never think of it, that sardines are swimming in the ocean!” and Eddie later declares “I heard that they paint oranges to make them look orange”, whereas Rodolfo and Marco come across as experienced and well-travelled. This is a dramatically effective opening to the scene because it begins to set up understanding amongst the audience of the characters’ more complicated feelings towards one another which is crucial around this point of the play.
The section where Eddie loses his temper when attempting to look calm is made dramatically effective by Miller starting off using dramatic irony. The audience knows information about Eddie which the others who are present in the room do not. This is that when Eddie talks about Rodolfo and how wonderful it is that he can sing, cook and make dresses, he is in actual fact being sarcastic but not to the realisation of the other people in the room. By mentioning Rodolfo’s talents three times during one small section of the play, Eddie is attempting to show up Rodolfo’s homosexuality and the use of repetition emphasises and prolongs this notion.
The final time he does this is when he is saying that Rodolfo should not be on the water-front because he has all these talents and in saying this he is also attempting to separate Catherine from Rodolfo. Meanwhile he is showing that he is angry and frustrated. He is physically manifesting this frustration upon a newspaper which he is twisting up as the tension is mounting inside him. The word “unconsciously” is used to show he is unaware of the fact he is doing this. The newspaper then “suddenly” breaks in half which is a signal to Eddie that he should get up and express his manliness and Rodolfo’s effeminacy. At this point the audience would sense that Eddie is beginning to crack up.
When Eddie teaches Rodolfo to fight there is much tension in the air due to the deep, intricate emotions which the characters and Eddie in particular are experiencing at this time. Miller uses dramatic irony to make this point in the play more dramatically effective. The true reason for Eddie teaching Rodolfo to fight is to show that he is the real man ultimately to win over Catherine but instead Eddie falsely appears enthusiastic, pretending he genuinely wishes to help Rodolfo defend himself in the future. What is ironic here is that Eddie is using a fight to show affection to cover up for the fact he genuinely wishes to fight Rodolfo and to hurt him. In the end the sun beats the wind when Rodolfo asks Catherine to dance with his feminine charm, after possibly picking up on what Eddie is attempting to do to him.
Miller has created the final dramatic image of act one using actions as opposed to speech when Marco challenges Eddie to a chair lifting contest so as to remind Eddie of family loyalty among brothers and that when it matters, Marco will be loyal to Rodolfo. He also brings on this contest to prove that it is his and not Eddie’s that is the greater physical strength thus shattering the one thing Eddie was convinced he had over the other two men. The final image of Marco standing “face to face with Eddie” and with “the chair raised like a weapon over Eddie’s head” is symbolic of what a small, helpless man Eddie Carbone really is and it is also an ominous image considering what happens later on in the play. This is the last time they will stand face to face like this before they are standing face to face in a death match.
In summary, Miller makes the final scene in act one from “A view from the Bridge” dramatically effective with the frequent use of tension and dramatic irony. The use of ominous moments helps to build up dramatic effect for later in the play. Eddie Carbone is Miller’s vehicle for articulating complex human emotions and his use of this character’s speech and body language which makes this particular scene so dramatically effective.