The limits of family bonds and personal honor are tested in Miller’s gripping tragedy, A View from the Bridge. The poverty of an American working class family comes face to face with the sheer destitution of their immigrant cousins, desperate to make a new life. In a cramped tenement apartment in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the Carbone family sits down for supper at the end of a long day. Eddie Carbone works as a longshoreman on the docks around New York, putting food on the table by the sweat of his brow. He and his wife Beatrice, both first generation Italian Americans, have no children of their own, but have raised their niece, Catherine, from girlhood. Though all seems well, there is silent tension in the household. Eddie has unresolved feelings toward his niece, and his marriage to Beatrice is growing cold. What makes this evening different is the news that Beatrice’s distant cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, have arrived from Italy and will be at their home soon. The two immigrants have snuck into the United States on a freighter ship, without documentation. Although harboring them is illegal, the Carbone’s are honored to do it, not only for family loyalty but because they see as the right thing to do—helping the men escape the poverty of postwar Europe. Though Marco and Rodolpho speak little English, they soon go to work unloading ships alongside Eddie. Marco cuts the figure of a traditional hard-working immigrant; strong, quiet, and traditionally masculine. He sends his earnings home to support his wife and tubercular children, and hopes to return someday. The blonde and fair-skinned Rodolpho, on the other hand, seems to defy everyone’s expectations. He is cheerful and optimistic; he cooks, sings, dances, and loves the lights of New York City—his dream is to become a naturalized citizen. Soon Rodolpho and Catherine fall in love, and Eddie finds himself unable to cope with their relationship. He seeks advice from a lawyer and family friend, Alfieri, who is also the play’s narrator. When Alfieri tells Eddie that there is nothing he can do to stop the two young people from falling in love, Eddie takes a drastic measure and reports his two guests to the US Immigration Bureau. Things only get worse for Eddie when Catherine agrees to a hasty wedding so Rodolpho can stay in the country. Marco, certain to be extradited, posts bail and comes looking to settle the score with Eddie. The two men clash with tragic consequences, and Eddie is killed in the street. As the unstoppable tragedy grinds towards its inevitable conclusion, against a backdrop of poverty and immigration, we find a play which is, like all great modern drama, about a family.
A View from the Bridge guide sections