Free Essay

To What Extent Is This Definition of Masculinity Applicable to the Central Male Character in ‘a View from the Bridge’ by Arthur Miller and ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen?


Submitted By Frankenstein618
Words 2254
Pages 10
Masculinity was important in America in the 1950s when A View from the Bridge is set. Both Franzen and Miller show that masculinity can be expressed by the different characters in his novel in many different ways which highlight the many aspects of masculinity.
Both Franzen and Miller present masculinity through the ways in which the male characters interact with each other. There are conflicting views of masculinity in A View from the Bridge; Eddie represents the judgmental views of masculinity. His character is unable to bear Rodolpho’s attitude and appearance as it attacks Eddie’s individual definition of masculinity. “He’s like a weird…with that wacky hair…he’s like a chorus girl” Eddie unloads his feelings and disapproval regarding Rodolpho and his conduct to Catherine and Alfieri who is used as a guidance counsellor for Eddie to discuss his worries, “I see it in his eyes; he’s laughin’ at her and she’s laughin’ at me.” Eddie notices the behaviour of Rodolpho and interprets it in a jealous way to mean he is being made fun of behind his back. Eddie is seen as a strong masculine father figure, whereas Rodolpho is viewed as a blonde feminine acting male figure. Rodolpho sings “Paper Doll” to Catherine which in Eddie’s point of view hints at Rodolpho’s feminine natures. Eddie is threatened by Catherine’s great enjoyment in Rodolpho’s singing, Eddie rises and moves upstage, as an attempt to stop the singing which insults his view of masculinity. Eddie’s bowling buddies are used to increase his levels of masculinity and to distract himself from his concerns of Catherine and Rodolpho. Rodolpho is seen as a suspicious figure to Eddie who distrusts Rodolpho for being the opposite of how Eddie thinks masculinity should be portrayed. This shows that Eddie is unable to bear a different type of masculinity, in Saul Bellow’s view this makes him less of a man.
Masculinity is also presented by the male characters in Freedom and A View from the Bridge through strength and a physical display. In the closing moments of Act 1 of A View from the Bridge, Marco “raises the chair higher and higher,” in an attempt to show himself as the alpha male. In Freedom there are also situations which show the conflict between the masculine characters, Joey and Walter argue over being the dominant masculine figure in their household, “Joey was asserting his right to stay awake as late as Patty and Walter did…He's questioning the basis of our authority.” This implies that even at an early age Joey is developing his own opinions separate from that of his parents, this increases his level of masculinity and he is self-assured.
A View from the Bridge was set in the McCarthy era during which many suspected communists were captured and tortured for information. Lee J Cobb informed the authorities about Miller, a suspected communist at the time. Miller uses this in A View from the Bridge when Eddie snitches to the authorities regarding Rodolpho and Marco. After Miller is released, he asked Lee J Cobb to play the part of Eddie in the production; this shows Miller’s awareness of Cobb turning Miller in. We can see there was conflict between American and community (Italian) law in the 1950s and onwards in Eddie’s implied belief that American law doesn’t deliver justice, because of this he gives Marco and Rodolpho to the authorities. In A View from the Bridge, Eddie reprimands Marco for accusing him of snitching; this implies Eddie cannot bear to hear any critical accusations of him, “Wiping the neighbourhood with [my] name like a dirty rag…I want my name.” Eddie cannot accept the accusation; he resorts to denial, acting as the innocent until proven guilty man. He acts as if the idea of the accusation aimed at him is impossible for him to have committed. In Saul Bellow’s point of view this suggests that Eddie cannot “hear and bear what is said of him” therefore his masculinity is lessened.
Masculinity can be expressed through the authority and directive tone in which the men talk to one another. Both writers use this to show the alpha male domination of each other. In A View from the Bridge Marco and Eddie disagree over the domination of each other’s character, “You [Eddie] go on your knees to me.” This shows Marco’s authoritative masculine tone; he views Eddie as an animal, vicious and cruel but one that answers to a higher authority, or in this case true masculinity. Marco continues the accusations of Eddie towards the end of A View from the Bridge, “That one! I accuse that one! He killed my children. That one stole food from my children” Eddie’s response to this implies he is projecting a façade of being able to hear and bear the worse by not listening to criticism but also giving a defensive statement at the same time. “He’s crazy!” Eddie refuses to hear the worst of him implying that Eddie feels guilty and ashamed of his actions of snitching to the authorities on Marco and Rodolpho. As CWE Bigsby argues, ‘Miller’s characters are people who try to escape the consequences of their actions, who try to declare their innocence, even when that involves implying the guilt of others…’ The male characters in the texts are unable to view and accept themselves as responsible for their actions, In Saul Bellow’s view, their masculinity is lessened because they are unable to admit their mistakes, and listen to their accusations instead finding need to deny and excuse themselves. In A View from the Bridge, Marco’s strong dominating masculine figure and Rodolpho’s somewhat feminine countenance are not seen as weaknesses, they treat each other with mutual respect. Similarly Franzen also uses a close brotherly bond in Freedom between Walter and Richard to show the differences in appearance and behaviour. These contrasting displays of masculinity show the tension which arises between the male characters in A View from the Bridge and Freedom over the definition of what true masculinity is.
Relationships between men and women have changed significantly. The way the women in both Freedom and A View from the Bridge treat the men has an influence on their masculine portrayal. In America in the 1960s women were developing more freedom; an example of this is the use of the contraceptive pill which gave women more freedom in relationships. Richard uses his attractiveness as a way of expressing his masculinity through sex and aggression; he treats women as casual affairs. This is a comparison to Joey’s treatment of women in the novel Freedom, with a blasé attitude which shows his immature and irresponsible natures. This can be said to show he is less of a man.
The skill of being emotionally resilient is a key part of masculinity. When Beatrice asks “When will I be your [Eddie’s] wife again?” the play, A View from the Bridge, Eddie is unable to bear the criticism and refuses to explain his actions to his wife. This threatens Eddie’s masculinity. In comparison, Patty and Walter also have a somewhat dysfunctional marriage; Patty is infatuated with Richard who is viewed as more attractive and outgoing than Walter. However, in Patty’s view Walter is admired more and seen to have the upper hand over Richard intellectually; he is seen as the better husband and provider. Patty’s admiration of Richard threatens Walter’s masculinity and makes him feel inferior to Richard. Eddie is unable to hear or bear what is said about him with regard to loving Catherine which implies in Saul Bellows point of view that his masculinity is lessened. Beatrice treats Eddie with suspicion; “The truth is not as bad as blood.” Franzen juxtaposes blood with desire for Catherine which is comparable with the novel, Freedom, where Walter denies his feelings for Lalitha; he knows his feelings for her are wrong; he casts her as a daughter figure to justify his feelings. In A View from the Bridge, Alfieri is concerned about the level of attention and love Eddie pays to Catherine. He comments, “You know sometimes God mixes up the people…there is too much love for the niece” This suggests that Eddie is infatuated with Catherine, as if he is helpless regarding his feelings for Catherine. Eddie pretends that Catherine looks upon him as a father figure to reassure him regarding his care for her, however he also sees Catherine as an attractive young woman. He calls her “Baby” which implies Eddie’s emotional attachment to Catherine. In Freedom, Eddie is protective of Catherine almost in a paternal way, “my house…my niece,” Miller compares Catherine with Eddie’s house to show the sense of possession and protective nature men often had over women in the 1950s. He is reluctant to give Catherine her freedom despite her only being eighteen years old. As Stephen Marino writes in his article, ‘Alfieri voices concern for Eddie’s inner turmoil and at the end of the play Beatrice similarly confronts her husband by forcing him to face the reality he is unwilling or unable to acknowledge.’ This is comparable to Walter’s character in Freedom who when he discovered about Richard’s affair with his wife became angered and spoke with a sense of finality. “I don’t want to see you again. I don’t want to be in the same room as you again. I don’t want to hear that person’s name again. I don’t want to have anything to do with either one of you. Ever.” This suggests that Walter is less of a man from Saul Bellows perspective; however it also contributes the idea that Walter has enough self-assurance of his character that he can put the whole situation behind him, which in my point of view develops his strength of masculinity.
A man’s work can affect others perception of his masculinity. In the middle section of A View from the Bridge, Rodolpho is mocked for working at the docks. However, Rodolpho doesn’t let it affect him, this implies that he can hear and bear things that are said about him without losing his composure which highlights his true masculinity in Saul Bellow’s mind. In Freedom, Walter is a very successful lawyer and conservationist. His work varies through the novel depending on the earnings he must gain to provide for his family, showing his hardworking, self-sufficient nature, “He was helping pay for law school by working part-time as a rough carpenter…always started yawning around 9pm.” This portrays a greater sense of masculinity as he has the responsibility of caring for his family through making his place in society. Arthur Miller comments that, ‘The underlying struggle is that of the individual trying to gain his rightful position in society.’ In A View from the Bridge, Marco and Rodolpho attempt to gain their position in America through hard work at the docks. In Freedom, Joey chooses to work through morally dubious means to earn a living and by doing so gain his social position. This suggests that he tries to be a true masculine character and provide for his family but by doing so through dubious means threatens his moral views as a man, decreasing his masculinity.
The relationships between generations can express aspects of masculinity; this is explored through the writers’ depiction of inter-generational relationships. In Freedom, Joey and Walter’s father-son relationship is comparable with A View from A Bridge where Eddie and Catherine’s relationship is almost like a father-daughter bond. The youth culture in America didn’t exist until the 1950s; children aspired to or were pulled into adulthood quickly, as the physical development allowed. We can see this in Freedom where Joey quickly developed his own opinions on his independence and how he should behave, this was furthered by his parents who had different ideas of what was socially correct bringing him up. We see how this affects Joey and Connie’s relationship as they began their sex life at the early age of twelve, displaying the effects unusual early development can have on young masculine figures.
Respect is a quality of masculinity present in the male characters in both texts. In A View from the Bridge, Marco’s respectful view of Rodolpho and treatment of him as equal to the other men is contrastable to Walter’s superior brotherly feelings to Richard. “Walter was most disappointed and hurt by Richard’s moment in the sun.” This shows how despite being happy for his friend Walter feels cast off and rejected when Richard succeeds in his ambitions. Patty’s view of Walter makes him feel weak and lesser in comparison to Richard, “Walter became competitive.” Walter is jealous of Richard’s success feeling that he has to stand his corner against Richard to prove his masculinity. In Saul Bellows perspective this suggests that Walter is unable to bear the neglect of his friend and competitive when Richard succeeds in something which implies Walter is a weaker man. Patty’s judgement of Walter concerns him and implies his masculine character is less than that of Richard.
In conclusion the understanding of masculinity has changed throughout the texts, Freedom and A View from the Bridge. Franzen explores the idea of masculinity not being absolute in comparison due to McCarthyism we can see Miller’s view of masculinity which has a clear honour code where people have to stick to principles and a definite moral code. Both Miller and Franzen express the levels of masculinity by the relationships between the male and female characters and generations of characters, although to different outcomes.

Similar Documents

Premium Essay


...In: English and Literature Tess of the D'Urbervilles Male Dominance Male Dominance in Tess of the D’urbervilles The Victorian era, as described by Professor of History and Women's & Gender Studies Nancy Reagin in her essay “Victorian Women: the Gender of Oppression”, witnessed the ideology of separate spheres in which society viewed men as independent and reasonable while viewing women as passive, dependent on men, emotional, and submissive. Men were given the governing role in which they would dominate society due to their ability to make rational decisions while women were expected to unquestionably fill the social roles that men decided for them, and those roles usually revolved around a woman’s duties as a mother and a wife. In marriage, a woman was expected to abide by the orders and views of her husband, and man and wife became one in terms of a woman’s rights, property, and identity. In Tess of the D’urbervilles, a book written in the Victorian Era, Hardy conveys this ideology of separate spheres in his portrayal of men and their dominance over women in society, primarily Tess. Their dominance is shown in how the men act as the masters of society, but it is also seen in how the women in Tess unquestionably view the men as the dominant gender. Often, the women are blindly influenced and act passively when interacting with male characters such as Alec and Angel. They are also seen to be very dependent on the men, and the men acknowledge that, for that is expected of...

Words: 671 - Pages: 3

Free Essay


...62118 0/nm 1/n1 2/nm 3/nm 4/nm 5/nm 6/nm 7/nm 8/nm 9/nm 1990s 0th/pt 1st/p 1th/tc 2nd/p 2th/tc 3rd/p 3th/tc 4th/pt 5th/pt 6th/pt 7th/pt 8th/pt 9th/pt 0s/pt a A AA AAA Aachen/M aardvark/SM Aaren/M Aarhus/M Aarika/M Aaron/M AB aback abacus/SM abaft Abagael/M Abagail/M abalone/SM abandoner/M abandon/LGDRS abandonment/SM abase/LGDSR abasement/S abaser/M abashed/UY abashment/MS abash/SDLG abate/DSRLG abated/U abatement/MS abater/M abattoir/SM Abba/M Abbe/M abbé/S abbess/SM Abbey/M abbey/MS Abbie/M Abbi/M Abbot/M abbot/MS Abbott/M abbr abbrev abbreviated/UA abbreviates/A abbreviate/XDSNG abbreviating/A abbreviation/M Abbye/M Abby/M ABC/M Abdel/M abdicate/NGDSX abdication/M abdomen/SM abdominal/YS abduct/DGS abduction/SM abductor/SM Abdul/M ab/DY abeam Abelard/M Abel/M Abelson/M Abe/M Aberdeen/M Abernathy/M aberrant/YS aberrational aberration/SM abet/S abetted abetting abettor/SM Abeu/M abeyance/MS abeyant Abey/M abhorred abhorrence/MS abhorrent/Y abhorrer/M abhorring abhor/S abidance/MS abide/JGSR abider/M abiding/Y Abidjan/M Abie/M Abigael/M Abigail/M Abigale/M Abilene/M ability/IMES abjection/MS abjectness/SM abject/SGPDY abjuration/SM abjuratory abjurer/M abjure/ZGSRD ablate/VGNSDX ablation/M ablative/SY ablaze abler/E ables/E ablest able/U abloom ablution/MS Ab/M ABM/S abnegate/NGSDX abnegation/M Abner/M abnormality/SM abnormal/SY aboard ...

Words: 113589 - Pages: 455