A comparison of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge and Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love
Love and wisdom are common themes in Shakespeare’s plays and poems for instance, in the play ‘Macbeth’. Macbeth’s undying devotion to his wife leads him to murder King Duncan, later when his wisdom returned, he felt guilty but it was too late, as the deed was done. This also holds true to the texts that I will discuss. Although the issues may be different, the theme of love and obsession is common. We live in a society that encourages us to look for true, lasting love, but this particular ‘Enduring Love’ is both dangerous and hopeless. ‘Enduring Love’ is a story of obsessive love, and explores the impact of that love on a committed relationship. ‘A View from the Bridge’ is a play about relationships and the importance of the family in Sicilian culture. Both ‘Enduring Love’ and ‘A View from the Bridge’ explore love in different forms. For example in ‘Enduring Love’, there are many types of love explored such as romantic, familial, idealised, obsessive and jealous as denoted by Peter Childs.
Romantic love is present between Joe and Clarissa, familial love is demonstrated through the characters Harry and James Gadd, idealised, obsessive and jealous love has been shown in the form of Jed. ‘A View From the Bridge’ explores the love of the family (evidently, the Carbone family) father-daughter love, which is shown between Eddie Carbone and Catherine, brotherly love (between the two immigrant brothers, Marco and Rodolfo) romantic love, when Catherine and Rodolfo fall in love and the love of a place (Sicily).
The love of the family had significant impact to Sicilian culture in the 1950s, which is the era in which the play ‘A View From The Bridge’ is set. Members of Sicilian families lived close together and children would stay at home until they were married. There was a strong family tradition of loyalty and honour. This can be related to the situation whereby Catherine lives with Eddie, a father-like figure and Beatrice, a mother-like figure. The Sicilian woman’s role was to be a housewife like Beatrice, who was married to Eddie and maintained the household.
The way love and relationships are portrayed in these texts, are very different. ‘A View from the Bridge’ is set in 1947. Relationships in this era were very traditional. This means that the man would tell his partner what to do. Men were superior to women. In contrast, ‘Enduring Love’ is set in 2004. At this point in time, women were equal to men. Women were more independent and less dependent upon their male partners. Same sex relationships are now more common and accepted then it would have been before. This shows the effect of changes in relationships over different eras.
To some extent, the characters of Joe Rose and Eddie Carbone are similar at the beginning, as they are both living their own lives normally. Joe Rose is a free-lance journalist, who is in a long-term relationship with his girlfriend, Clarissa Mellon, a university lecturer whilst Eddie Carbone is a longshoreman who is married to Beatrice, a housewife with no children. Their lives were simple each knew what was expected of them and life was calm. Although in ‘Enduring Love’, there appeared to be one couple in love (Joe and Clarissa), great strain was placed on the relationship due to the obsession of Jed.
The character of Joe Rose separates from his lover Clarissa towards the end of the novel; this is because they grow apart during the course of the novel, as Clarissa begins to grow annoyed with Joe’s talk of Jed. Clarissa finally comes to the conclusion that she had enough of what she sees as Joe’s obsession. Although in the Appendix they reunite, as Clarissa learns of Joe’s ordeal with Jed, after being held hostage by Jed. A similar outcome happens to Eddie Carbone as he ‘loses’ Catherine because she agrees to marry Rodolfo. Although Eddie is married to Beatrice, he regards Catherine as his own possession and is very protective of her.
This is common in Sicilian culture as families think highly of their children and Catherine is portrayed as a child-like figure who seeks approval from Eddie in almost everything she does. Even though she is their niece and not their immediate family. Catherine realises that the only way she would be allowed to take a job as a stenographer would be with Eddie’s full approval. Eddie likes to have control and does not want Catherine to become a stenographer because she will have freedom and he fears that he may lose the control he has over her.
She may meet someone else whose opinion she values more then Eddie’s and his male pride would be damaged. Eddie could be seen to be the over-protective parent here because he tends to advise Catherine what to wear and who to talk to. He feels protective towards Catherine, especially when she wears new clothes and Eddie says that people down the street will give her ‘funny looks’. By controlling how Catherine dresses, Eddie is able to make sure she does not appear attractive to men. This is evident when Eddie criticizes Catherine’s dress style, hair and way of walking and Catherine is almost in tears because he disapproves.
In ‘Enduring Love’, the opposite is true. Jed, is rich and bored, he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He becomes attracted to Joe who is highly motivated and has clear aims in life. Jed becomes infatuated by Joe. This demonstrates a different kind of love, as Jed is not a figure of authority; he has no control over Joe. However, Eddie Carbone realises that he is losing his control over Catherine because she begins spending more time with Rodolfo and even implies that Rodolfo only goes out with Catherine because he wants to get a visa to stay in New York.
Eddie tries to gain more control over Catherine, even though he is aware that Eddie is losing his power due to new men coming in to Catherine’s life. Jed stays hopeful throughout the novel that Joe will realise that he loves him and start a relationship. Jed feels that despite the fact that Joe is in a relationship with Clarissa, he really loves Jed. This is evident by the fact that Jed would wait outside Joe’s house, waiting to catch a glimpse of him. Jed is completely oblivious to the fact that Joe doesn’t want to start a relationship with him. This is evident by the thirty voicemail messages Jed leaves on Joe’s answer phone.
At the end of the play, ‘A View From The Bridge’, Eddie dies. This is a consequence of him reporting his illegal immigrant cousins, Marco and Rodolfo to the authorities. He has grown increasingly jealous of Rodolfo because he begins to grow close to Catherine. Marco learns that Eddie called the police on them, which is disloyal and brings shame on the family, unforgivable in Sicilian culture. Marco spits in Eddie’s face. Eddie then, lunges at Marco with a knife as he feels that Marco is being disrespectful to him, the knife turns back towards Eddie and he dies in Beatrice’s arms.
There are subtle hints, which indicate Eddie’s fate throughout the play. For example, towards the start of the play where Alfieri says ‘watched it run its bloody course’. Alfieri is a lawyer who Eddie admires; he helps Eddie with legal advise and advises Eddie against suing Rodolfo, as he would have no case against him. Alfieri does not understand why Eddie has problems with a man who likes his niece when the man who is accused (Rodolfo) has not done anything legally wrong. Eddie Carbone and Joe Rose are also the protagonists in each of the texts. The character of Eddie Carbone could also be compared with that of Jed Parry.
They both experience unrequited love as Jed loves Joe, but Joe doesn’t love Jed, this is evident from the beginning, when Jed rings Joe in the middle of the night and says ‘… I love you’ and the fact that Joe hangs up shows he is not interested in Jed. The fact that Eddie loves Catherine, but Catherine only loves Eddie as a father figure is also shown in the play because she seeks his approval and is distressed if he disapproves of her. Towards the end of the texts these two characters both become obsessed with this object that they can never have.
Eddie’s jealousy gets the better of him and he ends up dying as a result of unwise actions. Jed gets referred to a hospital for the mentally ill; perhaps the most archetypal form of losing wisdom, diagnosed with De Clerambault syndrome. In the Appendix it is evident, that Jed Parry continually wrote love letters to Joe after he had been diagnosed. This shows that, despite being in a mental hospital, after all the events that have occurred during the novel, he still loves Joe and believes Joe loves him too. It could also be said that Joe Rose also becomes obsessed because he tries to prove to Clarissa, that he is being harassed by Jed.
Towards the start of the novel, Joe is a calm, laid back character but towards the end, his desire to prove that Jed has an obsession with him becomes his own obsession. In each of the texts, the stories of love result in severe consequences. The characters namely Joe Rose and Eddie Carbone could not be seen as wise. Joe Rose becomes obsessed by his stalker and tries to understand why his stalker has the idea that Joe loves him. Whilst Eddie Carbone tries to control Catherine and dislikes anyone who poses as a potential threat to him, for example, Rodolfo. In each case, the two were both over powered by their feelings.
The events of ‘Enduring Love’ are recalled from the perspective of the protagonist, Joe Rose. We as the readers, gain an insight into the life of Joe Rose and his ‘ordeal’. The protagonist in ‘A View From The Bridge’ is Eddie although; the fact that the text was a play means that the text was not written in first person like ‘Enduring Love’. Both of the texts included victims of the situation that occurred. For example, in ‘Enduring Love’, the victim may be thought to be Joe, as he was the person who was stalked and traumatised endlessly, it could also be argued that Jed Parry was a victim, as he was a hazard to himself and was mentally ill.
In the play ‘A View from the Bridge’, the victim could be Rodolfo, as he was treated badly by Eddie, the victim could also be said to be Eddie Carbone himself, because of his jealousy in the arising situation. In the novel ‘Enduring Love’ the gender of the victims and protagonists was male, similar to this, the victims and protagonists in ‘A View From The Bridge’ were also male as males were more dominant. In both texts, the focus is on men, their actions and their feelings. Although women are mentioned, their feelings, thoughts and actions are secondary and regarded as unimportant.
This is particularly obvious when looking at Sicilian life, where it is the man who fights for honour. Evidently, these texts contain mostly male characters. In the two texts, there was always an obstacle in the marriage/relationship of two people. However, each text deals with the obstacle in a very different way. It is the impact of individual wisdom, passion and understanding that combines to produce the texts. Each text shows clearly human frailty and emotion when facing challenges in life.
This is evident in ‘Enduring Love’ whereby Parry is the obstacle because Joe himself, becomes paranoid and Clarissa grows tired of the discussions about Jed Parry. This is also the case in ‘A View from the Bridge’ as the fact that Eddie now loves Catherine adds strain to the marriage of Beatrice and Eddie, which could make her the obstacle. In conclusion, the two texts support the view that it is not possible to be in love and be wise at the same time. Perhaps love is a kind of madness 2 and it may be unrealistic to expect people in love who care passionately about each other to be objective and wise.