A View from the Bridge

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“Paper Doll” Symbol Analysis

“Paper Doll” Symbol Icon
When Rodolpho tells Catherine that he can sing, she asks him to sing the song “Paper Doll” for her. He ends up singing the song repeatedly throughout the play, and apparently sings it so much while working that he earns the nickname Paper Doll. As a popular song, “Paper Doll” is something that the young Rodolpho and Catherine share together, and which Eddie is therefore jealous of. He is irritated when they dance together to the song near the end of Act One, as bonding together over the song has drawn Rodolpho and Catherine closer together. In addition, the title and lyrics of the song are symbolically significant. The idea of the paper doll is important as Rodolpho’s nickname because of its connotations of fragility. The nickname is a result of Rodolpho’s odd behavior on the docks, including singing in a high voice, and makes Eddie uncomfortable because it suggests that Rodolpho is effeminate, and potentially not heterosexual. In terms of lyrics, the song says, “I’m gonna buy a paper doll that I can call my own, a doll that other fellows cannot steal.” The idea of having a woman completely under one’s control and in one’s possession, like a paper doll, is eerily similar to Eddie’s ideal relationship with Catherine. His love for her is so possessive and oppressive that he treats her more like a doll he wants to control than a family member.

“Paper Doll” Quotes in A View from the Bridge

The A View from the Bridge quotes below all refer to the symbol of “Paper Doll”. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Immigration, Home, and Belonging Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of A View from the Bridge published in 2009.
Act 1 Quotes

I’m gonna buy a paper doll that I can call my own, A doll that other fellows cannot steal.

Related Characters: Rodolpho (speaker)
Related Symbols: “Paper Doll”
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

Marco and Rodolpho tell Eddie, Beatrice, and Catherine about the lack of opportunities in their town in Italy--there is plenty of beauty, but absolutely no employment. Rodolpho proudly recalls the day that a famous opera singer set to perform at a hotel got sick, and being a singer himself, Rodolpho took over and entertained the visitors for hours. He romanticizes the memory mostly due to the fact that he claims "thousand lira" tips rained down from the crowd, and that he and his brother were able to live for six months off of that night (though Marco refutes the claim and states it was more like two months). Catherine implores him to sing, and in this quote, he sings a few bars of the song "Paper Doll."

Eddie quickly becomes angry and tells Rodolpho to stop singing, even though Beatrice and Catherine want him to continue--he has a beautiful, high tenor voice. Eddie claims he wants Rodolpho to stop because the neighbors may become suspicious if they suddenly hear singing from a house where previously no such voice came from. However, it is also likely due to the content of the song that Eddie becomes paranoid. The lyrics are about keeping a woman away from other men, as if she were a "paper doll" that could be kept in a pocket for "safekeeping." Eddie views Catherine like his own paper doll, a child that will be his forever. He can already sense that Catherine's allegiance to him is waning in light of her enchantment with Rodolpho, and it is the combination of the content of the song and annoyance at Rodolpho's talent that prompts Eddie to shut up his houseguest. 

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“Paper Doll” Symbol Timeline in A View from the Bridge

The timeline below shows where the symbol “Paper Doll” appears in A View from the Bridge. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Immigration, Home, and Belonging Theme Icon
Love and Desire Theme Icon
...Catherine is intrigued and wants to hear him sing. He sings a song called “ Paper Doll .” (full context)
Love and Desire Theme Icon
...He says that Rodolpho sings while working, so that the other longshoremen have nicknamed him Paper Doll . He says Rodolpho is “weird” and has “wacky hair.” (full context)
Respect, Honor, Reputation Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
Eddie says that people on the docks call Rodolpho “ Paper Doll ” and “Blondie,” and laugh at him. Alfieri again tells Eddie that there is no... (full context)
Love and Desire Theme Icon
Respect, Honor, Reputation Theme Icon
Maturity and Independence Theme Icon
Catherine puts on a record, playing the song “ Paper Doll ,” and asks Rodolpho if he wants to dance. Rodolpho and Catherine dance, and Beatrice... (full context)
Respect, Honor, Reputation Theme Icon
Maturity and Independence Theme Icon
...fine. Eddie says he’ll teach Rodolpho again sometime. Catherine and Rodolpho dance again to “ Paper Doll .” (full context)