A View from the Bridge

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Themes and Colors
Immigration, Home, and Belonging Theme Icon
Love and Desire Theme Icon
Respect, Honor, Reputation Theme Icon
Justice and the Law Theme Icon
Maturity and Independence Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A View from the Bridge, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Justice and the Law Theme Icon

The fact that the audience’s guide through the events of the play is Alfieri, a lawyer, suggests that issues of law and justice have a central importance in A View from the Bridge. Specifically, many aspects of the play raise the question of whether the law is an adequate or ultimate authority on what is right and wrong. Throughout the play, the law fails to match up with various characters’ ideas of justice. From the beginning, the presence of illegal immigrants questions the justness of strict immigration laws that force Marco and Rodolpho to hide in Eddie’s apartment, after making a perilous journey to America in the hopes of honest work. As Eddie grows suspicious of Rodolpho, he asks Alfieri for help, but Alfieri tells him he has no legal recourse as Rodolpho has done nothing illegal. Eddie is then upset because he feels that Rodolpho’s behavior simply isn’t right, and that he should have some way of getting justice for Catherine and himself. When Eddie finally turns on Rodolpho and Marco, he is behaving legally, and helping the Immigration Bureau enforce the law. But, in doing so, he is also betraying his own family, and in this way not delivering justice. After Marco is put in prison, he wants his own form of justice through revenge, but Alfieri warns him not to violate the law and appeals to a higher form of justice when he tells Marco that he should leave the question of justice to God. For Marco, the law is in conflict with his idea of natural justice, and so he goes on to stab Eddie. If Eddie chooses the law over justice in turning Marco and Rodolpho in, Marco chooses his own form of justice over the law in killing Eddie.

As these examples suggest, the play can be read as displaying the failures of the law to guarantee real justice. Alfieri describes himself as powerless several times, emphasizing his inability as a man of law to stop the tragic events of the play. However, those who try to take action on behalf of their own ideas of justice regardless of the law end up causing themselves and others harm. When he has no legal recourse to separate Rodolpho and Catherine, Eddie turns Rodolpho and Marco in, setting off a chain of events that ostracizes him from his family and neighborhood (and also leads to his own death). And Marco’s attempt to find justice by killing Eddie results in only more pain for his family, with Eddie’s tragic death at the end of the play. The play can thus be seen as rather ambivalent about the relationship between justice and the law: the law does not necessarily cover all issues of right and wrong adequately. Not all that is legal is right, and not all that is illegal is always wrong. But at the same time, the play cautions against taking justice into one’s own hands, which both Marco’s and Eddie’s actions reveal to be a dangerous, not to mention ineffective course of action.

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Justice and the Law ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Justice and the Law appears in each act of A View from the Bridge. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Justice and the Law Quotes in A View from the Bridge

Below you will find the important quotes in A View from the Bridge related to the theme of Justice and the Law.
Act 1 Quotes

Eddie:
There was a family lived next door to her mother, he was about sixteen—

Beatrice:
No, he was no more than fourteen, cause I was to his confirmation in Saint Agnes. but the family had an uncle that they were hidin’ in the house, and he snitched to the Immigration.

Catherine:
The kid snitched?

Eddie:
On his own uncle!

Catherine:
What, was he crazy?

Eddie:
He was crazy after, I tell you that, boy.

Beatrice:
Oh, it was terrible. He had five brothers and the old father. And they grabbed him in the kitchen and pulled him down the stairs—three flights his head was bouncin’ like a coconut. And they spit on him in the street, his own father and his brothers. The whole neighborhood was cryin’.

Related Characters: Eddie Carbone (speaker), Beatrice (speaker), Catherine (speaker)
Page Number: 17-18
Explanation and Analysis:

Prior to Marco and Rodolpho arriving at the house, Eddie and Beatrice tell Catherine the cautionary tale of a boy who informed Immigration officers that there was an illegal immigrant, his uncle, living in their house. They do so in order to warn her not to do anything to bring attention to the two illegal Italian immigrants they are soon to have live in their home. This story illustrates the pride that Red Hook residents have in their blood relatives, and the collective horror and shame that the neighborhood feels when someone betrays one of their own. Though the concept of justice is palpable throughout the neighborhood, as Alfieri notes in his opening monologue, it is a kind of vigilante justice rather than one that aligns with the actual law (which would approve of the arrest of an illegal immigrant). This anecdote illustrates how protective each family feels for its members, and the shame and disappointment thrust upon anyone, even a young boy, who betrays it (as Eddie himself will later).

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Alfieri:
Is there a question of law somewhere?

Eddie:
That’s what I want to ask you.

Alfieri:
Because there’s nothing illegal about a girl falling in love with an immigrant.

Related Characters: Eddie Carbone (speaker), Alfieri (speaker), Catherine, Rodolpho
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

Fed up with his inability to convince Catherine that Rodolpho is up to no good, Eddie goes to Alfieri to see if the law can intervene in what seems to be the impending marriage of Catherine and the immigrant. 

In this quote, Alfieri fails to give Eddie the answer he seeks. He informs Eddie that there is nothing illegal about Rodolpho and Catherine falling in love with each other. The only way in which the law can object to the situation is that Rodolpho is an illegal immigrant, although, of course, by marrying Catherine, he would be able to apply for citizenship. Though "sham marriages" are illegal, from every angle except for Eddie's suspicions, Catherine and Rodolpho are genuinely smitten with one another. Eddie's only recourse to split up Catherine and Rodolpho would be to give up Rodolpho's name to Immigration--an act that, in Red Hook, is considered to be one of merciless betrayal. 

Act 2 Quotes

Catherine. If I take in my hands a little bird. And she grows and wishes to fly. But I will not let her out of my hands because I love her so much, is that right for me to do?

Related Characters: Rodolpho (speaker), Catherine
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Rodolpho, like Beatrice and Alfieri, has noticed that Eddie is overly protective of Catherine. Though Catherine expresses her worry about how Eddie will feel if she leaves the house to marry Rodolpho, he assures her that she has the license to make her own way in the world once she is grown.

In this quote, Rodolpho uses the metaphor of a baby bird to symbolize Catherine's situation with Eddie. Even though Eddie has raised her, Catherine still has the right to leave the home now that she is fully matured. Rodolpho, a romantic man who loves all things beautiful, works his way into Catherine's heart with flowery language such as in this quote. Here, he quite literally tells Catherine that if you love something, set it free--though in this case he is referring to the fact that her uncle should set her free from the chains of his love for her, so that the two young people can be married. 

This is my last word, Eddie, take it or not, that’s your business. Morally and legally you have no rights, you cannot stop it; she is a free agent.

Related Characters: Alfieri (speaker), Eddie Carbone, Catherine
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

After confronting Catherine and Rodolpho--and kissing both of them, to prove his ownership of Catherine and his belief that Rodolpho is a homosexual--Eddie goes to Alfieri, to beg him to find a reason to use the law to separate Catherine and Rodolpho. Much like their previous conversation, Alfieri refuses. In this quote, he firmly tells Eddie that Catherine is old enough to make her own decisions, and that Eddie has no agency over whom or when she marries. Eddie longs to find some way to prove that Rodolpho is a homosexual, and that he is only interested in using Catherine to get a green card, but Alfieri says there is no way the law can intervene in these suspicions. It is this conversation that prompts Eddie to take matters into his own hands, and to invoke the law the only way he can think of: calling the Immigration Office and informing them of two illegal immigrants living in his apartment. This is an act of desperation that comes from a place of extreme hopelessness and lack of control, and though it is "right" from a legal perspective, on any other level it is an act of betrayal. 

The law is only a word for what has a right to happen. When the law is wrong it’s because it’s unnatural, but in this case it is natural and a river will drown you if you buck it now. Let her go. And bless her.

Related Characters: Alfieri (speaker), Eddie Carbone, Catherine
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Alfieri insinuates that the only way the law might intervene in the case of Catherine is if Eddie does something drastic to act upon his feelings for her. Even though he is not a part of the family and has not seen firsthand how attached to Catherine Eddie is, Alfieri can tell that Eddie's feelings of ownership for Catherine come from a place of romantic, not just paternal, love. Alfieri's hands are tied: he anticipates that something tragic will happen, and all he can do is to urge Eddie to let Catherine live her life as she pleases. He warns Eddie that these feelings of attachment and rage will only serve to hurt him, not hurt those whom he has hatred for. And by hurting himself, he will end up scarring those that he loves--namely, Catherine. 

That one! I accuse that one!

Related Characters: Marco (speaker), Eddie Carbone
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

After Eddie's outbust, Rodolpho and Marco move to an upstairs apartment in the same building, thanks to Beatrice's quick arrangements. Eddie realizes too late that two other immigrants are also living in the flat, and therefore will be caught by the Immigration Officers. The officers arrive and take the four immigrants away. No one is in doubt that it is Eddie who did this, and as Marco is being dragged away, he spits in Eddie's face. In this quote, he accuses Eddie of tattling on the immigrants in front of the whole neighborhood. As we know from Eddie's previous anecdote about the young boy who gave up a relative to Immigration, to betray family members squatting in the neighborhood in order to find work and send money back to their families is an unforgivable crime. By resorting to his last hope to involve the law in separating Catherine and Rodolpho, Eddie has in fact committed the worst crime that a Redhook citizen can commit in the eyes of vigilante law: betrayal. 

Alfieri:
To promise not to kill is not dishonorable.

Marco:
No?

Alfieri:
No.

Marco:
Then what is done with such a man.

Alfieri:
Nothing. If he obeys the law, he lives. That’s all.

Marco:
The law? All the law is not in a book.

Alfieri:
Yes. In a book. There is no other law.

Marco:
He degraded my brother. My blood. He robbed my children, he mocks my work. I work to come here, mister!

Alfieri:
I know, Marco—

Marco:
There is no law for that? Where is the law for that?

Alfieri:
There is none.

Related Characters: Alfieri (speaker), Marco (speaker), Eddie Carbone, Rodolpho
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

After being arrested by the Immigration officers, Alfieri meets with Marco and Rodolpho to discuss their options--of which, really, there are none. Alfieri agrees to bail them out on the condition that they don't immediately seek revenge on Eddie. 

In this quote, Alfieri's conversation with Marco mirrors his conversation with Eddie, in that he tells both men that there is no law to appease their hatred: Eddie for Rodolpho's courting of Catherine, Marco for Eddie's betrayal. The kind of justice that these men seek is the right to retain their pride, to retain something of which they, legally, have no right (Eddie's feelings of ownership over Catherine's life, Marco's residency in the United States as an illegal immigrant). The fervent sense of justice that the residents of Red Hook feel is one of pride and vigilante law. Alfieri, as a lawyer, is legally obligated to tell his clients what the law can or cannot do; as an immigrant and member of the Red Hook community for 25 years, he urges his clients not to commit crimes for the sake of revenge and pride. The robbery that both men claim is not a motive that would stand up in a court of law, nor should it fuel violence on the streets of Brooklyn. And yet, citizens of these streets often feel that when the law fails their needs, they must take matters into their own hands.  

This is not God, Marco. You hear? Only God makes justice.

Related Characters: Alfieri (speaker), Marco
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

Though Marco seeks revenge for Eddie's betrayal, he has no legal recourse whatsoever. As an illegal immigrant, he is not allowed to be living or working in Brooklyn, and in the eyes of the law, Eddie has done the right thing. However, in the eyes of community and family justice, Eddie has committed an unforgivable act of betrayal. In this quote, Alfieri urges Marco not to act on his vengeful feelings, no matter how angry he is. Alfieri knows that Marco is desperate: when he is sent back to Italy, his starving family will be awaiting his return. The U.S. was his only chance for a livelihood. Without any work, he and his family will continue to suffer. To Marco, Eddie has stripped him and his family of their entire future. Alfieri knows that this desperation and hopelessness might drive Marco to murder Eddie. In this quote, he urges Marco not to murder his betrayer, since while he feel like he must make his own justice, God will know that he has sinned, and he will one day pay the ultimate price. 

I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from his memory—not purely good, but himself purely, for he allowed himself to be wholly known and for that I think I will love him more than all my sensible clients. And yet, it is better to settle for half, it must be! And so I mourn him—I admit it—with a certain . . . alarm.

Related Characters: Alfieri (speaker), Eddie Carbone
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

As the framing device and "Greek chorus" of the play, Alfieri closes the play with a monologue, just as he opened it. After Marco kills Eddie with the knife that Eddie hoped to stab him with, Alfieri reminisces on the kind of man that Eddie was. Prior to the betrayal, he was commonly known as a good, hardworking man. Alfieri notes that Eddie was "himself purely"--though it was not good of him to have such strong feelings for Catherine, and to do what he did to Marco and Rodolpho, everything mad that he did was done for the passion of the love he felt. Alfieri insinuates that he will "love him more" than all of his "sensible clients," because though Eddie ultimately brought about his own death, his actions were largely fueled by too much love--until they were funneled into hatred. This closing commentary by Alfieri highlights the nuances of Eddie's character, as both the protagonist and the villain of the play--the man whose love ended up killing him.