' "A View from the Bridge" is a play set firmly in an immigrant culture, ruled by its own laws.' How important are the Sicilian codes of conduct and honour to the development of the play? The Sicilian codes of conduct and honour contribute in a major way to the development of Arthur Miller's play "A View from the Bridge". The Sicilian codes in Red Hook, the area where the play is set, were brought from Italy by the many Italian immigrants settled in the community.
The Sicilian codes are the same thing as the Old World values; they are a set of principles that Sicilian and Italian people live by. However, there are some New World values creeping into the community from the younger generations brought up in America, which is the cause of most of the conflict in the play – New World versus Old World values. The New World values are the laws and justice in courts rather than in the streets. There are many parts to both sets of values but, in the case of the Sicilian codes, they are all based upon honour and respect.
One of the most important strands of the Sicilian codes is that of not betraying your family in any way. 'the family had an uncle they were hidin' in the house, and he snitched to the immigration…they grabbed him in the kitchen and pulled him down the stairs – three flights his head was bouncing like a coconut. And they spit on him in the street, his own father and brothers'. Eddie, Beatrice and Catherine all show their agreement with this idea and it is only much later and because he feels that there is no other way that Eddie goes against it.
I want to report something. Illegal immigrants'. This is probably the ultimate act of betrayal for Eddie and other believers in the Sicilian codes at this point in the play, and it is a major turning point in the development of the play. In the conflict between Old and New World values Eddie has turned to New world values because he has discarded the Old World values by telling the immigration people and siding with the law. We can tell that this is an unforgivable thing to do because of the reactions of the people in the community. 'Louis! Louis! Louis barely turns, then walks off and exits'. This shows that the community as a whole still very much believes in the Old World values rather than siding with the law. Even Alfieri, a symbol in himself of the New World values, as a lawyer, cannot imagine Eddie betraying his family. 'But I don't think you want to do anything about that, do you?'
Justice generally, in Eddie's community, is not handed out by the courts but by the people who feel wronged. Marco puts this into words when he says 'All the law is not in a book'. The immigrant community doesn't like the New World ways of categorising things and acting on evidence rather than feelings. They feel that this lets people get away with things they shouldn't do, and they like to have punishments for those who do morally wrong not just legally wrong.
Another important value to those who abide by the Sicilian codes is always wanting better for your children than you had and being very protective of them. This is another way we see the importance of family in the immigrant community. Eddie shows his protectiveness of Catherine right from the start, when he says 'I think it's too short, ain't it' about Catherine's skirt. He does not wish his niece to be thought of as a loose woman. Also, he emphasises the traditional wish for each generation to do better for themselves by saying, 'I want you to be with different kind of people'. In the business of being protective Eddie treats Catherine like his own daughter, though he is not a blood relative of her, as would any honourable man in the Sicilian community.
The protectiveness is also important in the context of looking after the whole family and the men being the leaders and the breadwinners. This is a very macho society where women are dominated by their husbands and fathers. Eddie demonstrates this when he says, 'I don't like it! The way you talk to me and the way you look at me. This is my house.' This makes Eddie feel like he has power over the women of the house, and he thinks of them almost as property subconsciously. 'He's stealing from me!'.
This is Eddie's reaction to Rodolfo's relationship with Catherine, and, as well as showing that he is in love with his niece, it demonstrates how he views Catherine, as property. This is an Old World view of women, whereas Rodolfo, as part of the next generation, shows he feels for Catherine as a person not just wants her for property by saying 'you are not a horse, a gift, a favour for a poor immigrant'. Rodolfo has subscribed to a more modern way of viewing women compared to Eddie's view that women are property to be dominated.
Eddie tries to use honour as an excuse for his reactions to Rodolfo, by saying and even thinking that he is just protecting Catherine, as any self-respecting father or uncle would, from a man who is obviously wrong for her. This is the front that he puts on, or maybe believes in, to his family. He says things like, 'He don't respect you', 'I mean if you close the paper fast – you could blow him over' and 'And with that wacky hair; he's like a chorus girl or sump'm'.
Eddie uses anything he can to make Rodolfo seem unfit for Catherine, and takes great pains to try to prove he is homosexual, because he is not only making Catherine happier than Eddie can, but he is less of a macho, old world, "manly" man so Eddie thinks there must be something wrong with him and twists everything about him. The way that Eddie feels about Rodolfo doing things like cooking and singing show another contrast between Old and New world values. For more modern people like Rodolfo and Catherine there is nothing wrong with men doing things that women have traditionally done but the older generations like Eddie see it as not "being a man".