A View From the Bridge
A View From The Bridge – The Story of One Love
The play A View From The Bridge, written by Arthur Miller, is about a longshoreman who welcomes his wife’s cousins as illegal immigrants. However, as the play develops, Eddie becomes jealous of his niece and Rodolpho, which causes the relationship between Eddie; a man with a strong sense of decency and Marco; a man with a strong sense of protection, to get worse.
Before the arrival of Marco and Rodolpho, Miller presents an Eddie who is not at all convinced of their arrival; this is shown when Eddie doesn’t want to buy a new tablecloth to welcome them, this suggests they are not at all important, therefore they don’t require spending money making them a manorial reception. “I’ll end up on the floor with you, and they’ll be in our bed.” This reveals Eddie’s preoccupation of losing importance in his family due to the arrival of two immigrants taking his possessions away from him forever because the use of the word “floor” indicates minority due to the level where it is found compared with the “bed.”
When Marco and Rodolpho arrive, Miller shows Eddie behaving like a man; demonstrating his matureness. Eddie welcomes and accommodates Marco, you’re welcome Marco you have plenty of room here suggesting respect towards Marco as Marco is Eddie’s relative and he should look after him. Eddie gives an image of a friendly, trustworthy person to his wife’s cousins “Oh, you guys’ll be all right” giving them confidence by means of using the exclamation “oh” that expresses range of emotions; in this case, unconcern. This makes Marco feel completely safe, therefore he sends 20 dollars back home as he thinks he is in a stable condition where he is going to be able to support his family for a long period of time. The first thing Miller makes Marco say to Eddie, was “when you say go, we will go” this demonstrates how important Eddie is for Marco since the use of the pronoun “you” clearly addresses Eddie. Marco is also positioning Eddie beyond them as Eddie has enlarged the family in an illegal way for a period of time due to the poor quality of life in Italy. As each member of the family gets to know each other, Catherine and Rodolpho fall in love. From this romance, Miller then creates a jealous feeling in Eddie, which leads to some hurtful words towards Marco they count the kids and there’s a couple extra then when they left. This words used by Miller are aiming to insult Marco, suggesting that his wife is having a sexual relationship with other men whilst he is working abroad through the use of the word “kids” which involves pregnancy and family care. However he is not only trying to hurt Marco, but also make a joke on him as Eddie says this words “laughing.” which is also a way to despice and ridicule someone. By these words, Marco realises that Eddie is not that friendly and therefore a sense of discomfort starts in them. For example, later on in their conversation Miller makes Marco answer “cautiously;” which is an allusion to circumspection but also the fact that he is answering with caution also refers to cunning and subtlety by means of a derision. This allusions of Marco created by Miller generate a sense of rivalry towards Eddie as Marco is trying to challenge him through his natural responses but sharp thoughts.
As the play develops, Miller starts to suggest a power battle between Eddie and Marco. They are trying to demonstrate who is greater than the other. Eddie is cunning and he demonstrates this quality of his on various occasions throughout the play. At the end of Act 1 Eddie teaches Rodolpho how to box however it is all a montage; actually he is humiliating his weakness and lack of masculinity in front of his relatives. Miller shows this when Rodolpho is too “embarrassed” to box with Eddie as he is a man and doesn’t know how a men’s sports works. Also, Eddie “mildly staggers Rodolpho,” hurting him as Rodolpho responds with “a certain gleam” which is a gesture of disguised pain. This embarrassment towards Rodolpho makes Marco’s responsibility intervene in Eddie’s malicious actions, leading to the chair scene. Miller decided to include the chair because it creates a conflict between both character which at the end becomes a symbol of masculinity and destruction. The chair in the play, represents strength as it’s an object which is “hard” to lift, converting the chair in a challenging object for Eddie. The chair belongs to Eddie, who is not able to lift the chair, creating discontent in Eddie as he is not capable of lifting his own chair. The fact that is Eddies own chair, creates a rivalry between Eddie and Marco as this feeling is the foreshadow of Eddie’s awareness about losing importance in his family. Miller decided to place the chair scene at the end of act 1, to create a shocking effect as Eddie and Marco end “face to face” which is an action of confrontation and therefore, leave the audience with suspense for the next scene. Nonetheless, Marco is presented by Miller to be as cunning as Eddie, therefore he makes the same move to him. He asks a simple question “Can you lift that chair?” with only one answer; no as it’s a rhetorical question that Eddie is not meant to answer. Yet Eddie doesn’t want to let himself down, as he is completely confident of himself, answering “yes, why not” but not being strong enough to lift it and giving an image of a man with no masculinity. Marco’s play on Eddie, is shown to prove that not only immigrants have lack of masculinity as Eddie is not an immigrant and has no strength to lift a chair, whilst Marco is completely capable of lifting a chair with no difficulty. This clear image shows the audience equality between both Marco and Eddie.
Towards the end of the play, when the tension reaches its peak, Miller shows how Eddie’s jealousy causes him to report his guests to the Immigration office. When Marco finds out that it was Eddie who called the Immigration office, he realises that Eddie’s actions have “killed my children,” converting the scenario into a complete barbarism as the word “killed” involves a strong hurtful action. Therefore, Marco confronts Eddie in front of the whole neighbourhood – causing Eddie’s loss of respect. Marco does this by spitting Eddie the on face which is a gesture of contempt. With this action, Miller decided to demonstrate to the audience, how a high feeling of honour and reputation grows in their relationship. “Marco strikes Eddie beside the neck”; “Eddie rises the knife” this shows how both characters challenge one another, to see who is more trustworthy as the word “strike” implies a painful action, and the word “rise” suggest high sense of honour as its a victorious action. Marco uses verbal conflict “anima-a-l!” to sustain his reputation, by the use of the word “animal,”Marco is showing his wild side as the word “animal” suggests aggressiveness. Eddie defends his honour in a different way; by demanding and ordering actions, “I want my respect”, “I want my name” both this quotations, imply superiority as Edie is demanding Marco his “name” and “respect” which are both personal belongings. By the way of challenging, Miller shows two furious characters who fight for their honour and reputation.
In conclusion, Eddie’s and Marco’s relationship grows rotten as the play develops; this is due to Eddie’s jealousy and Marco’s high sense of protection. Eddie is always demanding respect and talking about family honour however, his actions result him in losing everything he has always loved. Miller presents both characters with different qualities yet the actions Miller presents in the play transform both characters in powerful men. However power defeats both of them as Eddie dies and Marco gets deported back to Italy. This implies that their relationship was completely unnecessary as neither of them ended with what they dreamed of.
Importance of Settings in Arthur Miller’s a View From the Bridge
In A View From the Bridge, Arthur Miller effectively uses different settings in the play in order to make allusions, characterize characters, and set moods. Miller’s allusions to the 1950s culture characterize Eddie, the main character, as a stereotypical closed-minded male during the decade. The two most important place settings, Eddie’s apartment in the Red Hood neighborhood and Alfieri’s law office, are commonly used to set moods and tones and develop conflicts with the play.
By setting the plot of A View From the Bridge in the 1950’s and incorporating cultural ideas from the decade into the plot and characterization, Arthur Miller effectively uses allusions of the decade’s ideas to convey the values of many characters in the play. Miller often characterizes Eddie as a commanding and overbearing husband and uncle, trying to parallel him to the stereotypical, narrow minded men from the decade. As Eddie insists that Catherine to marry a “better” husband and refuses her to obtain a job, it becomes clear to the audience that like most men in the decade, Eddie believes that women should only be housewives. Eddie’s constant abuse of his wife, Beatrice, further aids in the characterization that Eddie, like most men during the decade, believed that they were the sole head of household. Eddie and the other minor character’s mockery of Rodolpho’s homosexual characteristics parallels the importance of masculinity among men and sub ordinance of “feminine” characteristics during the 1950s. The aggressive hunt for illegal immigrants by the immigration office alludes to the McCarthyism witch hunts of the 1950s. By Miller characterizing Marco as a kind, hard-working illegal immigrant, the audience feels sympathy for Marco as he pleads for his release from the immigration office just like Americans realized and gave sympathy for those who were unrightfully accused as communists during the McCarthy Era.
By characterizing Eddie’s apartment, the main setting of the play, with two allegories, Arthur Miller successfully characterizes the apartment as a catalyst of conflict. From Marco and Rodolpho’s point of view, the apartment is a symbol of safety and comfort as they try to obtain the American Dream. However, as a contrast, Eddie views his apartment as only a temporary home for the illegal immigrants and as a result, his point of view is the cause of a conflict with Beatrice as she continues to open the apartment to the illegal immigrants. Eddie’s pride over his apartment later becomes his hubris as the plot progresses to the indeterminate ending when Marco comes back to revenge against Eddie for turning him in.
The description of Eddie’s apartment as in the “slum that faces the bay at seaward side,” and “lack [of] elegance, glamour” is perhaps the most important imagery used to describe setting throughout the play by Arthur Miller. The plain, tenement-like conditions of Eddie’s apartment and the deplorable conditions of the Red Hook neighborhood, highly contrasting from the glamour and grandeur often stereotyped with New York City, compels Catherine to gain independence from Eddie. As Catherine continues to desire to leave the apartment through obtaining a job and stay out late with Rodolpho, Eddie develops both external and internal conflicts as his response to Catherine’s behavior. The conflicts convey a frustrating tone in the play especially whenever Eddie is at the apartment. As the frustrating tone intensifies, the conflicts eventually lead to the rising action where Eddie’s opposition to Catherine’s behavior and belief that Rodolpho is the cause of her behavior motivates Eddie to notify immigration officials about Marco and Rodolpho.
Arthur Miller effectively uses the scenes at Alfieri’s law office as transitions from the rather chaotic and frustrating tone that is felt in the scenes at the apartment. When Eddie is at Alfieri’s law office, Miller characterizes Eddie as a hopeless, worrisome, and caring uncle that comes to seek for advice on how to help Catherine rather than the overprotective, relentless uncle at the apartment. However, but instead of the audience shifting empathy towards Eddie’s character, Alfieri’s objective telling of the law captures the audience’s attention that perhaps Eddie’s fierce opposition to Catherine’s behavior and relationship with Rodolpho is extremely out of proportion. Because of the transitional characterization of Eddie and the opposing mood simulated, Miller is able to use Alfieri and his law office as a symbol of reality and foreshadowing the inevitable marriage that would occur between Catherine and Rodolpho.
In his A View From The Bridge, Arthur Miller transitions settings in order to convey conflicts between characters, characterizes characters, set moods, and make allusions. Like Miller’s other works, he draws allusions from the 1950s to incorporate into the play also based in the 1950s. In the apartment scenes, Miller intensifies conflicts between the main character Eddie and other characters. By transitioning into a more calm and relaxed mood in Alfieri’s law office, Miller is able to foreshadow future events of the play in a realistic approach.
A View From the Bridge by Arthur Miller. Story Analysis
A View from the Bridge Drama Paper
In every story there exists a main character in which the central narrative revolves around. Often, protagonists come into conflict with opposing forces or characters contrary to their own set of beliefs. They are usually written in a way so that readers can sympathize with the motives that drive them to action. Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge depicts the self-destructive decisions of the protagonist Eddie Carbone as it eventually results to his tragic demise. It all begins with his difficulty in accepting the fact that his niece, Catherine, is growing up to become a woman wholly capable of making her own choices outside of his control. When she begins a romance with one of the illegal immigrants that arrives from Italy, cousins to his wife Beatrice, Eddie becomes hysterical with his actions in an attempt to separate them. In a last desperate move to prevent them from marrying one another, he goes to report the sibling illegal immigrants, Marco and Rodolpho, to the Immigration Bureau. This only results in a concluding fight on Catherine and Rodolpho’s wedding day between the two men, in which Eddie Carbone doesn’t emerge from alive. Due to Eddie’s harsh actions and unwillingness for acceptance throughout the play, it increasingly becomes a challenge to be able to sympathize with his character. Eddie Carbone is a protagonist constantly trying to establish his dominance in the household, trying to take control of the lives around him. Another reason as to what makes him an unsympathetic character is his adamant refusal to let his niece live her own life as he seems intent on seeking to monopolize her. He’s rather impulsive when it comes to his decisions, intent only on gratifying his own desires while disregarding the feelings of those around him. Eddie Carbone is a protagonist that’s difficult to sympathize with as he, himself, makes no effort to sympathize with others.
Throughout the play, Eddie constantly tries to remind everyone in the household that his word is right and that respect should be dutifully paid to him. In the second half of the first act, Eddie becomes indignant about Rodolpho and Catherine spending time together out in the city. He addresses Catherine about the issue that Rodolpho should “ask your father’s permission before he run around with you like this” and later, brings up the topic again when everyone is gathered in the same room as he looks to Marco for some sort of validity by appealing to the traditions back in Italy,“ but in your town you wouldn’t just drag off some girl without permission.” Further into the play, when Marco and Rodolpho have moved to an upstairs room, Eddie goes on to explicitly say “I want my respect” despite the fact that they are no longer concerned with each other’s lives. He also complains about Beatrice’s behavior towards him, disregarding that he has only been unpleasant towards everyone ever since the beginning and that her dislike towards him stems from his irrational actions. It becomes increasingly difficult for readers to become sympathetic to Eddie’s plight when he refuses to listen to everyone else, as his reputation is the only thing that’s important to him. In the final confrontation scene while everyone else aside from Marco is trying to make amends so that the day doesn’t end in bloodshed, Eddie chooses to refuse the apologies and only seeks for his dignity to be restored by Marco despite originally committing multiple misdeeds against the brothers. He refuses to acknowledge that he was wrong due to his pride, even going as far to claim “tell them what a liar you are,” in an attempt to place the blame on someone other than himself. At this point, there is no compassion left to feel for Eddie because despite being reprehensible, he constantly makes efforts to shift the blame from him to others instead of accepting the guilt he created himself.
It is usually difficult for fathers to accept that their daughters are growing up and that eventually, they will leave the nest. In Eddie’s case, he becomes extremely possessive of Catherine to the point where it almost seems like she is his possession. It is remarked by both the lawyer he’s acquainted with, Alfieri, and Beatrice that his love for his niece is far too strong and that he will never “have” her in the way he wishes to. In the middle of act one, Carbone goes to seek legal advice from the lawyer Alfieri who after hearing Eddie’s complaints, mentions that “there’s too much love for the niece” and “it goes where it mustn’t” although Eddie seems to “never realizes it.” Eventually in anger, Carbone bursts out that Rodolpho “takes and puts his dirty filthy hands on her like a goddam thief” as if referring to Catherine as his possession. As soon as Alfieri makes the argument that Catherine is an adult and that she is choosing to marry Rodolpho, Eddie exclaims that “he’s stealing from me” because he can only see his niece as something he wants but cannot have. In the final scene, the idea that Eddie feels something for Catherine beyond that of filial love is further established by Beatrice when she accuses Eddie that “You want somethin’ else, Eddie, and you can never have her” because for the past couple of months, Eddie has been ignoring Beatrice and her growing suspicion that he feels something for Catherine ever since she matured has been solidified due to the threat that someone else is going to take her away from Eddie. His obsession with Catherine causes him to act erratically, hurting those around him because he doesn’t get to keep who he desires. Eddie doesn’t sympathize with the feelings of his niece and wife, barely making an effort to listen to their opinions, which causes everyone else to retaliate against him.
Eddie is the type of person who prefers to intimidate rather than solve things through words, making it another obstacle to understand him as a character. An instance in which he resorts to aggressive behavior is when he tries to terrorize Rodolpho under the pretense of teaching the boy how to box. He uses it as a way to establish his power over the younger boy, which is easily refuted as soon as Marco lifts a chair “raised like a weapon over Eddie’s head.” Another instance is in act two when Eddie pins Rodolpho’s arms and kisses him to prove that the other boy “ain’t right” when he doesn’t make a move to fight off Eddie. Carbone is always acting in detestable ways just so he can prove a point because he strongly believes that his opinions are always right. He’s usually the first one to provoke a challenge in order to demonstrate that the one misguided is not him. In the final scene of the play, Eddie is transfixed on meeting Marco’s challenge and would rather resort to violence than reconcile with the person he’s originally wronged. The result of the fight is evident when Eddie is stabbed by the knife he brought, figuratively signifying how the cause of his fall was brought about by his own selfish choices made throughout the play. Any level of sympathy that Eddie can garner is lost as soon as he decided to react aggressively and impulsively without thinking of the resulting consequences.
Protagonists are usually written with appeal but readers may find it a struggle to hold any sympathy for the leading character in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. Eddie Carbone’s refusal to listen and understand others around him including his aggressive outbursts are all uncharacteristic for a sympathetic protagonist. The strong attachment he has for Catherine serves as a catalyst for his cruel treatment towards Marco and Rodolpho throughout the play, ultimately resulting in his tragic death at the hands of Marco. Due to Eddie’s various problematic traits and actions, the amount of sympathy that he can elicit from the readers are minimal as the actions he takes from beginning to end are merely carried out because of his selfish desires. He is a character who makes little to no effort in listening to the opinions of those around him, as he stubbornly pursues what he wants to achieve. Starting from the moment Eddie Carbone chose to disregard his family as he became unsympathetic to their plight and only elected to gratify his feelings, it evidently became harder for readers to share any sympathy for a man consumed entirely by cruelty.
Explore how the theme of love is portrayed in “A view from the bridge”.
Love—of one kind or another—is the main motivator of Miller’s characters in this play, and drives the major events of its plot. Catherine’s love for Rodolfo and Eddie’s intense love for Catherine lead to the central problems of the play. But even before this, it is Marco’s love for his family that motivates him to come to America, and it is Beatrice’s love for her extended family that causes her to have Marco and Rodolfo stay in her home.
Beyond this, though, A View from the Bridge especially explores the way in which people are driven by desires that don’t fit the mold of normal or traditional forms of familial and romantic love. For one thing, Eddie’s love for Catherine is extreme and hard to define exactly. He is conspicuously overprotective, and yet he is supposed to be a father figure for her.
Unfortunately, as Beatrice subtly hints several times, his love for Catherine often crosses this line and becomes a kind of incestuous desire for his niece, whom he has raised like a daughter. This repressed taboo desire—which Eddie vehemently denies—erupts to the surface when Eddie grabs Catherine and kisses her in front of Rodolfo.
Eddie may also have other repressed desires. Directly after kissing Catherine, he kisses Rodolfo, as well. He claims that this is to prove that Rodolfo is homosexual (an accusation he constantly implies but never says outright), but as he is the one to restrain Rodolfo and forcefully kiss him, his motivations are dubious.
Throughout the play, Eddie is disproportionately obsessed with proving that Rodolfo “ain’t right”, and this fixation on Rodolfo’s sexuality (combined with the fact that he does not have sex with his wife Beatrice) may suggest that there are other motivations behind Eddie’s kissing him.
Eddie is a mess of contradictory, half-repressed desires that are difficult to pin down or define, perhaps even for him. Through this tragically tormented and conflicted character, Miller shows that people are often not aware of their own desires, and reveals the power that these desires can exert over people. Eddie’s suffocating love for Catherine becomes a desire to possess her. He even claims that Rodolfo is ‘stealing’ from him, as if she were an object he owned.
His obsession with Catherine drives him apart from his family and leads him to betray Beatrice’s cousins, thereby effectively ostracizing himself from his friends and neighbors. Through the tragic descent of Eddie, A View from the Bridge can be seen not only as the drama of a family, or of an immigrant community, but also as the internal drama of Eddie’s psyche, as he is tormented and brought down by desires he himself doesn’t even fully understand.
In contrast with his obsession for Catherine, Eddie’s love for Beatrice has hit the rocks. Ironically, Catherine is his ‘daughter’ while Beatrice is his wife. At the beginning of the play there seems to be no evidence of tension in the marriage between Beatrice and Eddie. Beatrice is full of praise for her husband whom she compares to “an angel”. At the same time Eddie expresses his appreciation for his wife whom she believes has got “too big a heart”. However, the audience can see from the beginning that Eddie is nervous about Catherine getting her independence. This began much earlier and Beatrice has notice the change in her husband’s affection for her. In fact, there has been no physical relationship between them for “three months”. It appears as if the coming of the cousins and Catherine’s obvious falling in love with Rodolfo is what brings about the total break-down of the husband and wife relationship. This is more so because the wife keeps accusing the husband but the husband keeps denying. Arthur Miller has shown how inability to reject an individual’s desires can lead to a breakup of true love.
Unlike the husband wife love of Beatrice and Eddie which breaks down, Marco’s love for his wife and children undergoes many trials but doesn’t break down. Marco is a very strong man both physically and mentally. However, the only moment we see him almost breaking down emotionally is when the issue of love for family comes to the surface. The moment he arrives in the United States from Italy, the first thing he wants to do is to send his wife and children money, “he is near tears”. His love is constant and he has a lot of faith in his wife “No-no … the wemen wait, Eddie”. The same emotion can be seen when he is talking about Eddie’s humiliation of Rodolfo “he degraded my brother. My blood. He robbed my children, he mocks my work”. Marco remains true to the people he loves.
Against the family love of Marco is the romantic love between Rodolfo and Catherine. This love is also shown to with stand many trials. The biggest obstacle to this love is Eddie. At the beginning, Eddie has moral authority over Catherine _after all he is the ‘father’ that is why Catherine is ready to listen to him complaining about Rodolfo. Because she is like a daughter to him, she believes what he says and does not like to see him hurt. However, Eddie makes one nasty accusation after another against Rodolfo. He says “the boy wants his passport”, the boy is a homosexual and so on and so forth. In spite of all this, Catherine’s love for Rodolfo grows, just as her contempt for Eddie increases until, by the end of the play she refers to him as “a rat! He belongs to the sewer!”
Arthur miller has shown love to be a great motivation of the characters in his play. This can be motivation for good, as in the case for Rodolfo and Marco and it can also be motivation for purely selfish interest as is in the case of Eddie. In the end, love destroys itself when it is corrupted by inappropriate physical desire. But love triumphs when it is well meant.
A Critique of a View from the Bridge, a Play by Arthur Miller
Eddie Carbone who is the main protagonist of Arthur Miller’s play A View From The Bridge’ has a very stereotypical view of how a ‘real man’ should be. As can be evidenced with is attitude towards Rodolpho, Eddie is intolerant and even hostile towards those who do not follow the traditional image of a man. Threats to his honour or the image of his masculinity, in the form of hostility and aggression, is what causes the conflicts that appear throughout the play. The three themes entwine together and have importance towards the unfolding events of the play.
The play is set in the mid 1950’s and therefore takes place in a patriarchal society where gender inequality was seen to be a norm amongst local communities. Eddie believes that a man should provide for his family, much like a breadwinner, and be the head of the household. When Eddie first meets Marco, he approves of his role as a father which can be interpreted by the stage directions as Eddie mainly directs his speech towards Marco during the immigrants first conversation with the Carbone family. Also, when Eddie describes Marco by saying ‘They leave him alone, he would load the whole ship by himself’ it highlights Eddie’s views of masculinity which is a man who is responsible, who has a sense of duty but is also hard-working. Eddie obviously values these traits, however, the most important aspect of a man to him is the physical strength of an individual. When Marco is described to be a ‘regular bull’, Eddie is not only complementing his dedication, but also his stability.
As seen by Eddie’s likeness towards Marco’s strength, he believes that a man needs to be able to defend themselves if needs be. Additionally, loyalty is one of the qualities of a ‘real man’ to Eddie. This can be evidenced by the plays cultural background as the Red Hook community consisted of tightly- knit Italian immigrants. The quotation ‘blood is thicker than water’ illustrates how important honesty and faithfulness is to the Carbone family. Additionally, the community have its own ‘unwritten law’ which suggests that they have a specific honour code that is crucial to be respected. It highlights the fact that one does not meddle in another’s business in the Red Hook community, they turn a blind eye to complicated situations as shown in the quote ‘you don’t see nothing, you don’t know nothing’.
However, Rodolpho doesn’t confirm to Eddie’s image of an ideal man, and therefore he becomes incredibly angry when he discovers that Catherine has formed a relationship with the immigrant. The reason that he puts forth is that Rodolpho is only declaring his love for Catherine as a way of becoming an American Citizen, saying this is the ‘oldest trick in the book’. However, the reader can sense that Eddie dislikes Rodolpho’s feminine qualities as evidenced when he insults his hair by saying ‘he’s practically blond’ and ‘I just hope it’s real hair’. Additionally, Rodolpho’s has fantastic cooking, sewing and singing skills, however these qualities are more suited to a women by Eddie’s standards. Rodolpho’s talents generate spiteful names from Eddie and the other longshoremen such as ‘paper doll’ and ‘canary’ that are used to impair his courage and masculinity. Eddie insults the immigrant as Rodolpho is threatening Eddie’s masculinity by enriching on his ‘territory’, Catherine. Eddie want’s to tests Rodolpho’s “manliness” and prove his own superiority by teaching Rodolpho to box. There is definitely hostility on Eddie’s part in this scene, and it escalates to aggression when he makes Rodolpho “mildly stagger” with a blow. Eddie goes even further by suggesting that Rodolpho is homosexual. The conflict climaxes as ‘Eddie pins his arms, laughing, and suddenly kisses him’. By kissing Rodolpho on the lips, Eddie puts Rodolpho in a position where he is not a man. The purpose of this would be to humiliate and insult Rodolpho, and also to show Catherine that Rodolpho is not a ‘real man’. Some critics argue that the scene illustrates Eddie’s homosexual feelings, however, Arthur Miller never reveals Rodolpho or Eddie’s sexual preferences.
Eddie is very protective of his niece, Catherine, and when he says ‘I don’t like the looks they’re giving you in the candy store’ it highlights the fact that Eddie is uncomfortable of the idea of Catherine being attractive to other men. He disapproves of her new femininity as proven when he asks her to remove ‘them new heels’. The high heels can be interpreted as a symbol of womanhood which Catherine has just started growing into. We feel she enjoys the male attention they bring her, when she argues with Eddie about her new style “but those guys look at all the girls, you know that.” This brings out hostility in Eddie “You ain’t “all the girls”. Additionally, we see how women were seen to be of less importance that men in the 1950’s society when Eddie comes out with a passive aggressive mark at dinner ‘Do me a favour will ya’. The hidden message here is not only an order for her to remove her heels, but Eddie is also reminding Catherine that she must please and obey him as he is head of the household and demands obedience and respect.
During the ending of the play, Eddie goes against the masculine quality of honour by alerting the immigration bureau of the location of illegal immigrants, his own relatives. In his own eyes, this should make him less of a man. However, the incident isn’t a shock to the audience as they tale of Vinny Bolzano, that’s told by Beatrice, foreshadows Eddie’s acts of betrayal. Marco denounces Eddie for his crime against the unwritten law, disgracing him in front of the neighbours by saying “That one! I accuse that one!”, “ He killed my children!” This
accusation disgraces Eddie. It could cause him to become an outcast, ostracized from the community as his actions break the Red Hook’s code of honour. Eddie’s death by the hands of Marco was a result of huge aggression that was caused by built up hostilities, which were in turn provoked by the importance of honour, and other “manly” traits, to the characters of the novel.
A juxtapositioning of the opening of a street known as desire and a view from a bridge
The opening of a play is naturally one of its most important parts, serving as an introduction to its setting, characters and themes; the best openings also encapsulate both the intentions and style of the playwright. In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams describes the set in extreme details, using plastic theatre to create a vivid setting, while Arthur Miller displays a closer focus on characters, themes and dialogue in A View From the Bridge. Both of these approaches present the realism necessary for any domestic tragedy to have impact.
A Streetcar Named Desire opens with a lengthy description of the set. Williams is evidently describing something more conceptual than actually feasible, as he includes detail of “the L & N tracks and the river”, features of the landscape that would be difficult to capture on a stage, yet more abstractly juxtapose nature with industry, each out of place in this environment, and bear connotations of travel and movement. Both these ideas link to Blanche’s arrival at the Elysian Fields, out of place and finding that life has moved on without her, leaving her a relic of a previous age. Williams furthermore uses techniques of plastic theatre, building up a soundscape of the “perpetual blue piano” native to New Orleans, as well as the shouts of a tamale vendor and multiple simultaneous conversations, creating an image of a busy and vibrant community through sound alone.
By contrast, Miller gives a brief and more practical set design in A View From the Bridge, with its opening clearly more focused on the introduction of themes and characters. Alfieri’s initial soliloquy essentially gives away the “bloody course” of the play, setting out the key ideas of justice, and how the Italian and Sicilian form of social justice often clashes with the law. Alfieri’s commentary throughout the play provides an outsider’s outlook on the events with the benefit of hindsight, and the opening speech of foreshadowing is no different. By including this soliloquy, Miller alters the audience’s perception of the events that follow and their opinions of the characters themselves through Alfieri’s forgiving and understanding viewpoint.
The characters themselves are described initially, not necessarily in a greater level of detail than the set, but at a greater depth: Miller provides not only details of appearance, but also approximate age and mannerisms, with Alfieri described as “good-humoured and thoughtful”. While Miller’s characters are no more or less realistic than Williams’, this immediate focus on character and personality demonstrates how critical they are in A View From the Bridge. The importance of Eddie in particular is highlighted both figuratively and literally, being spotlighted by Alfieri but also being introduced first; the opening of the play follows Eddie through his relationships, first with his fellow workers and then with his wife and niece. It is in the latter interaction where his protectiveness of Catherine first becomes apparent, against introducing a major recurrent motif in the play – Eddie’s inappropriate feelings towards Catherine. While his doubts over her skirt being “too short” could easily be interpreted as natural paternal concern (as he acts as her guardian), Alfieri’s soliloquy lends an ominous air of foreboding to the scene.
Although Williams does not focus on character as immediately in A Streetcar Named Desire, he still uses the opening to present the characters to a similar degree of depth. Stella and Stanley are introduced as indistinguishable from the people around them; they are as likely to be main characters as Eunice and Mitch. Despite this, enough information is provided to intimate the nature of their relationship. Stanley is clearly the patriarchal head of the household and main provider, bringing the “meat” home to Stella, and his physicality is evident from the action of “heaving” the package of meat at her. It is less clear who the dominant character is, if any; while Stella is physically above Stanley on the upper floor, suggesting dominance, and tells him, “don’t holler at me” – the imperative command indicative of power – she does not hesitate to follow behind him to the bowling alley, a physical display of deference where she could have caught up to him or not followed at all. The degree to which Stella and Stanley appear unremarkable is in strong juxtaposition to Blanche’s introduction, dressed “as if she were arriving at a summer tea or garden party”, all in white and initially totally silent. From her first appearance she is a character incongruous with her surroundings, seeming lost and confused. She is also, like Eddie, the clear protagonist: the extent to which she stands out simply by her manner and appearance sets her apart from the characters introduced thus far, drawing the attention of the audience.
The openings of A Streetcar Named Desire and A View From the Bridge are indeed presented very differently, yet ultimately have the same function. Williams chooses to create a vivid sensory image of his setting, with a semi-conceptual description of the set and opening dialogue that serves to bring about a specific atmosphere, while Miller immediately introduces his themes and characters, predominantly focusing on Eddie. Despite these contrasting styles, both openings serve as introductions to the complex personalities of each play’s main characters, and begin to guide the audience through the ideas and concepts explored through the following events, as well as crucially creating the realism needed for the audience to emotionally connect to the two tragedies.
The Balance of Power in A View from the Bridge and The Lion and the Jewel
Many plays use the balance of power as a theme to drive the plot forward and to define their characters. In A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller, the patriarchal figure of Eddie becomes a tragic hero through his loss of power and reaction to this. The character of Baroka in Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel displays a similar level of power at first, yet humorously feigns weakness in what is ultimately a show of strength. For both characters, the extent of their control is demonstrated by younger, female characters: for Eddie this is his niece, Catherine, and for Baroka it is Sidi, village belle and ultimately his wife. These characters and their interactions are defined by power, and its changing balance is key to both plays.
As the head of the household in A View from the Bridge, Eddie possesses a character that is defined by the power he holds. This is initially emphasised by Miller by the fact he is the only man in the family; the women, Catherine and Beatrice, are very submissive, even if only to his face. Eddie is essentially waited on by the two women, with Catherine lighting his matches and offering to “get [him] a beer”. Despite him not overtly demanding anything of them, his dominance is very clear, particularly when he forbids Catherine from getting a job that would allow her more independence from him, with her “almost in tears because he disapproves”. Eddie’s necessary downfall, as a tragic character, therefore centres entirely around his loss of power and the way this affects him. When Marco and Rodolpho, the Italian submarines, arrive in the household, Eddie is no longer the only male figure. This alone is enough to challenge his authority, and the perceived threat causes him to increasingly assert his dominance, ordering Catherine to change her attire with the simple command, “Do me a favour, will you?” However, the more he does this, the more power he loses. By becoming overly disrespectful towards Rodolpho, he incites Marco to display his own power by threateningly raising a chair above Eddie’s head “like a weapon”, and his exaggerated control over Catherine provokes her into rebelling against him and ultimately pushes her away. Although no weakness is necessarily exposed at this point in the play, a definite lack of power is demonstrated through the shows of dominance of the other characters. This culminates in the ultimate show of control of the play: Eddie reporting the two submarines, who are powerless against the law. By resorting to this Eddie goes against the values of his entire community, exposing his real weakness to be a dependence on power and a need for control.
The character of Baroka in The Lion and the Jewel is comparable to Eddie’s in that both men have patriarchal roles. This is exaggerated in Baroka as he is the village chief and possesses many wives. Soyinka demonstrates the wives’ submissiveness (and thus Baroka’s dominance) through the favourite wife, who performs tasks deemed degrading by Western culture, such as “plucking the hairs from his armpit”. In contrast to Eddie, Baroka clearly asserts his control, ordering around villagers and wives as he pleases. However, the greatest difference between the two is Baroka’s willingness to expose his own weakness, even if he does so falsely; he is unafraid to temporarily weaken his position as he is confident his power will be restored. The act of intentionally emasculating himself has the exact opposite effect of Eddie reporting the submarines: while Eddie shows weakness through desperately attempting to regain power, Baroka regains power having pretended to expose weakness. His lack of fear of weakness shows his strength and cunning and cements his role as the powerful leader of the village.
Returning to A View from the Bridge, we see that Catherine develops in the opposite way to Eddie as she discovers what power she has. Although she displays a lack of power initially through acts of deference such as “lower[ing] her eyes”, the more Eddie attempts to assert his dominance, the more power she gains as a character. She recognises with the arrival of Rodolpho that Eddie’s control is mostly superficial, as he cannot prevent her from “going with him”, and draws attention to this by dancing with Rodolpho in front of Eddie, “flushed with revolt”. This act of defiance does nothing to change the actual balance of power, but openly demonstrates how it has shifted, empowering Catherine and humiliating the helpless Eddie. Over the course of the play Catherine gains little power, but learns what power she has and how to lose it.
Catherine’s parallel in The Lion and the Jewel is Sidi, who serves to highlight Baroka’s strength and power. Her character develops in reverse to Catherine, beginning by quickly learning the power her beauty gives: she refuses to submit to Lakunle or Baroka, despite their dominant status as men, asking “why did Baroka not request [her] hand before the stranger brought his book of images?” Even though Lakunle is a ridiculed figure, he still has the benefit of his gender, and Sidi humiliates him by repeatedly rejecting him in demonstration of her power. However, much like Eddie, her love of power is exposed as her weakness. She visits Baroka for no reason other than to “mock” his impotence and thus to prove herself stronger and more powerful than him; yet Baroka predicts this and uses her arrogance and vanity to ultimately dominate her, causing her to finally submit to him and become his wife. Not only does this demonstrate Baroka’s power, it also allows Sidi’s character to be defined by her love of power and how, like Eddie, this ironically causes her downfall.
These two plays are ultimately centered around a shifting balance of power. In A View from the Bridge, Miller uses a threat to Eddie’s power to spark his inevitable tragic downfall, exposing his need for control; Miller therefore forcibly defines his character by alternating demonstrations of power and exposure of weakness. Yet with the main focus on Eddie’s control, it is therefore necessary for all other characters to demonstrate power so as to expose his loss of control in ever regard. The Lion and the Jewel is also centrally focused on power and this is mainly shown through Baroka and Sidi. The balance of power shifts very little during the course of the play; rather, Baroka is defined by his dominance, and Sidi is defined by her arrogance and unwillingness to be dominanted. Consequently, the characters in these plays are defined by their demonstrations of power and exposure of weaknesses, as a result of power being a main theme of the plays themselves.
Clarity, Perspective, and Tragedy in A View from the Bridge
Arthur Miller wrote A View from the Bridge, a work set in the late 1940s, as he became interested in the Italian immigration at the Brooklyn docks. Fascinated by the life of Pete Panto, a longshoreman who challenged the work of the Mafia, Miller wrote the play in the form of a Greek tragedy, of which Alfieri is the chorus. Annoyed by critics not capturing “the real and inner theme of the play,” Alfieri acts as an impartial, omniscient figure who helps us to fully understand the tragic demise of Eddie at the hands of the corrupt Italian-American society, “a bridge between the old and new worlds” (Stephen Marino).
Miller positions Alfieri as the chorus in this play, which adheres to Aristotle’s classic tragic structure. Under Aristotle’s scheme, that there should be a protagonist who suffers from a “tragic flaw” and hence falls from his earlier high status, a fall which “should come about as the result, not of vice, but of some great error or frailty in the character”; in Miller’s case, Eddie falls due to his obsession with Catherine and with his own dignity. In terms of the chorus, Aristotle argues that “it should be an integral part of the whole,” contributing to the actual play, not simply providing “mere interludes.” And so Alfieri’s role here is crucial, for without him, Miller would not have succeeded in his aim of writing a traditional tragedy, and the play would, according to Aristotle, collapse; the internal occurrences and thoughts would be unknown to the audience. For example, Alfieri knew and told the audience that the narrative would “run its bloody course,” yet without him we would not know the end until we read it, undermining Miller’s desire: “the point is not what happens, but how it’s going to happen” (1987 interview). These internal occurrences and thoughts are crucial for understanding Eddie and granting him the pathos deserved by a tragic character. When Alfieri first meets Eddie, he says that his “eyes were like tunnels,” which suggests that the protagonist is tunnel-visioned. While one could believe that this is implicitly a negative connotation and infer an impending doom for Eddie’s character, it could more probably imply that Eddie isn’t thinking rationally, and is uncontrollably blinded by his unconscious desire for Catherine, and societal-driven desire for dignity: “Eddie may believe Rodolpho is gay but he’s compelled to, he has to, so he can distance his own issues” (1987 interview). Therefore, Miller enables Alfieri to act as the bridge between the world of the play and the audience, so that we can properly understand Eddie—“Eddie is more than a client – for Alfieri he represents something almost larger than life itself” (Stephen Marino).
Miller, however, wanted a modern take on the Greek tragedy, and wanted to realistically represent what was happening in Brooklyn. While traditionally the chorus would be suspended or on the side of the stage, Alfieri appears in both the interludes and encounters with other characters. In Act One, Alfieri begins in a usual interlude —“It was at this time that he first came to me”— but thereafter physically meets with Eddie to talk about his situation—“Eddie, I’m a lawyer”; the play almost becomes metafiction, with Alfieri’s omniscient apostrophes about the characters figuring prominently within the narrative. This is similar to tactics seen in The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, as Fowles talks to his characters in one chapter—“What the devil am I going to do with you?”—but in the next inserts himself into the narrative—“the prophet-bearded man began.” Hence, Miller achieves exactly what Aristotle described: “the Chorus too should be regarded as one of the actors.” Alfieri offers a crucial role in communicating with the other characters and listening to their thoughts and motives, and then in the interludes relays this information to the audience members so that they can listen, too.
Alfieri, in his monologues, deals with all issues concerning Eddie, either placing him as the instigator of his own tragic fall or a victim of society’s customs. Whenever Alfieri enters to provide introduction of a scene, the events are related through Eddie, a tactic which, certainly on an immediate reading of Eddie’s character, would lead to the conclusion that he is incestuous, homophobic, sexist, and blinded by a futile obsession. Alfieri says, “I saw it was only a passion that had moved into his body, like a stranger” and then just after Catherine and Rodolpho have perhaps had sex, Eddie “reaches out suddenly, draws [Catherine] to him, and as she strives to free herself he kisses her on the mouth.” Even Alfieri points out, “she can’t marry you, can she?” Equally, Eddie talks to Beatrice about Rodolpho, saying that “they’re callin’ him…Paper Doll…he’s a weird.” Then, Alfieri tells Eddie that “we all love somebody…but sometimes…there’s too much,” a statement which points towards Eddie’s role as a cruel protagonist. These elements of the text also, indeed, relate to established psychological theory. During research of “psychical impotence,” Sigmund Freud coined the phrase “Madonna-Whore,” which describes how men see women as either respected partners or degraded prostitutes. Hence, Eddie does “love…too much” and creates an unrealistic image of Catherine for her to live up to. And so, while Alfieri’s opening monologue juxtaposes themes of murder, betrayal, and redundant laws —“there were many here who were justly shot by unjust men” — with our introduction to Eddie —“This one’s name was Eddie Carbone”— Alfieri perhaps does not place him as a catalyst for the events unfolding, but as a victim.
While the audience can see Alfieri as omniscient, when he says that he “was so powerless to stop it…and so I — waited here,” we realize he is far from omnipotent. Though he repeatedly tells Eddie “you have no recourse in the law,” he is incapable of actually stopping him from calling the Immigration Bureau. In fact, when Alfieri forewarns us at the very beginning that he “sat there…powerless…and watched it run its bloody course,” he perhaps implies that if the social codes of the Sicilian-American society had not been present, and official laws more convincing, Eddie would not have died and Alfieri, a “man of the law,” could actually have prevented the tragic ending. After all, identity is formed by society. Perhaps Miller here wants the audience to strip away prejudices, just as Eddie fails to do, and to realize the horrors that street loyalty, violence, and identification create.
As a lawyer, Alfieri highlights the significance of justice and the law, although as he demonstrates, he is not confining himself to official law: moral, ethnic, social, traditional, Italian, American. At the beginning of Act One, Alfieri sets out law and justice as key themes —“I am a lawyer…and in Sicily…the law has not been a friendly idea since the Greeks were beaten.” The paradox here that “to meet a lawyer or a priest on the street is unlucky” positions a cultural specific custom based on self-preservation and self-action. Alfieri mentions Al Capone, “the greatest Carthaginian of all” and “Frankie Yale.” Both Brooklyn gangsters and friends, they were brought up on a Mafia code of justice, a code based on loyalty and revenge. For example, as part of The Chicago Outfit, the biggest criminal organization in the midwestern United States, they distributed illegal alcohol during Prohibition. At one time, the primary leader Big Jim Colosimo and his nephew Johnny Torrio had a falling out over Torrio’s insistence that they expand into smuggling over sea, a tactic with which Colosimo disagreed. In 1920, Colosimo was killed on Torrio’s order by Capone and Yale; for the Mafia, Colosimo had betrayed them and, as Miller explains, “there’s nothing more horrifying than betrayal”(1987 interview). Alfieri therefore grapples with the main issues of violence and betrayal right from the beginning and, by doing so, foreshadows the end before the audience has gotten there; we care less about the ending, and more about the tough situations in 1940s Brooklyn.
While the American custom is now to“settle for half,” when Alfieri enters the play in Act Two, he discovers that Marco is still fixed in a Sicilian idea of the law. As soon as Eddie calls Immigration on Marco and Rodolpho, Marco wants revenge —“He degraded…my blood”— but Marco does not “understand this country” because his custom is to fight for his own name —“In my country he would be dead by now,” Therefore, here Alfieri “is crucial in showing how civil law and its justice conflict with the morals operating in the Sicilian-American society”(Stephen Marino) and demonstrates the perversity of what we called justice. Alfieri highlights Marco’s ignorance of how society works and allows Miller to uncover the harsh social codes that guided the powerful Mafia leadership.
Arthur Miller thus offers a structurally sound play, with Alfieri positioned as the chorus to allow the audience to understand what it was like to grow up around the Brooklyn dockyards. By letting Alfieri suggest what the ending will be from the opening scene, Miller creates what he calls a “single arch narrative” whereby the audience can watch the characters encounter their dramatic end, having known what it would be two acts before. Alfieri deals with significant issues of violence, identity and betrayal to ask which law is absolute: Eddie’s American and moral, Marco’s Sicilian and social, or Alfieri’s traditional and official. Miller, however, leaves this question entirely unanswered, for even Alfieri, deemed the omniscient judge of character and rationale, leaves the play “with a certain…alarm.”
“A View From the Bridge explores the difficulties migrants face in adapting to a new culture.”
The heart of conflict in Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge is the struggle to reconcile the array of conflicting social, moral and legal laws to which an individual is bound and to determine which of those deserves one’s primary allegiance. This struggle exists, to a greater or lesser extent, in all individuals, yet becomes far more apparent and problematic for those encountering the challenge of trying to acclimatize to a new culture. In this play, that new culture is the complex one of Red Hook and its new inhabitants must “settle for half,” learning to accommodate Sicilian tradition with US law. Alfieri represents the successful negotiation of such a combination, understanding the balance between American legislation- a “specific,” rational law- and Italian customs, which value loyalty, integrity, honour and, above all, community. However, the play demonstrates that adapting as Alfieri has is not such a simple task, and much conflict arises between Marco and Eddie, both of whom are inextricably bound to Italian traditions and seek indiscriminate punishment, which the law of the land has not been designed to provide. It is this inability to “settle for half,” to become “civilized, quite American” and accept US law over primal justice that spurs the two men on towards a tragic conclusion.Alfieri firmly dictates that “it is better to settle for half- it must be!” As a man of Italian descent, he understands and respects the rich traditions of Italian society, remembering a time when people were “justly shot by unjust men,” acknowledging the seedy mishaps that occur on the docks (with cases of whisky “slipping” from the nets as they “are inclined to do”) and turning a blind eye to the illegal smuggling of submarines that the community supports. Yet Alfieri has studied and practices American law- he is firm that this must be the overruling authority in society, declaring that “there is no other law,” and tries to coerce Eddie to accept that “the law is very specific;” it is based on rationality rather than emotion. At the same time, Alfieri seems to acknowledge that US law can never really achieve justice in the traditional sense- “only God makes justice,” he explains, “I’m only a lawyer.” He has found a balance that allows him to be “quite civilized, quite American,” and he “likes it better.” While Eddie initially seems to have successfully negotiated the combination of roles of being an Italian and an American, a husband and an uncle, and a family man and a longshoreman, it soon emerges that he is inherently unable to reconcile the conflicting moral and social laws that simultaneously demand his allegiance. As an American citizen, Eddie is bound by the law of the nation, including laws in which he does not believe, but he is comfortable with pushing the boundaries of such legislation, clearly viewing authority as the enemy as he asserts “this is the United States government you’re playin with, this is the Immigration Bureau.” Indeed, Red Hook is a society in which “the law has not been a friendly idea,” an attitude stemmed from a rich history of “three thousand years of distrust,” and both petty and organized crime are an accepted part of daily life, as reflected as Eddie supports the captain’s right to be “pieced off” and promises to “bust a bag” of coffee for his family from the ship that he is unloading. For Eddie maintains an intense commitment to an unwritten subcultural law demanding communal conduct, a tradition that values loyalty and honour and takes pride in supporting illegal immigrants. Eddie demonstrates his fervent belief in such traditions through the parable of Vinny Bolzano, asserting that the boy deserved to be treated so harshly for his betrayal- “a guy do a think like that? How’s he gonna show his face?” This is emphasized later as Alfieri reminds Eddie that the only legal issue regarding the cousins is “the way they entered the country,” and Eddie’s emphatic reaction “oh Jesus, no, I wouldn’t do nothing about that,” reflects how strongly he values his allegiance to subcultural laws.In addition to this, Eddie endorses traditional familial values, a domestic law that binds him to his wife and niece, illustrated through the way in which Eddie has “worked like a dog…walked plenty of days hungry” just to provide for his family, and he respects a natural law, which prevents him from acknowledging his improper feelings. The conflicting demands of all these laws, each fighting for his primary allegiance, create such intense confusion that Eddie ultimately succumbs to the law for which he has the least regard. As he reports Marco and Rodolpho to the Immigration, the very institution that he views as the enemy, Eddie ultimately betrays every other law that he values.Marco exists as a symbol of primitive justice, dissatisfied with American law and refusing to accept that “if (Eddie) obeys the law, he lives.” He is in complete disbelief that US legislation cannot provide justice, asserting bitterly “I do not understand this country” and challenging bellicosely “all the law is not in a book!” although Alfieri firmly assures him that “there is no other law.” Marco, like Eddie, feels that justice is inextricably intertwined with honour, and the Italian values entrenched within him dictate that honour is worth killing or dying for. He considers it “dishonourable” to allow Eddie to live, but he has given his word not to kill. Marco finds a loophole in this agreement in the ensuing fight with Eddie, and the older man dies by his own knife, restoring “justice” in Marco’s eyes yet allowing him to keep his word. Rodolpho, in contrast to his older brother, is eager to embrace American culture; he is enthralled by “all those lights” and enthusiastically spends his hard-earned money on records, movie magazines and American clothes, which Eddie scorns as “a snappy new jacket…a pointy pair of new shoes.” He declares “me, I want to be an American!” and his language leans towards the flamboyant, lyrical expression that he admires, likening Catherine to a little bird. However, Rodolpho’s enthusiasm for a new culture inculcates much suspicion in Eddie, who views such extreme and rapid adaptation to America as inappropriate, for this is something that even he, who has lived here all his life, has been unable to do. Thus Eddie uses Rodolpho’s zeal for America as a base for a campaign against the younger man, claiming that he is “only bowin to his passport” and suggesting that he is using Catherine simply to gain the rights to be an American citizen. His enthusiasm for New York is turned against him- his desire to visit Broadway causes Eddie to later accuse “he’s got bright lights in his head, Broadway…he’s lookin for his break, that’s all.” In reality, it appears that Rodolpho’s enthusiasm is simply his way of making the most of the little opportunities that he has. In an uncharacteristically somber and candid outburst of emotion, Rodolpho shouts “only work we don’t have!…That is the only wonder here, work!, but his unusual zest for life and his overflowing optimisim, claiming that he will “start to be something wonderful here” are enough to cause suspicion and contempt in the jaded inhabitants of Red Hook, who are resigned to their hard, monotonous lifestyle, no longer aspiring for romantic dreams of a better life as Rodolpho does.
“Alfieri’s commentary gives a depth and complexity to what might otherwise have bean a sordid and uninteresting story.”
Alfieri’s commentary on the action of the play is integral to Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, communicating directly to the audience and presenting the events from a more impartial and credible perspective, forcing the viewer to consider the play’s greater social and moral implications. Yet while his speech contributes depth to the play, to dismiss the actual story as banal is vastly incorrect. Sordid it certainly is- repugnant currents of tension and squalor pervade the entire play- but if the action is lacking in any element, it surely is not intrigue. Alfieri’s commentary offers not additional colour and excitement to an uninteresting story, but, on the contrary, momentary relief from the passion and intensity of the action, interjecting a tense and highly emotional narrative with moments of clarity in order for the audience to reach a greater understanding of the events that have transpired.Miller establishes Alfieri’s credibility as a narrator by presenting him immediately as an educated, articulate and insightful man, able to perceive and explain the action with greater clarity than those more closely involved in it. As a lawyer, Alfieri gains the audience’s trust that he is rational and logical, thus his judgment of character and morality holds some credibility. He refers to a memory of the 1920s, indicating that Alfieri is older than many of the characters, inculcating wisdom and worldliness in his character. Unlike the Carbones, Alfieri can see that Red Hook is the “gullet of New York,” the “slum that faces the bay,” suggesting that he has seen different areas. Other characters involved in the action live in a very confined, insular society, whereas Alfieri has seen more and knows more about the world, giving his perspective on the events a broader view.The insularity of Red Hook ensures that the Carbones are bound to the traditions and customs of Sicilian culture, which Alfieri, an Italian man himself, both understands and respects. However, Alfieri has studied and practices American law- he has “settled for half,” accommodating Italian tradition with US legislation, understanding the balance between law and justice that the inhabitants of Red Hook, a town that takes pride in supporting illegal immigrants and places extreme value on loyalty and community, cannot comprehend. In this sense, Alfieri’s view is “from the bridge”- he acts as the bridge between the audience and the stage, between the old and new worlds (small ethnic communities full of longshoremen and sailors and glamorous Manhattan, separated by the Brooklyn Bridge), and between Italian tradition and US law. He is cast as the role of the chorus in a classical Greek tragedy, addressing the audience directly and commenting on the action, making clear the greater moral and social implications. While the audience responds to the action with the passion and intensity with which it is performed, Alfieri’s speech forces the viewer make judgment. His role is thus indispensable in leading the audience towards a rational interpretation of events, but the events in themselves are by no means uninteresting- rather, the necessity of Alfieri’s interludes stems from the fact that the action is too interesting, too intense to be fully digested without him.It is reasonable to argue that there are several sordid elements to the play. Red Hook is, as described by Alfieri, “the slum that faces the bay,” a shabby, rundown workers’ community founded upon a rich tradition of organized crime. As a legacy of this history, petty crime is an accepted element of daily life, with Eddie casually promising “we’ll bust a bag tomorrow, I’ll bring you some,” and warning that “this is the United States government you’re playing with now, this is the Immigration Bureau,” presenting US authority as the enemy, and references to “the syndicate” emphasizes the seedy subculture of society. In addition to the frequency of illegal activity, the underlying theme of incestuous desire in the Carbone household creates an uneasy atmosphere in the play. Without actually being lovers, Eddie and Catherine share subtle moments of flirtation and the intimacy that only lovers should have- Catherine fawns over Eddie, “walking him to the armchair,” “taking his arm,” and lighting his cigar for him, an action that, while perhaps lost on a modern audience, would have a more uncomfortable effect on an audience of the fifties, as in films of this period such a gesture was used to distinctly convey sexual attraction, and, though the audience never sees this, Beatrice’s speech reveals that Catherine often walks around in her slip in front of Eddie, or sits talking to him while he shaves in his underwear. As Catherine leaves the room, Eddie “stands looking towards the kitchen for a moment,” his gaze lingering after her, and he is “pleased, and therefore shy about” the attention that his niece pays to him. These undercurrents of inappropriate behaviour and forbidden desire help to build a tense, sordid environment, causing the audience to feel uneasy.However, it is this very sordidness that contributes complexity and interest to the play. The intensity and immediacy of such tension is crafted carefully throughout the action to create a passionate, highly emotional story, relieved only by Alfieri’s reflections. One clear example of this is the final scene of the first act, in which the action is choreographed in three distinct stages- Catherine and Rodolpho dancing, Eddie teaching Rodolpho how to box, and finally Marco raising the chair “like a weapon” over Eddie’s head. The prevailing tension is intensified through the first action, as the movement both allows physical closeness between Rodolpho and Catherine, while Eddie watches edgily, his “eyes on (Rodolpho’s) back,” powerless to stop them, and seems to represent Rodolpho symbolically taking Catherine from Eddie. The intensity of the scene is conveyed through Eddie’s frighteningly ominous anxiety, and the stage directions declare that he is “unconsciously twisting the newspaper into a tight roll” until “it suddenly tears in two.” The audience is thus already uneasy when Eddie casually offers to teach Rodolpho to box, a sensation that reaches its climax when Eddie’s supposedly playful fighting “mildly stagger(s)” the younger man, an attempt to humiliate him in front of Catherine. It is the final action however that trumps Eddie, leaving him as the humiliated one- Marco, who has been watching silently visually demonstrates the danger he invites by threatening Rodolpho, a “strained tension” in his eyes as he raises the chair over Eddie’s head, ominously presaging the impending judgment on Eddie as he “transforms what might appear like a glare of warning into a smile of triumph.” At the emotional height of this action, the audience remembers Alfieri’s speech that prefaces the episode. Alfieri, quietly and resignedly, laments the sense of tragedy that is yet to come, reflecting on the inevitability of Eddie’s fate- “it wasn’t as though there was a mystery to unravel, I could see every step coming.” Yet, he is “powerless to stop it,” suggesting that this is an almost predetermined path, warning the audience that Eddie’s actions will undoubtedly incur tragic implications. “There are times when you want to spread an alarm,” he says, “but nothing has happened.” Thus, Alfieri, being a perceptive observer, is able to provide the audience with a deeper understanding of the seriousness of Eddie’s plight, presenting a view removed from the emotion and immediacy of the action.Similarly, the interrelation of the passionate events and Alfieri’s reflection can be demonstrated in the final scene of Act Two- the public fight for honour between Marco and Eddie, resulting in the death of Eddie by his own hand. The desperate terror of Beatrice, sensing the danger that is about to ensue, urging him “let’s go someplace…I don’t want you to be here when he comes,” and screaming finally “the truth is not as bad as blood!” is exacerbated by Eddie’s stubborn determination to fight, raging almost insanely “I want my name!” The passion and dread in this scene explodes in two distinct cataclysms. Firstly, Beatrice distraughtly confronts Eddie with the truth, the first time he has been made aware directly of his feelings for Catherine as she shouts “you want somethin else Eddie, and you can never have her!” causing “horror” in Catherine and Eddie to be “shocked, horrified, his fists clenching,” a highly emotional response that resonates throughout the stage. Following this, tension accumulates even higher as Marco and Eddie stand facing each other, ready to fight. The stage directions indicate that Eddie is “incensing himself and little bits of laughter even escape him as his eyes are murderous,” creating a terrifying sense of insanity, suggesting here that Eddie has become entirely consumed by “the human animal,” the basic primal instinct that most have learned to suppress, emphasized through Marco’s shout of “anima-a-a-l!” Eddie’s death brings the play to a climactic end, a passionate, highly emotional explosion of all the tension and uneasiness that has been simmering ominously throughout the entire play. Alfieri’s reflection on the events that have transpired is thus critical in the recapitulation of the narrative, forcing the audience to step back and make a judgment on Eddie’s character, viewing his downfall from a more dispassionate perspective. Alfieri acknowledges “how wrong (Eddie) was” but urges the audience to remember that his death is “useless” and somewhat vindicates the passion and integrity of Eddie’s character, “for he allowed himself to be wholly known,” never backing down from his perception of the truth. Through this evaluation, Alfieri presents the audience not only with the facts, but some insight into the greater philosophical implications of the story, placing it in a broader context and inviting the audience to reach their own rationalized judgment.