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.
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