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Discuss the view that when Arthur Miller wrote ‘A View from the Bridge’, he created a tragic play which suggests that true justice does not exist and that the law is often inadequate. You may focus in detail on the Key section we have studied, but do make wider reference. Arthur Miller was born in New York, but at the age of 14 his farther’s clothing business failed due to the depression, and his family moved to Brooklyn, famous at the time for its Immigrant community.
Arthur Miller wrote the play shortly after the end of the McCarthy era, a period when most of American society was worried that communist sympathisers had held government positions, and Joe McCarthy took advantage of these fears, accusing prominent Americans of harbouring or being sympathisers. Miller knew of Americans with Communist ideas, and refused to name them before the Un-American Activities Council (UAAC) was charged for Contempt, a ruling later overturned.
These events have had a profound influence on AVFTB (A View From The Bridge), the settings for the play can be drawn from Miller’s younger years, the brooklyn terraces and the Dockyard, for example. Miller’s experience with the UAAC, especifically the threat of deportation, and his feelings for the immigrants themselves has helped Miller to create an involving storyline with more attention to detail than if he had not had them. This has made the most recent version of AVFTB a much larger success than the original version, criticised for its lack of emotional power.
As the play begins, Alfieri is the first character on stage. He begins by introducing the situation in his community, describing the distrust of the Law felt by many of the immigrants from Sicily, describing it even as unfriendly. Then he states that Justice is important to the people of the community, suggesting that the Law has its limitations, and what people would call True Justice can often be against the law.
As he is talking to Eddie in act Two he refers back to this limitation, saying that ‘when the law is wrong, it is because it is un-natural’, suggesting further that the law is not written correctly, and should, in his oppinion, be changed from what someone(Joe McCarthy? the Un-American Activities Council?) has decided should happen, to ‘what has a right to happen’. Even though he is a reasonably well educated man, as stated at the beginning of the script, and even with all his years of experience with the other ‘petty squables of the poor’ he is still powerless to stop the train of events he can see forming, again presenting the idea that the law is not detailed enough to allow him to restrain Eddie.
Eddie is the seccond main character on stage, and has a similar view on the law to Alfieri, twisted to suit his personal agenda, preventing Catherine from leaving him for another man. He expects Alfieri to be able to stop the marriage bettween Catherine and Rodolpho on circumstancial information that would not make a propper case anyway. Eddie’s base is that Rodolpho ‘aint right’, and is Homosexual, based on Rodolpho’s ability to sing, joke and sew. As Eddie finds Alfieri cannot and would not help him, he turns to the one option that may help him, the immigration beauro. This of course sets off the chain reaction in the close-knit italian community where they pride themselves on caring for immigrants causing Eddie to loose his ‘name’, and culminating in Marco’s revenge, Eddie’s death.
Catherine’s view on the law is not as blatant as that of the men, as is Beatrice’s, however they both fear Immigration, to the point of hate, however they place their faith in the law to protect Rodolpho once he has the promise of marriage from Catherine. When he entered the country, Marco did not think of the law as THE LAW, more as vague rules that arent enforced, guidelines more than anything ‘Where is the law? Is it in a book, is it written down?’. He becomes disillusioned with the law as soon as he is taken in by the Immigration officers. He finally realises that the law is completely against him and that he will have to leave america again, and the money from his job in the dockyard will cease when Alfieri explains his situation directly to him. Marco then makes his decision to confront Eddie. Ironically, when Marco stabbed Eddie it was technically self defence, putting him on the correct side of the law.
Rodolpho is in love with America from the minute he stepps off the boat, even stopping to comment of Eddie’s fairly plain terraced house ‘And they said they were poor!’. The law does not factor into his life untill the Immigration officers arrive. By this time he has a prommise of marriage from Catherine, so therefore the law does not apply to him. He simply carries on as normal. Alfieri, being both a character and the narrator, has only a limited ammount of ‘live’ stage time, and spends most of his stage time in voiced thought to the audience. His main function in the story is to represent the law, and reason. He seems to be playing Eddie’s good-concience, warning Eddie before he moves off to call immigration of the concequences.
He also represents the remoteness of the law, with his seperate stage-area, and his interactions on stage only extending to Eddie. This means he is not viewing the whole picture from Marco and Rodolpho’s point of view. His reason helps him to understand their views, however not how to satisfy all parties involved, nor even to punish the guilty. He is also a dramatic devide, used to stimulate audience interest by describing the coming events so the audience will be able to concentrate on the tension and the route taken to arrive at the event without having to guess as to what will happen next, Predictive Narration.