Create dramatic tension Essay
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English Coursework- How does Miller use Eddie to create dramatic tension for the audience in ‘A View From A Bridge’? We could say that ‘A View from a bridge,’ is a tragedy for a number of reasons. Most importantly, if we compare the work of Arthur Miller to a Greek tragedy, we can immediately draw a parallel. In a Greek tragedy, the hero or protagonist always has a fatal flaw or harmatia in his character. This causes him to make a bad decision, or to commit an unnatural act, which then spirals into the characters peripeteia or eventual downfall.
He must then learn his mistake, suffer for his unnatural act and (usually) die.
Another important characteristic of a Greek tragedy is the chorus. Usually a single character takes this role and is used to summarize the play, introduce new characters, and explain any action taking place. The two important things that make the chorus speaker different from an ordinary character are that he can speak directly with the audience, but cannot intervene at any point in the play- a useful device for creating dramatic tension.
The idea of a tragic protagonist is illustrated in ‘A View from a bridge,’ using Eddie Carbone, a typical ‘Joe Bloggs’ created by Miller to illustrate an ordinary person, or representative of a nation or class. Eddie is a very ordinary man, decent, hard working and charitable, a man no one could dislike. This is significant because it causes the audience to feel both pity and fear for the character of Eddie.
However, like the protagonist of an ancient drama, he has a fatal flaw or harmatia, in the form of the lust he harbors for his niece Catherine. Eddie does not really understand his improper desire for Catherine, and thus is unable to hide it from those around him or from the audience. In him, we see this primitive impulse naked, or exposed. This explains Alfieri’s remark at the end of the play, when he says that Eddie “allowed himself to be wholly known.’ It is Eddie’s desire for Catherine that drives him into making a wrong decision. When the cousins Marco and Rodolpho arrive from Italy, and Catherine falls for Rodolpho, Eddie’s jealousy overboils in the form of a bad decision in this case -calling the Immigration Bureau. The consequences, both social and psychological, of this wrong action, destroy him.
As Aristotle said,’ at best, a tragic hero would evoke pity and terror from the audience if he is neither thoroughly good nor thoroughly evil, but a mixture of both.’ This is a perfect combination to create dramatic tension for the audience, because as the audience is ordinary, or mortal like Eddie, we feel terror when we see him make a bad decision, because we know that we are capable of making a bad judgement too. Thus we feel pity for Eddie, as his ‘crime’ doesn’t seem evil enough for the degree of suffering he goes through. It seems his suffering is disproportionate to his flaw.
The terror felt by the audience is greatly added to by Alfieri, the chorus speaker, who is used throughout the play to promote a sense of tragedy and inevitability, largely due to the fact that he cannot intervene. This leaves the audience powerless to watch the plot ‘run its bloody course,’ linking back to the idea of inescapable fate or destiny. This makes for a powerful dramatic device, as the audience are compelled to watch what will become of Eddie, even though, deep down, we are almost certain of his untimely end.
Alfieri is also important, as he helps to summarize the play, introduce new characters, and explain any action taking place. He also helps clarify the plot to the audience, and hints at underlying themes in the rest of the book -especially the links to justice, poverty, and tragedy. He presents the idea of justice in Sicilian communities by mentioning Yale and other gangsters, and highlights how important justice is to Italians.