Examine how Arthur Miller creates a sense of dramatic tension in the final scene

Categories: Arthur Miller

As an American playwright, Miller bases his play; 'View from a Bridge', in the working class docks of slum New York in the 1950s. During World War Two Miller worked as a ship fitter for two years in the Brooklyn Navy shipyard, where a 'near majority of the workers were Italian' and where he 'made connections with their family concerns...(which were) full of Sicilian dramas.' Thus, he derived a wealth of inspiration from his experiences and cultural surroundings.

Among the issues Miller addressed in this piece of drama were the social changes that erupted over this period of time, construing a growing conflict between old established ideals and the new.

Eddie, a character whom holds to a former position of undisputed head, as the family breadwinner, cannot grasp or prevent the increasing independence that women, previous shadows "of subservience and exclusive domesticity, were beginning to experience. This newfound female autonomy is reflected in the character of Catherine, as throughout the play she begins to'" direct her own life and break away from the conformity of Eddie's control.

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The dramatist also covers the political topic, or in his eyes governmental failure, of the problem of illegal immigrants and "the underlying causes of general inequality. Through Marco's character Miller portrays the struggle' arid injustice of poverty, as he labours to feed his family on the other side of the sea.

The tragedy that occurs however is personalised through the mental stumbling and emotional complications of a few ordinary lives. These other, more general issues are intertwined with the main thread of the story and add to the devastation of the outcome.

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It is Alfieri, Miller's principle narrative character that links these issues in his bleak commentaries that analyse the development of the play and communicate the passage of time. His role is reminiscent of the Greek chorus narratives that frequented the traditional Greek tragedies fold. Arthur Miller intended the play to be a modern version of this genre, in which a central character is led by fate toward an inescapable destiny. This background immediately suggests that as the protagonist, Eddie will inevitably die.

Alfieri's prophetically foreboding comments liken the unravelling of events to this fateful certainty as; 'a dark figure', approaching a; 'certain door' (p.35). He holds an all encompassing knowledge of the outcome, but only imparts a steadily negative expectation to the audience. This effectively controls the distribution of major events in the play and in turn increases the sense of tension felt in the audience awaiting them.

The scene that follows these words is further appropriate content to demonstrate the element of suspense employed by Miller. The specific stage directions that control characterisation within the play are complemented by a framework of powerful language and dialogue that all contribute to the heightening tension of the play.

The play up to this point already undergoes an important change in atmosphere. When the illegal Sicilian immigrants, Rodolfo and Marco, seek shelter in their cousin; Beatrice's (wife of Eddie's) home there is a welcoming sense of warmth and excitement. However, as Catherine becomes increasingly attracted to the glamorous younger brother; Rodolfo there begins to arise in Eddie a confused jealousy that

Culminates to the plotting of a desperate, irrational crime against his family and the

Sicilian community.

The new scene opens to the common device of stage lighting used to indicate change in time and action. An ostensibly innocent" 'dinner' scene comes to light, a seeming juxtaposition from the gloom of Alfieri's previous lines. Miller often uses these antithetical structures to create the expectation of fear from unlikely, even harmless settings, thus manipulating the audience's emotions. Even subtle character actions, both verbal and bodily can create a strain in relationships, the audience are quick to detect.

Eddie's immediate manoeuvre to; '(his rocker)' (p.36) is symbolic of his growing insecurity. The audience have come to recognise this initiated act of isolation as a way in which he holds back his irritation, even anger.' Thus Miller here utilises the audience's level of character insight with traits they are familiar with and will lead them to expect further reaction from Eddie.

The stage directions clearly indicate that Eddie directs his speech; '(to Marco)' (p.36) alone, wilfully excluding Rodolfo from even common conversation and exposing the extent of his hatred for him.

The patronising machismo in Eddie's words is full of wanton respect and desire to overshadow shadow Rodolfo in manly strength, knowledge and humorous wit. His comments are self seeking, and when Rodolfo mildly and unknowingly corrects him on a trivial matter, Eddie fires up; '(resenting his Instruction)' (p.37) and heatedly dispels his contribution to the dialogue. Much of Eddie's anger results from his own sexual frustrations but he focuses it on Rodolfo as a diametrically opposite character and a subject of jealousy concerning Catherine. A light hearted exchange about the colour of oranges and lemons becomes a subject of dangerous debate, demonstrating the way Miller escalates tension from unlikely scenarios and gives his text a dual nature where beneath the ordinary dialogues runs undercurrents of terrible passions. The audience have to keep pace with the changing atmosphere the characters create and become alert to signs of oncoming strain.

Characters within the play also display their sense of the rising tension, and this supports the audience's suspicions" as they begin to see tension as the underlying compass directing the play to its outcome.

When Rodolfo and Marco converse with Eddie the stage directions show them; '(rising)' (p.36), in, although a clear mark of respect for an Eddie, a demonstration that they are not assuredly comfortable and at home in his house or presence. Their physical levels are uneven, disquieting and may even foretell how these characters will figuratively stand with each other by the end of the play.

Moreover, when Catherine initiates a dance with Rodolfo, stating her independence Eddie, he; '(...freezes)'. Rodolfo discerns his disapproval and dances; '(stiffly)' as he feels; '(... Eddie's eyes on his back.)' (p.39)" When Rodolfo and Catherine dance, Miller directs Marco as simply; '(waiting)', expectant of a reaction from Eddie, being vaguely aware of some inner issues battling inside him concerning their relationship. When Eddie teaches Rodolfo some boxing, Marco is described as; '(dubious)', even; '(uneasy)' as he senses a double meaning to Eddie's actions, and is insightful of a colder calculation he is harbouring. Marco is discerning of Eddie's character

Throughout the play, slowly absorbing and carefully analysing his every word and -"move. He seeks to understand Eddie with direct language asking; 'What does he (Rodolfo) do wrong?'(p.38) this outright, reasonable question stumbles Eddie because he cannot respond with an outright, reasonable answer. He cannot justify his accusations or explain them without emotional exposure, and this immense strain on his feelings is made very clear to the audience.

Beatrice is also a key character in displaying that characters within the play also develop a keen awareness of tension. Her constant attempts at diffusing the tension within the dialogues, only acts as further proof as to" its existence. She desperately tries to divert any potential arguments to harmless chatter such as; 'fishing' boats' and Marco's family (p.36, 7). Eddie, however, destroys her efforts for peace, distorting these safe subjects with sexist and racist imputation; even undermining the honour of Marco's wife. He either distorts her comments, defiantly and unreasonably opposing them to exalt him, or retreats to sullen, monosyllabic tones like a sulky child. The subtext implication in Beatrice's line to Eddie; '... be an Uncle....' reveals her private understanding of his disturbing attachment to Catherine, and in turn, Eddie's awareness of her; '(criticizing force)' (p.38) impresses further awkwardness on their relationship.

The gradual release of Eddie's suppressed desires, like this small comment from Beatrice, builds tension up in subtle stages, and stretches the suspense out as far as possible before reaching a climatic point.

Directions of character action in the play create imagery of almost metaphorical invention. When Eddie first confronts Rodolfo's comparisons about moral strictness and freedom in Italy and America, Eddie's reaction is coupled with physicality. He; '(rises. paces up and down)' (p.37) like a restless, stirred up, wild animal. This action is suggestive of his instinctual and ferocious desperation that the audience prepare to see surface and harm, later on in the play.

Dramatic irony and prophetic content is used also to create tension. The small but purposeful conversation between Marco and Beatrice pertaining to (the former's) wife (p.37) is a subtle analysis of his in depth qualities and honest background. His heartfelt, sincere expressions towards his wife and conviction as to her respect attribute him a loyal and honourable man. His sending money home for; 'medicine' also indicates his keen sense of fatherly responsibility and love. The irony of the act he will be driven to eventually, will therefore be one strangely out of character.

Another example of this can be found in one of Eddie's chastisements of Rodolfo saying; ' The more you run around like that the more chance you're taken' (p.38) -appearing to show concern in their instability as illegal immigrants, or; 'submarines' as he calls them. This is darkly satirical issuing from Eddie, who will eventually become the source of their betrayal. Wry comments like these proffer glimmers of a paradoxical future and tense onlookers in ready wait for change of the dramatic, alarming kind.

Eddie's tautness of soul intensifies as he speaks; '(holding back a voice full of anger)'. His tempers are groundless and with desperate appeal to Marco, a man; 'You understand me don't you..?' (p.38), he backs down to; '(the rocker)', his only remaining vestige of power and position.

JThe stage directions show that, '(...a pause, awkwardness)' (p.39) follows, the "" wrought, apprehensive silence that follows the heat of an unresolved debate. The events that unfold from this point on disclose Eddie's personal struggles even more, and also unearth the wills and determinatiorTsf of other key characters that that shed light on the direction of the play. They publish the final heights of tension that finally reach their cadence in a moment of climax.

When hearing that 'Rodolfo cooks' Eddie; '(lowers his newspaper)', a slow, deliberate motion conducive to disbelief and paving the way for a sarcastic response. '-His next expressions are mocking; 'It's wonderful. He sings. He cooks. He could make dresses'. This utterly alien concept of a man to Eddie plunges him into an unconscious outburst of emotional exposure. The constant comparisons he makes of himself against Rodolfo exhibits his resentful feelings toward him, and uncertainty in himself. He is; '(driven on)' his careless publicity of his own weaknesses , frantically trying to make sense of his words but only betraying his overwhelming jealousy further still, fully; '(..Exposing the issue)'. The newspaper he is; '(twisting)' in physical response to his irritation, '(tears in two)', a motif of the strength of his frustrations, and inability to control them. With this unnerving act Eddie; '(pulls his pants over his belly)' in personal reclaim of his masculine dignity (p.40).

The startling subject of boxing, so suddenly approached by Eddie arouses suspicions in the audience and in the play based on uncertainty of Eddie's thoughts and motivations. Catherine is described as being; '(nervously happy, mystified)' at his sudden change of character and does not fully understand it.

Eddie is described as; '(weirdly elated)', gripped by some secret, scheming perversion that could be exploited in; 'teaching Rodolfo to box'. The idea of even light hearted boxing is extremely disturbing to the audience, who now have full knowledge of the extent to which Eddie's jealousy lies.

This first inclination toward violence also foretells the greater more dangerous role it will play in the outcome of the tragedy.

Eddie's references to Rodolfo are now openly offensive, rendering him a; 'Danish' that has moved to America to; 'fool around'. The fight touches on severity when Eddie strikes Rodolfo a blow that; '(mildly staggers him)'. Marco, '(rises)' as directed in symbol of his role of protection for his younger brother, a guard that will later become more mandatory in his eyes and inevitably physical. Although the fight ends here Eddie still seems to be revelling his affliction; '(...in thought)' and the way he; '(rubs his fists together)' recalls the act of plotting and darkly conspiring.

His subconscious line of open thought; Til teach him again' (p.41) , that accompanies these colluding gestures cause the audience to scrutinise his choice of language, hi what sense will Eddie 'teach' Rodolfo 'again' and by what means? Is Eddie preparing - for the future in a sinister light? These unanswered ponderings create equivocal suppositions that increase the mood of "edginess and hold fast the attention of spectators.

Rodolfo resumes his dance with Catherine, he; '(takes her in his arms)' (p.41) this time with the assurance of possession confirmed by Catherine's willing concession. This outright statement of independence from Catherine and the victory of Rodolfo over Eddie pervades the scene with an au>of nervousness. The audience are made aware that Eddie has lost power over his household. They have also been slowly exposed to how deeply and dangerously Eddie has become involved emotionally, and

Have shortly witnessed him cast off rational behaviour in the intensity of his feelings. V "They have adequate character information to interpret him now as an ominous presage to himself and others around him.

The final drama in this scene is largely construed of action with little speech at all. This unusual change for such a static play and urges the full attention of the audience. Miller used this frequent silence to up escalate the tension and focus viewers on the importance of material communication in the play.

Marco, who up to this point has been watchful, dubious and slow to expression, now responds to Eddie's behaviour but in a prophetically physical manner. He challenges Eddie to a dual of non-contact strength with proven purport. Eddie is humiliated with failure, '(again and again)' and is proved impotent to lift the chair. Marco raises the chair single-handedly, over Eddie's head in a stance of superlative dominance. Eddie; '(absorbs)' his; '(smile of triumph)' as he becomes awakened to Marco's capability in will and strength to overcome him (p.42).

Before this hallmark in the play, the audience have identified Eddie alone as the headstone of power and might. Marco poses as a new" source of force, and added reason to be anxious about the ensuing tale. The chair stands like a weapon over Eddie's head, presenting the threat of injury, even consequent death. In this sense the end of this scene significantly mirrors the extremity of the whole play, conclusive of violent and rivalled themes. Miller enforces the physical import of his drama and its resolve to settle the issues accumulated.

From this stage onward Eddie's character deteriorates in word, deed, and self esteem, as if literally degraded by this incident.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Examine how Arthur Miller creates a sense of dramatic tension in the final scene. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/examine-arthur-miller-creates-sense-dramatic-tension-final-scene-new-essay

Examine how Arthur Miller creates a sense of dramatic tension in the final scene essay
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