AView from the Bridge

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Miller – AView from the Bridge


In 1947, Arthur Miller was doing research on Pete Panto, a young Longshoreman who was executed by the mob for attempting to revolt against union leadership. He was told an interesting story about another Longshoreman in the area who had ratted to the Immigration Bureau on his own relatives. The Longshoreman was attempting to prevent the marriage between one of the brothers and his niece. The man was scorned and ostracized in the community and soon disappeared. In the community it was rumored that one of the brothers had killed him. Eight years later, in 1955, the one-act version of A View from the Bridge, based on the story of that same Longshoreman, was produced. The play was presented with another one-act Miller play, A Memory of Two Mondays.

New York critics poorly received the evening of two plays and the production only ran for 158 performances. Miller believed the story was so complete and shocking that he did not wish to adorn the tale with subjective meaning, but rather lay out the facts in an action-oriented, objective tale. The result, according to critics, was a cold, un-engaging work. Miller admitted his play was an experiment, an attempt to stray from the psychological realism that dominated the American theatre, "I wanted to see whether I could write a play with on single arch instead of three acts…I wanted to have one long line of explosion…we have all forgotten that the Greek plays were all one-act plays, a continuous action." Not just the form, but also the actors were taught to consciously disengage themselves from the emotion of the work and, in a Brechtian sense, attempt to reveal abstract ideas about the human condition.

After two years, time that possibly allowed Miller to find an emotional connection with the work (Miller's condemnation as a Communist in the McCarthy era and his relationship with Marilyn Monroe), he revised the script. The new version was staged in London and received rave reviews. Miller enlarged the characters of Beatrice and Catherine, who played a greater role in Eddie's fate. The set was more realistic, a Brooklyn neighborhood scene, and Miller eliminated the use of verse. The relationship between Eddie and Catherine was played down and the final scene altered. Rather than at the feet of Catherine, Eddie dies in the arms of his wife Beatrice, and he reconciles the couple's relationship.

In the Paris production, Miller rewrote one more final ending to the play in which Eddie actually commits suicide. While this ending may be the most dramatically satisfying, Miller chose to publish the London edition in his collected works.

Arthur Miller was born in was born in New York City on October 17, 1915 to Isidore and Augusta Miller. At the time, Miller's father owned a successful clothing business and the family lived in a Harlem neighborhood. In 1929, the family business failed as a result of the depression and moved to Brooklyn. Miller was a very active child and hardly spent any time reading or studying. He only took an interest in academics in his final year of school, too late to make the grades to be accepted into college. Miller worked various jobs after high school, including one as a salesperson that inspired his later play, Death of a Salesman. Miller was finally accepted into Michigan State in 1934 and he studied journalism. While in college, Miller won several collegiate awards for his plays. Out of college, Miller's first successful work was All My Sons, which opened on Broadway in 1947. Miller is best known works are The Crucible and Death of a Salesman. In 1956, Miller was asked to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, but heroically refused to name the names of communist sympathizers. The following year he was charged for contempt, a ruling later reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals. In 1956, Miller also divorced his college sweetheart and married Marilyn Monroe.

Character Analysis

Eddie Carbone (In-Depth Analysis)

Eddie Carbone is the tragic protagonist of The View from the Bridge. He is constantly self-interested, wanting to promote and protect his innocence. Eddie creates a fictional fantasy world where his absurd decisions make sense—where calling the Immigration Bureau in the middle of an Italian community that prides itself on protecting illegal immigrants has no repercussions. In Eddie's world, he imagines protecting Catherine from marriage or any male relationship and wants her for himself. While Eddie wavers and switches between communal and state laws and cultures, his motivations do not change. Eddie constantly looks out for himself at the expense of others and is ruled by personal love and guilt.

There are several moments in the text where the audience is given clues that Eddie's love for Catherine may not be normal. For example, when Catherine lights Eddie's cigar in the living room, it is an event that gives Eddie unusual pleasure. This possibly warm and affectionate act between niece and uncle has phallic suggestions. Depending on interpretation by the actors, this moment many have more or less sexual undertones. Eddie's great attention to his attractive niece and impotence in his own marital relationship immediately makes this meaning clear. Although Eddie seems unable to understand his feelings for his niece until the end of the play, other characters are aware. Beatrice is the first to express this possibility in her conversation with Catherine. Alfieri also realizes Eddie's feelings during his first conversation with Eddie. Eddie does not comprehend his feelings until Beatrice clearly articulates his desires in the conclusion of the play, "You want somethin' else, Eddie, and you can never have her!"

Eddie does not realize his feeling for Catherine because he has constructed an imagined world where he can suppress his urges. This suppression is what devastates Eddie. Because he has no outlet for his feelings—even in his own conscious mind—Eddie transfers his energy to a hatred of Marco and Rodolpho and causes him to act completely irrationally. Eddie's final need to secure or retrieve his good name from Marco is a result of Eddie's failure to protect Catherine from Marco. Eddie fails in his life, but seeks redemption and victory in death. By avenging Marco, Eddie believes he will regain his pride in the community—another wholly self-interested act. Eddie escaped restraint because he escaped all thoughts of other people or the community at large. Eddie's "wholeness" is a whole interest in himself. Eddie's tragic flaw is the bubble, the constructed world he exists within, but is unable to escape or recognize.
Alfieri (In-Depth Analysis)

Alfieri is the symbolic bridge between American law and tribal laws. Alfieri, an Italian-American, is true to his ethnic identity. He is a well-educated man who studies and respects American law, but is still loyal to Italian customs. The play told from the viewpoint of Alfieri, the view from the bridge between American and Italian cultures who attempts to objectively give a picture of Eddie Carbone and the 1950s Red Hook, Brooklyn community. Alfieri represents the difficult stretch, embodied in the Brooklyn Bridge, from small ethnic communities filled with dock laborers to the disparate cosmopolitan wealth and intellectualism of Manhattan. The old and new worlds are codified in the immigrant-son Alfieri. From his vantage point, Alfieri attempts to present an un-biased and reasonable view of the events of the play and make clear the greater social and moral implications in the work.

From his narration, it seems that Alfieri has decided to tell the story for his own reasons as much as anyone else's. He does not find a conclusion after telling the Carbone story, but tells it nonetheless and he speaks and reveals his honest view of the facts. He is cast as the chorus part in Eddie's tragedy. Alfieri informs the audience and provides commentary on what is happening in the story. The description of the people within the play and narration at the beginning of every scene change helps to distinguish the short chapters of the tale. Alfieri is fairly inconsequential in the action of the play in general, but more importantly frames the play as a form of a modern fairy tale. Alfieri admittedly cannot help Eddie Carbone, but must powerlessly watch the tragic events unfold before him. There is no illusion of reality, Alfieri purposely breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience during the reenactment of the story. Alfieri is in many ways like Arthur Miller, when he first heard the tale of the Longshoreman. He is the teller of and incredible story that he cannot change.
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