Discuss How Arthur Miller uses Alfieri in ‘A View from the Bridge’ to add dramatic impact of the play
Arthur Miller uses Alfieri as a dramatic impact of the play by the use of language, roles and stage direction instructed by Arthur Miller. Alfieri is used in this play to add tension and suspense whilst expressing Miller’s view amongst the various situations. ‘A View from the Bridge’ was a play rewritten during 1950’s in America where depression had come amongst many citizens has a result of the Second World War. It foretells a story of an awkward relationship between a young lady and her guardian has he seeks legal help as a father figure on what precautions he should take when he notices a close bond forming between his ‘daughter’ and an illegal immigrant. Alfieri takes on many roles throughout the play; the most emphasise role was the use of Arthur Miller using Alfieri has a Greek chorus, as Miller states in the introduction of ‘A View from the Bridge’ his intension was to recreate a modern version of a Greek tragedy; were the protagonist is led by fate towards a destiny that cannot be escaped.
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Alfieri appears throughout the play, acting out different role that all convey what fate as in store for Eddie. As well as foreshadowing Eddie’s death, Alfieri tells the audience that there was an inevitability about the outcome that he ‘could have finished the whole story that afternoon’ and especially in the beginning when he warn the audience that something bad is going to happen resulting in death ‘run its bloody course’. Alfieri also helps us gain an understanding of the characters and set the scene as we expect a typical narrator would do, but we could describe Alfieri role as an engage narrator, because he helps the reader in various of ways to understand the moral of the story. Within his role as a narrator, Alfieri forms an atmosphere of suspense and tension where crime was once set in the ‘heart of the neighbourhood’ whilst getting the audience to feel and think a certain way about the characters.
Alfieri role as a narrator helps set the historical context of the play. Throughout the opening speech told by Alfieri he highlights the Italian American theme of the play. From Miller’s description we can tell that play is set within a ghetto community of Sicilian Italians in Red Hook, were most of the Italians at that time lived in poorer areas, ‘This is the slums’. During the 1950’s many Italian citizens fled to America for a better life, as law was past banning any more citizens coming into the country to live. Italian citizens began to come into the country illegally therefore being categorised as illegal immigrants or more commonly known during the 1950s as ‘submarines’. With the Italians coming in hoping for a better life the most common jobs available to them were becoming dockworkers or longshoremen in Brooklyn’s harbour, as the men went out finding job the women stayed at home cooking, cleaning and raising their children. This idea of men always being the lead and the women expected to be a mediocre compared to men, was part of the Italian culture. This is clearly displayed within the first Act where Eddie is seen going to and from work compared to Beatrice whom throughout the act is seen cleaning and cooking.
Through Alfieri narration at the start of the play he introduces himself as a lawyer. As the audience are now aware of Alfieri role as a lawyer we are able to trust his judgment on the characters because as a result of his profession he is taught to be emotionally detached from his client. However his connection with Eddie makes it more harder because he as a more closer relationship with Eddie because of Eddie’s father, ‘I had represented his father in an accident case some years before, and I was acquainted with the family in a casual way’. As well as in the next appearance Alfieri tells us how he is so troubled, that he seek advice from a ‘wise old woman’, who tells him to pray for Eddie. Furthermore, he also tells the audience how the Italian community react to his presence because he is a representative of the law, ‘to meet a lawyer or a priest on the street is unlucky’. From this quote we could interpret that, as most of the audience are already aware, that a visit to a lawyer means you’re in great trouble. It becomes obvious that many of the Italians try their best to not involve themselves with representatives of the law because they are illegal immigrants.
Furthermore, from Alfieri’s first narration he explains to the audience about the Italian culture being a vigilante community, ‘many here who were justly shot by unjustly men’. He tells the audience about the importance of justice and remaining loyal to your family. He backs up this theory with the short story about Al Capone and Franky Yale, which later he states that the conflict, like the Eddie and the cousins, is beyond the power of any representative of law to stop it, ‘ I was so powerless’. Just as Alfieri believed that death of Al Capone and Franky Yale was beyond the help of any law. ‘I knew where he was going to end’ he also believes the same with the death of Eddie Carbone as he admittedly states that he cannot help him, but instead must powerlessly watch the tragic events unfold before him. Law and justice are central themes that run throughout the play.
Throughout the play, there are many change of character that can be analysed in depth. This is included in the way Arthur Miller builds the drama from the start of act 1 through to the end of the play with the use of Alfieri. Alfieri’s analysis of the problems in Red Hook shows an unbiased view on both side of the problem as he as an overview of the play. Arthur Miller makes Alfieri speaks in an understandable formal style, compared to the rest of the members of the community where common use of slang is spoken. Alfieri is very critical of his surrounding, this is clearly presented through his evaluation of New York were he describes it has a ‘gullet, swallowing the world’s tonnage’, the audience recognises something greedy and deceitful in this image created by Alfieri description. This suggest to the reader that New York uses up the immigrants work effort, just as it uses other global resources, also this indicated to the audience that Alfieri has an understanding of Red Hook’s place in New York. In a similar way, Alfieri understands the Italian cultural with the old Sicily appreciation of ‘justice and honour’. But he also is aware that since living in America, it has had an impact of these ideas so now the Italians ‘are quite civilized now we settle for half’. This means that the Italians no longer take the law into their own hands,but instead go through the legal processes. Because since they live in America the Mafia no longer have power over the streets and their usual codes of conduct of vigilante. Sicilian traditions and codes of behaviour have been replaced by legal processes and compromises.
The stage directions gives the audience a description of Alfieri’s appearance ‘in his fifties, portly, good humored and thoughtful’. At the start of the play Alfieri speakes directly to us as a narrator. The stage directions suggest that whilst speaking he is grinning, this could be as he is amused by the treatment that he receives and wants to explain the possibly abnormal behaviour or interpret it to the audience. This is the first indication that the audience receive informing us that he is going to be an interface or liaison between the Red Hook community and the audience.
As we progress through the play it becomes clear that Arthur Miller uses Alfieri to reveals more about Eddie’s character to the audience. Alfieri role to Eddie is his advisor and representative of the American law; therefore knowing what is illegal and legal. Eddie comes to Alfieri seeking advice numerous times throughout the play. Alfieri is presented to be more on the side of the American law despite the fact that his root is from the Italian culture.
The first encounter of Alfieri and Eddie together, is when Eddie comes to him seeking advise on the relationship he has began to notice forming between Catherine and Rodolfo. But is turned away by Alfieri when he tells Eddies ‘you have no recourse in the law . He advises Eddie to let Catherine live her own life. However, it’s only in their second encounter that a suggestion is made that some part of Eddie is still attached to Catherine’s close bond with Rodolfo. Aware that Eddie is not going to simply leave the situation alone Alfieri tells the audience about how surprise he was about the way he began to feel about the problem “almost transfixed I had come to feel”. Alfieri suggest to Eddie that the only way to get rid of Rodolfo is by calling the immigration Bureau because the only legal question is how the brothers got into the country, but he tells Eddie that from a Sicilian its against their culture ‘But I don’t think you want to do anything about that’. As Eddie considers the suggestion that Alfieri has just made, Alfieri seems to already know what he is thinking and warns Eddie “You won’t have a friend in the world…Put it out of your mind”.
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Alfieri is not only there as an adviser to Eddie but also one to Marco and Rodolfo. Since Alfieri as a lawyer he has connections inside the police force and is aware of the law and how it works, he asks if Marco would want to be bail until his hearing date but he must promise that Marco must not take revenge on Eddie as he is aware of the Italian culture on betrayal, he tell Marco that ‘Only God’ should have the right to judge what fate a person should have, and should not be taken into their hand as the Italians do with the law.
Throughout the time Alfieri advice Eddie on what to do, he also acts as a commentator. With Alfieri first encounter with Eddie he notices, ‘His eyes were like tunnels’. Furthermore he describes Eddie to be stressed, obsessed, lost within his thoughts or had committed a crime. If Alfieri had not commentated on Eddie’s facial expression, the audience would have a harder time interpreting Eddie’s behaviour. Sometimes his uses of imagery to describe something gives the audience a clearer view and allow the audience to convey to that this story will end tragically. Alfieri always keeps the audience thinking and helps them concentrate on the play. Another example of Alfieri’s commentating is when he observes the deep passion within Eddie’s eyes. Miller tells us that Alfieri was too drawn into Eddie’s eyes that he wasn’t even listing to what Eddie had to say, it is clear to say that Alfieri saw something within Eddie’s eyes and without Alfieri’s comments on this the audience may have missed out on a vital part of Eddie’s emotion. “I looked into his eyes more than I listened”.
One of the most significant role Alfieri played was his role as a Greek chorus, as just like in a chrous Alfieri continuoulsy remind the audience of its tradgey. For most parts, Alfieri talks about the contrasting Italian and American view of justice. In a typical Greek chorus the chorus generally did a lot of foreshadowing of the tragic events that were going to take place by the uses of continuous moaning. Despite the fact that Alfieri doesn’t emphasise as much on his sorrow, however he comments several times on how awful the problem with Eddie turned out to be. He even ends the play by noticing the audience that he mourns Eddie death. The chorus would also usually try and emphasise the tragic hero. But, the hero would usually be ignorant and do what they wanted to do in the first place. This is evidently shown when Alfieri tells Eddie to forget about it but he doesn’t and as a result of his ignorance dies.
Alfieri could be described as a symbolic bridge between the two contrasting worlds, one of them, which are ruled by following the law and the other by vigilantes. Alfieri is both an Italian and an American who remained loyal to both of his ethnical background.
Miller uses Alfieri to represents the Brooklyn Bridge, which links both countries together. By using Alfieri as the bridge allows the reader to understand the play in greater detail, as Alfieri throughout the play as an outlook of the dilemmas and the contrasting culture.
Arthur Miller creates dramatic tension through commentating on the play and explaining what is happening at each scene, he gets his opinion across to the audience by the use of Alfieri who is both an actor and commentator in the play, therefore he is able to reveals more about the characters and their emotions. In most of Alfieri’s scenes he develops tension and suspense, Alfieri is like the audience guide, he moves the scene on to the next one with a brief explanation on the scenery and any comments of the character included. This is clearly presented in the first scene in Alfieri’s office; where Miller brings the main message of the play into light. That is loyalty, morality and law.
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