Exist and the law

A View from the Bridge – Arthur Miller Michael Cawdry Discuss the view that when Miller wrote the 'A View from the Bridge', he created a tragic play which suggests that true justice does not exist and the law is often inadequate.

Arthur Miller wrote 'A View from the Bridge' in 1955 as a one-act play, it was later made into a two-act play in 1956. This play was written under the influence of Miller's experiences and stories told to him. This play is based on 1940's Brooklyn, when Miller was particularly interested in the lives and work of longshoremen and dockworkers. Miller described it as a 'dangerous and mysterious world at the water's edge that drama and literature had never touched' He then describes it as 'a desert beyond the law'. Poorly paid workers who in many cases were illegal immigrants populated the docks. These people had, along with Miller's parents, come to America in the hope of work, wealth and security, which their home country couldn't guarantee.

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 reflective influence on A View From The Bridge. The settings for the play can be traced from Miller's younger years, the Brooklyn terraces and the Dockyard, for example. Miller's experience with the UAAC, especially the threat of deportation,

Alfieri is the first character on stage. He begins by introducing the situation in his neighbourhood, describing the uncertainty of the Law felt by many of the immigrants from Sicily, describing it as unfriendly. Then he states that justice is important to the people of the community, suggesting that the Law has its restrictions, and what people would call 'True Justice' can often be against the law. Alfieri is the second most important role in the play. He is in some of the action as Eddie does visit him. These visits are essential, as it explains how he has come to know the story.

Miller used Alfieri as an equivalent to a classic Greek tragedy's chorus. In ancient plays, the chorus was a person, or group of people, who would watch the action, comment on it and address the audience directly. Alfieri introduces action as a retelling of events already in the recent past. By giving details of place, time or date, he enables the action to move swiftly from one 'episode' to another. Alfieri, being both a character and the narrator, has only a limited amount 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-conscience, warning Eddie before he moves off to call immigration of the consequences. He also represents the remoteness of the law, with his separate stage-area, and his interactions on stage only extending to Eddie.

Eddie and the audience see Alfieri as the voice of reason and sanity. He has also got the view from the bridge. He analyses this view and portrays it through his own advice and opinions, which we believe because he is a lawyer. Lawyers are seen as rational, a man of justice, honesty and a judge of character. In my opinion Alfieri is similar to the Friar in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a fatherly figure at times.

Alfieri 'knows' Eddie slightly "I represented his father in an accident case some years before and I was acquainted with the family in a casual way." Because of this, Alfieri secretly treats Eddie as a relative of his own always warning him and advising him. But Alfieri is not always independent on his own thoughts "I even went to a certain wise old woman and I told her, and she only nodded and said 'pray for him' and so I waited here. But as Eddie contemplates the betrayal, Alfieri reads Eddie's mind and can see what fate Eddie has got so warns him of the consequences if he tells Immigration.