The play acts

Even though Eddie feels like this, however, he still defends Rodolfo in public by saying 'but he's a kid yet, y'know? He – he's just a kid, that's all' because it would be totally against Old World values to speak badly of anybody in your family to anyone else, because families stick together. Another reason Eddie dislikes Rodolfo is that he is in America to make money for nobody but himself. Eddie respects Marco enormously because he has gone to all the trouble of emigrating for his starving children and family, whereas Rodolfo has nobody to provide for.

This is not very honourable, in Eddie's eyes, he should help his brother's family if he doesn't have his own. 'A snappy new jacket he buys, records, a pointy pair new shoes and his brother's kids are starvin' over there with tuberculosis?'. Rodolfo is breaking away from the traditional Old World values – he dreams of America as a new start for him and has high hopes about New World ideals such as freedom and democracy, and he enjoys the bright lights of New York.

Catherine also represents a new generation siding towards the New World values of equality and freedom. She is beginning to rebel against Eddie about things that are important to her such as the job at the start of the play, and, under the influence of Rodolfo and Beatrice, she disagrees with him more and more and finally is defiant about having the wedding, and Beatrice coming. 'You got no more right to tell nobody nothin'! Nobody!'. However, although Catherine can stand up to Eddie, Beatrice cannot bring herself to disobey him completely because she was brought up very much believing in the values of the Sicilian codes. 'Go to your wedding, Katie, I'll stay home.' This shows how she has been dominated by Eddie and his male authority.

There are many important decisions made where Old World values are in direct competition with New World values and these make up the most tense and compelling parts of Arthur Miller's play. Perhaps the most decisive is the moment that Eddie decides to turn away from all the values he has held dear and wound his life around, when he betrays his own family to the immigration office. 'I want to report something. Illegal immigrants'. He is turning from his beliefs to the values of the New World and then he finds he cannot turn back. When Marco is arrested we see Old World values and New World values side by side as he speaks to Alfieri.

'MARCO: He knows such a promise is dishonourable. ALFIERI: To promise not to kill is not dishonourable'. Marco shows that he would never make a promise he thinks he will break and he feels that Eddie deserves to die for betraying his family, whereas Alfieri takes the New World values and maintains that he did nothing that merits dying for murder is a terrible sin and can never be justified. In the final scene of the play we have a most horrific situation with Eddie completely betraying everything, going against both the Old and the New World values by springing a knife upon Marco. 'EDDIE springs a knife into his hand'.

This is against Old World values because it was hidden upon his person and he promised to fight Marco hand-to-hand and it is turning away from the law because it is illegal to fight with knives. This shows how desperate Eddie has become that he no longer has any set of values to live by and it is ironic that this brings about his downfall. Eddie's obsession with Catherine has led to multiple betrayals.

Alfieri's views, as the most intelligent character in the play, can probably be viewed as the ideas of Arthur Miller himself. Alfieri, throughout the play, acts as a metaphorical bridge between the Old and the New World values having lived through the transition period and knowing each well. As a lawyer, the audience often views him as a believer in the New World values, although he understands what is important to his community and their morals.

At the end of the play, Alfieri decides that he prefers the New World values when he says, 'we settle for half and I like it better'. This is offered as the message of the play through Alfieri's lips, because the Old World values are shown to destroy lives; Eddie dies, Beatrice is left alone and forlorn, Marco is sent home in disgrace. Arthur Miller has shown the audience that it is indeed better to compromise by good use of conflict between the two sets of values to develop his play well.