“Alfieri’s commentary gives a depth and complexity to what might otherwise have bean a sordid and uninteresting story.”

June 16, 2022 by Essay Writer

Alfieri’s commentary on the action of the play is integral to Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, communicating directly to the audience and presenting the events from a more impartial and credible perspective, forcing the viewer to consider the play’s greater social and moral implications. Yet while his speech contributes depth to the play, to dismiss the actual story as banal is vastly incorrect. Sordid it certainly is- repugnant currents of tension and squalor pervade the entire play- but if the action is lacking in any element, it surely is not intrigue. Alfieri’s commentary offers not additional colour and excitement to an uninteresting story, but, on the contrary, momentary relief from the passion and intensity of the action, interjecting a tense and highly emotional narrative with moments of clarity in order for the audience to reach a greater understanding of the events that have transpired.Miller establishes Alfieri’s credibility as a narrator by presenting him immediately as an educated, articulate and insightful man, able to perceive and explain the action with greater clarity than those more closely involved in it. As a lawyer, Alfieri gains the audience’s trust that he is rational and logical, thus his judgment of character and morality holds some credibility. He refers to a memory of the 1920s, indicating that Alfieri is older than many of the characters, inculcating wisdom and worldliness in his character. Unlike the Carbones, Alfieri can see that Red Hook is the “gullet of New York,” the “slum that faces the bay,” suggesting that he has seen different areas. Other characters involved in the action live in a very confined, insular society, whereas Alfieri has seen more and knows more about the world, giving his perspective on the events a broader view.The insularity of Red Hook ensures that the Carbones are bound to the traditions and customs of Sicilian culture, which Alfieri, an Italian man himself, both understands and respects. However, Alfieri has studied and practices American law- he has “settled for half,” accommodating Italian tradition with US legislation, understanding the balance between law and justice that the inhabitants of Red Hook, a town that takes pride in supporting illegal immigrants and places extreme value on loyalty and community, cannot comprehend. In this sense, Alfieri’s view is “from the bridge”- he acts as the bridge between the audience and the stage, between the old and new worlds (small ethnic communities full of longshoremen and sailors and glamorous Manhattan, separated by the Brooklyn Bridge), and between Italian tradition and US law. He is cast as the role of the chorus in a classical Greek tragedy, addressing the audience directly and commenting on the action, making clear the greater moral and social implications. While the audience responds to the action with the passion and intensity with which it is performed, Alfieri’s speech forces the viewer make judgment. His role is thus indispensable in leading the audience towards a rational interpretation of events, but the events in themselves are by no means uninteresting- rather, the necessity of Alfieri’s interludes stems from the fact that the action is too interesting, too intense to be fully digested without him.It is reasonable to argue that there are several sordid elements to the play. Red Hook is, as described by Alfieri, “the slum that faces the bay,” a shabby, rundown workers’ community founded upon a rich tradition of organized crime. As a legacy of this history, petty crime is an accepted element of daily life, with Eddie casually promising “we’ll bust a bag tomorrow, I’ll bring you some,” and warning that “this is the United States government you’re playing with now, this is the Immigration Bureau,” presenting US authority as the enemy, and references to “the syndicate” emphasizes the seedy subculture of society. In addition to the frequency of illegal activity, the underlying theme of incestuous desire in the Carbone household creates an uneasy atmosphere in the play. Without actually being lovers, Eddie and Catherine share subtle moments of flirtation and the intimacy that only lovers should have- Catherine fawns over Eddie, “walking him to the armchair,” “taking his arm,” and lighting his cigar for him, an action that, while perhaps lost on a modern audience, would have a more uncomfortable effect on an audience of the fifties, as in films of this period such a gesture was used to distinctly convey sexual attraction, and, though the audience never sees this, Beatrice’s speech reveals that Catherine often walks around in her slip in front of Eddie, or sits talking to him while he shaves in his underwear. As Catherine leaves the room, Eddie “stands looking towards the kitchen for a moment,” his gaze lingering after her, and he is “pleased, and therefore shy about” the attention that his niece pays to him. These undercurrents of inappropriate behaviour and forbidden desire help to build a tense, sordid environment, causing the audience to feel uneasy.However, it is this very sordidness that contributes complexity and interest to the play. The intensity and immediacy of such tension is crafted carefully throughout the action to create a passionate, highly emotional story, relieved only by Alfieri’s reflections. One clear example of this is the final scene of the first act, in which the action is choreographed in three distinct stages- Catherine and Rodolpho dancing, Eddie teaching Rodolpho how to box, and finally Marco raising the chair “like a weapon” over Eddie’s head. The prevailing tension is intensified through the first action, as the movement both allows physical closeness between Rodolpho and Catherine, while Eddie watches edgily, his “eyes on (Rodolpho’s) back,” powerless to stop them, and seems to represent Rodolpho symbolically taking Catherine from Eddie. The intensity of the scene is conveyed through Eddie’s frighteningly ominous anxiety, and the stage directions declare that he is “unconsciously twisting the newspaper into a tight roll” until “it suddenly tears in two.” The audience is thus already uneasy when Eddie casually offers to teach Rodolpho to box, a sensation that reaches its climax when Eddie’s supposedly playful fighting “mildly stagger(s)” the younger man, an attempt to humiliate him in front of Catherine. It is the final action however that trumps Eddie, leaving him as the humiliated one- Marco, who has been watching silently visually demonstrates the danger he invites by threatening Rodolpho, a “strained tension” in his eyes as he raises the chair over Eddie’s head, ominously presaging the impending judgment on Eddie as he “transforms what might appear like a glare of warning into a smile of triumph.” At the emotional height of this action, the audience remembers Alfieri’s speech that prefaces the episode. Alfieri, quietly and resignedly, laments the sense of tragedy that is yet to come, reflecting on the inevitability of Eddie’s fate- “it wasn’t as though there was a mystery to unravel, I could see every step coming.” Yet, he is “powerless to stop it,” suggesting that this is an almost predetermined path, warning the audience that Eddie’s actions will undoubtedly incur tragic implications. “There are times when you want to spread an alarm,” he says, “but nothing has happened.” Thus, Alfieri, being a perceptive observer, is able to provide the audience with a deeper understanding of the seriousness of Eddie’s plight, presenting a view removed from the emotion and immediacy of the action.Similarly, the interrelation of the passionate events and Alfieri’s reflection can be demonstrated in the final scene of Act Two- the public fight for honour between Marco and Eddie, resulting in the death of Eddie by his own hand. The desperate terror of Beatrice, sensing the danger that is about to ensue, urging him “let’s go someplace…I don’t want you to be here when he comes,” and screaming finally “the truth is not as bad as blood!” is exacerbated by Eddie’s stubborn determination to fight, raging almost insanely “I want my name!” The passion and dread in this scene explodes in two distinct cataclysms. Firstly, Beatrice distraughtly confronts Eddie with the truth, the first time he has been made aware directly of his feelings for Catherine as she shouts “you want somethin else Eddie, and you can never have her!” causing “horror” in Catherine and Eddie to be “shocked, horrified, his fists clenching,” a highly emotional response that resonates throughout the stage. Following this, tension accumulates even higher as Marco and Eddie stand facing each other, ready to fight. The stage directions indicate that Eddie is “incensing himself and little bits of laughter even escape him as his eyes are murderous,” creating a terrifying sense of insanity, suggesting here that Eddie has become entirely consumed by “the human animal,” the basic primal instinct that most have learned to suppress, emphasized through Marco’s shout of “anima-a-a-l!” Eddie’s death brings the play to a climactic end, a passionate, highly emotional explosion of all the tension and uneasiness that has been simmering ominously throughout the entire play. Alfieri’s reflection on the events that have transpired is thus critical in the recapitulation of the narrative, forcing the audience to step back and make a judgment on Eddie’s character, viewing his downfall from a more dispassionate perspective. Alfieri acknowledges “how wrong (Eddie) was” but urges the audience to remember that his death is “useless” and somewhat vindicates the passion and integrity of Eddie’s character, “for he allowed himself to be wholly known,” never backing down from his perception of the truth. Through this evaluation, Alfieri presents the audience not only with the facts, but some insight into the greater philosophical implications of the story, placing it in a broader context and inviting the audience to reach their own rationalized judgment.

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