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A View from the Bridge

Arthur Miller

Act I (continued)

Act I (continued)

Act II

End of Eddie's meeting with Alferi to the end of Act I

Summary

After Eddie leaves his office, Alfieri addresses the audience. Immediately in the present, he tells the audience that from the moment Eddie left his office, he knew Eddie's tragic outcome. Alfieri claims he could see each step unraveling before him, and, in retrospect, wonders why he was powerlessness to stop it.

Catherine and Beatrice clear the dinner table while the men finish eating. Catherine brags to Eddie that Rodolpho has been to Africa. Eddie and Marco describe their travels on fishing boats. Beatrice asks why they have to go out on boats to fish and Marco tells her that the only fish she will catch from the beach are sardines. Catherine and Beatrice muse about the thought of sardines in the ocean. Catherine thinks the idea of sardines in the ocean is as bizarre as oranges on a tree. Eddie agrees with Catherine and says he heard they painted oranges to make them look orange because they grew green on the tree. Rodolpho disagrees with Eddie's thoughts about the oranges and Beatrice quickly diverts the conflict by asking about Marco's children.

Marco responds that his children are well, but he is getting lonesome. Eddie jokingly suggests that there might be a few extra children when Marco returns to Italy, but Marco assures him that he can trust his wife. Rodolpho tells Eddie that it is stricter in their town and the people are not so free. Rodolpho's remark infuriates Eddie, who rises and paces about the room. Eddie informs Rodolpho that the women might be freer in America, but they are not less strict. Eddie is angry because he thinks Rodolpho is taking advantage of Catherine and is offended that Eddie did not ask permission to take Catherine out on a date. Marco immediately tells Rodolfo to come home early, but Eddie is not satisfied. Eddie wants Rodolpho to work and not be out so much. Masking his real jealousy, Eddie tells Rodolpho that the police will catch him if he is out too much on the streets.

Catherine asks Rodolpho to dance and he reluctantly joins her. While dancing, Catherine asks how the men eat on the boats and Rodolpho's cooking skills are revealed. Eddie, amazed by this new information, tells Beatrice that the waterfront is no place for Rodolpho. Rodolfo turns off the stereo and listens to Eddie, who has risen from his seat. Eddie cheerfully asks Rodolfo if he would like to learn how to do some boxing. Rodolpho reluctantly agrees and the men begin to lightly box. Eddie encourages Rodolpho, and he tells Rodolfo he is doing well. After encouragement from Catherine and Beatrice, Eddie and Rodolpho stop boxing.

Marco approaches Eddie and asks if he can lift the chair in front of them. Eddie attempts to lift the chair, but is unsuccessful. Marco slowly raises the chair above his head.

Analysis

In the writing of A View from the Bridge, Miller gave considerable thought to the elements of Greek drama. In his essay, "On Social Plays," appearing in the published version of the play, Miller describes the virtues of Greek Drama that have been lost in modern theatre. Miller distinguishes the concept of ultimate law in Greek drama, "For when the Greeks thought of the right ways to live it was a whole concept, it meant a way to live that would create citizens who were brave in war, had a sense of responsibility to the polis in peace, and were also developed as individual personalities." What modern drama lacked, wrote Miller, was a sense of the whole man or whole good. As exemplified in his own behavior during the McCarthy trials, where he refused to name the names of artists who attended communist support meetings, Miller sought to find the right, ultimate law that extended beyond that of the written word. A View from the Bridge was his experiment.

In the introduction to the play, Miller identified the difficulties of writing a drama that combined the concept of ultimate law with modern living and knowledge. Alfieri was Miller's original solution to these problems. As the narrator, Alfieri objectively observes the Carbone family and articulates the larger, universal meaning and context of Eddie's actions and the family's conflict.

Miller's original production failed to find an ultimate meaning or root out any sort of ultimate law. There is evidence that Miller struggled to find the central problem of the story before the production opened and, according to reviews, he never found it. The production was underwritten and the characters unsympathetic. Brooks Atkinson of the Times reported, "Eddie's deficiency as a tragic hero is simply that Miller has not told us enough about him."

In the revised version, written two years later, Miller was able to find more personal connection to the characters—especially Eddie Carbone. While the characters were substantially filled out, Miller retained many characteristic elements of a Greek. Alfieri still acts as a chorus and Eddie fulfills the requirements of a Euripidean tragic hero—overcome and finally destroyed by his own self-destructive madness. There is a tragic meaning in man and circumstance in the production. Eddie is weak and powerless in the face of fate. As sensed by many literary critics, Miller never found the "ultimate meaning" of Eddie Carbone. Particularly evident in Alfieri's final speech, Miller is unclear about what ultimate law should have been followed or what ultimate law should be praised.

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