A View from the Bridge

Arthur Miller
Summary

Act I (continued)

Summary Act I (continued)

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.