View from the bridge
In this essay I intend to explore how Miller uses dramatic devices and the dramatic impact it has on the audience.
The play A view from the bridge was written in the 1950s by Arthur Miller. When the play was first performed, the audience would have reacted very differently to how an audience would now due to the morals being different. For example in the play the women are controlled by men whereas now women are independent. The women in the audience back then would have thought nothing of women being seen as objects because it was normal, but women now, when watching the play, would be slightly angrier at the way women are treated.
The play was set in 1950s America. Life in America at this time was much more formal to what it is now. When people married they would be married for the rest of their lives divorce was unheard of a frowned upon. They would always be loyal to their family and if someone wasnt their whole family would be embarrassed by them. An example of this is when Eddie tells the story of the boy who was not loyal to his family and no one ever saw him again.
Women stayed at home and cooked and cleaned while the men went out and worked, the men would like to be powerful and in charge.
Things like homosexuality were uncommon and not many people agreed with it. The subject of homosexuality wouldnt be brought up, and if it was people would be embarrassed to speak about it. When Eddie wants to hint that he thinks Rodolfo might be gay he only says the guy aint right, he didnt dare say the word gay or any of the other terms for homosexuals we use today so casually. So the audience in 1950s would have been really shocked at the idea of Rodolfo being gay, whereas a modern audience would have thought it was normal, or even been surprised that Eddie wouldnt use the words gay/queer etc.
The main character in this play is Eddie. Through the play you see Eddies tragedy unfolding. The play is set in the Red Hook, a
rundown area in Brooklyn, New York. Red Hook is notorious for the large amount of illegal immigrants that enters its streets and works in its docks "... the gullet of New York swallowing the tonnage of the world". Most of the men in Red Hook work as longshoremen as does Eddie. Like most of the men who work on the docks, Eddie is masculine, strong and is very commanding. Eddie is an important character because without him the play would be pointless as it is about his relationship with the other characters, the story begins to unravel, when two illegal immigrants (Marco and Rodolfo) enter the country to stay with Eddie, Beatrice and there adopted niece Catherine. Rodolfo and Catherine immediately fall in love and much to Eddies dismay they plan to get married. Eddies unknown passion for Catherine, leads him to do the unimaginable and do something he has always been against,Eddie gives an example of a young boy who told the immigration bureau that he had an illegal immigrant staying in the house, he received the ultimate punishment, to be dragged down to the street and shown for the dog that he is. Eddie said a very interesting quote "And they spit on him in the street, his own fathers and brothers...Youll never see him no more, a guy do a thing like that" this quote show how much Eddie disrespects the kid for telling on his Uncle but then Eddie shows us how stress, jealousy and lust can drive you to do anything, even the thing you despise the most.
Eddie is an important character because without him the play would be pointless as it is about his relationship with the other characters. Eddie sees himself as a man, an uncle and a member of a close knit Italian family. But the audience see him differently. They see him as protective and controlling. A modern day audience would notice this more than an audience in the 1950s though because it was more common for them. They would look at him as being protective and controlling because of the way he talks to the other characters. For example, when Catherine tells Eddie about the job opportunity she has, he doesnt want her to take it and comments on how shes dressed, trying to control her because he doesnt want her to grow up, become independent, he also doesnt want other men looking at her.
Eddie makes act 1 dramatic by trying to prove his point about Rodolfo being gay by trying to teach him to box.
Catherine and Beatrice are also both very important characters due to them being connected to the central character Edie. Catherine is a shy young lady and likes to please Edie and although she never realises it she has made Edie fall in love with her Beatrice has noticed this though-You want somethin' else, Eddie, and you can never have her! , This is, spoken by Beatrice in the conclusion of Act II to Eddie, it is the first time that Eddie seems to realize his true feelings for Catherine and recognize his own madness. Until this moment, no one has directly spoken about Eddie's feelings for Catherine. Although they are obviously known by Beatrice and Alfieri, know one has dared to actually tell Eddie what is wrong with him. But even when Eddie realizes his demon, the love for his niece, he is powerless to stop it. Beatrice is Edies wife and since Catherine has moved in Beatrice doesnt feel loved by Edie as she has seen Edies love grow for Catherine, and has got very jealous of her which she later tells Catherine. I think the audience would feel sympathy for both these characters as people can relate to them; Catherine, worried about Edie-(her father figure) being too overprotective and not understanding that she needs to live her own life, which is how many daughters feel about there own father. Beatrice because shes scared of loosing her husband to a younger woman, which also lots of wifes feel about there husband. They make act 1 dramatic by the growing relationship between Catherine and Rodolfo and Beatrice wanting to be a wife to Edie again, they also build up a lot of tension when the cousins arrive as Catherine is falling in love and Beatrice is realising how Edie feels towards Catherine.
Rodolpho's character has a big impact on the whole Carbone family. Catherine and Beatrice seem to see him as funny, lively and attractive with Beatrice saying: "He's a nice fella, hard workin', he's a good lookin' fella", Eddie, however, believes the complete opposite. Eddie saw the girl's reaction to Rodolpho, and as such begins to become jealous of Rodolpho. One of the main reasons Eddie becomes jealous is due to the relationship between himself and his wife, Beatrice. The lines from Beatrice: "When am I gonna be a wife again, Eddie?" and "It's almost three months", imply that their sex life has been non-existent recently, and that Beatrice is not sure that Eddie still love's her. As his relationship with Beatrice is poor at this time and he is not seeing eye to eye with her, Eddie starts to become angered slightly over Beatrice's positive comments about another man. Another reason Eddie feels threatened by Rodolpho is the fact that Eddie might have some feelings for Catherine. The stage direction: "he reaches out and kisses her on the mouth", gives the feeling to the audience that Eddie might have some feelings for Catherine. This is because family members don't usually kiss each other on the mouth, especially uncles and nieces, so what Eddie has just done seems to the audience to be uncomfortably intimate, and is touching on the view of incest. Eddie's view of Rodolpho gets even worse when he hears the news from Beatrice that Rodolpho and Catherine are seeing each other. His bad feelings for Rodolpho rise at this point in the play, and Eddie feels even more threatened and jealous after this point.
Eddie tries to get back at Rodolpho after feeling threatened by him and begins to change everything Rodolpho does into something different, and more typical of a woman. Eddie ridicules Rodolpho's blonde hair, which he believes is feminine, but it is obviously not to the audience. Eddie is continuously saying to Beatrice such things as: "wacky hair", "he's like a weird", "blondie" and "he's like a chorus girl". All these mocking comments are trying to persuade Beatrice that he's an unusual and effeminate man, but Beatrice is having none of it and replies to Eddie in such ways as: "so he's blond, so-" and "you never seen a blond guy in your life?" Many audience members will be thinking this too. Eddie also talks to Catherine saying that, in his eyes, Rodolpho is not going out with her, and potentially marrying her for what she is, but to be legally allowed to stay in America. Eddie says to Catherine: "He marries you, he's got the right to be an American citizen", "A hit-and-run guy" "You marry him and the next time you'll see him it'll be for divorce!" Eddie is saying all this to try and stop Catherine going out with Rodolpho, maybe for the real reason of trying to protect Catherine from what might happen to Rodolpho and her, if Rodolpho was ever found out to be an illegal immigrant. It is more likely though that Eddie is telling her this because he is feeling jealous towards Rodolpho, and is feeling threatened by him and also to get Rodolpho hopefully out of his life, if Catherine splits up with him. Catherine though shrugs off Eddie's scare tactics by blatantly saying: "No, I don't believe it".
Another way Eddie tries to portray Rodolpho as being weak and effeminate is with the chair incident. It starts off with Eddie teaching Rodolpho some basic, soft boxing but this quickly turns into a situation of great tension and aggression. All of a sudden after doing some seemingly harmless boxing the stage directions say: "He feints with his left hand and lands with his right. It mildly staggers Rodolpho. Marco rises". The audience can tell that this punch Eddie gave Rodolpho was obviously stronger than needed. The fact that Marco, Rodolpho's stronger brother, suddenly rises, coupled with what Catherine does: "(rushing to Rodolpho): Eddie!", shows that everyone in the room was taken aback by what Eddie had done and that Eddie obviously took things one step too far. Eddie tries to make out that he did nothing intentionally wrong and he accidentally punched Rodolpho too hard, by saying: "I didn't hurt him. Did I hurt you, kid?"; but really everyone in the room, and the audience knows that Eddie intentionally did it. The audience can also see the reason why Eddie might have done such a thing, with him feeling threatened and jealous of Rodolpho, he was trying to get back at him. Eddie responding to this situation with physical aggression shows he has difficulty expressing his feelings in any other manner, which may be due to his background and lack of education. Eddie was telling Rodolpho that he is boss of the house and his family members. Rodolpho tries to shrug the whole situation off by saying: No, no, he didn't hurt meI was only surprised", and by asking Catherine to dance he changes the mood in the room away from dramatic tension.
Marco, Rodolpho's brother, on the other hand, has the qualities which in Eddie's view, belong to a 'real man'. He is referred to as having dark hair, being a caring person for his family and being a very strong and determined man; all of which conform to Eddie's view of what makes up a very masculine man. Though it is not just Eddie who believes Marco is very masculine. Louis and Mike, some Long shore men from the local Brooklyn docks, refer to Marco as being such things as: "a regular bull", "a strong guy" and "a regular slave". These quotes are showing Marco to be very strong, aggressive and masculine. Eddie, at this point in the play, does not seem to have a problem with Marco, and in his eyes sees him as a similar person to himself, very masculine.
At times though, Marco's masculinity leads to heightened amounts of hostility and aggression. One example of this is the chair incident at the ending of act 1, which takes place straight after the boxing incident. Marco starts it off by asking Eddie if he can lift a chair when it's in a particular position. Eddie fails this and then Marco successfully lifts the chair way above his head, shadowing over a frightened Eddie, "he kneels, grasps and with strain slowly raises the chair higher and higher, getting to his feet now", "Marco is face to face with Eddie, a strained tension gripping his eyes and jaw, his neck stiff, the chair raised like a weapon over Eddie's head-and he transforms what might appear to be a glare of warning into a smile of triumph". Marco is clearly giving a warning to Eddie to not continue to mess around, and make fun of his brother, Rodolpho. Some of the ways the audience can tell this, is the fact that Marco doesn't have to just beat Eddie by lifting the chair, but he has to exceed what Eddie could achieve, by lifting the chair almost to the ceiling, and by holding it like a weapon over Eddie's head. The audience can also tell this is a very dramatic point in the play by the fact that when Marco begins to do this, Catherine and Rodolpho immediately stop dancing. "Rodolpho and Catherine have stopped dancing", in the middle of this very hostile situation, evokes that the characters can also tell Marco is going too far. "His grin vanishes as he absorbs his look", This action by Eddie is showing Marco, and the audience, that Marco has achieved what he set out to do, which was to give Eddie a warning. This is backed up by the fact that as soon as Eddie's expression turns to a scared look, Marco transforms his own expression into a smile of triumph. This hostile, and almost aggressive situation, has definitely given Eddie a warning.
Alfieri is very important as he narrates the story, effectively splitting up the scene changes and adding structure to the play. He communicates with the audience with short speeches that enlighten them and lay clues as to how the play works. Alfieri tells it like it is, in America at that time, law wasnt always justice and justice wasnt always law and he shows this when he gives advice to Eddie. His presence on the stage is very dramatic as how the lighting is used and also as not only does he narrate the play he Is also a character in it so its almost as if hes coming out of the play to let you no whats happening.
The play is made dramatic by the use of dramatic irony, family affairs, strong characters and a very strong story line with lots of dramatic scenes and building tension up. I think Arthur Miller done very well with the themes.