A View from the Bridge

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Literature Coursework-Modern Drama
What is the dramatic function of Alfieri’s character in ‘A View from the Bridge’?

‘A View from the Bridge’ is a play written by Arthur Miller. Miller’s inspiration for this play is close to his heart. He grew up in New York City; his parents were illegal immigrants into the United States looking for work. Alfieri is a key component, not only is he a character he is also a narrator. He acts as a chorus to the play and an aid to the audience. Alfieri plays many small roles to combine and create a depth and understanding to the play such as the connection to the title of the play, how he is utilises time-switches and the effectiveness of them, how he behaves as a chorus of the Greek tragedies and how he is an aid to elevate Eddie’s position to that of a tragic hero. Also how Miller applies Alfieri to use both monologue(narrator) and dialogue effectively.

The title ‘A View from the Bridge’ suggests that someone is looking down on both communities to seek a higher meaning from this viewpoint. Allfieri is metaphorically standing on the bridge attempting to merge American law with Italian cultural practises. However, he is a man of the law as was clearly shown to us in the opening speech, for example, ‘A lawyer means the law, and in Sicily, from where their fathers came, the law has not been a friendly idea’. This conveys that Alfieri is American-Italian who tries to undertake the task of negotiating a place between the two. It is very apparent when Eddie says (when talking about Rodolfo) ‘Yeah, but if he ain’t right, Mr Alfieri, you mean to tell me-‘ and Alfieri replies ‘There is nothing you can do, Eddie, believe me.’ This shows that he is abiding by American law however there is something Eddie could have done. He could have turned Rodolfo into the Immigration Bureau but it is a tribal loyalty that a member of the Sicilian family could not do that and it would not be acceptable. This is a perfect example of the merge between American legal statutes and Sicilian family and tribal loyalties. Alfieri narrates the story from the present looking back at what has already happened. This leverage point gives him the same overview as if one was looking down from the bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge represents a symbol of the extent of difference between civilisations. It measures from Brooklyn, Red Hook neighbourhoods brimming full with labourers and immigrants with the ‘worldly-wise’ Manhattan, presently populated by bankers, financiers and others of high social status. Alfieri is the character and narrator whose function it is to portray this and that is his link to the title of the play.

Miller uses Alfieri’s character to move on time. A quotation from the text is: “On the twenty third of that December…” This indicates that Alfieri is effectively moving time because in life it is not always fast pace and interesting. Alfieri has moved on time to prevent the play from getting boring and losing the captured mood of the audience. This is one of Arthur Miller’s uses of Alfieri as a dramatic device. Throughout the play the time is moved on, this establishes to the audience an event is about to occur as the assumption can be made that Alfieri has skipped to this moment in time for a purpose. This creates tension and anxiety as to what may happen next, however, Miller does not let your mind wander, he delves deep into action quickly to keep the mood and the atmosphere of the audience. The time-switches have a significant effect, they go from the action of the play to juxtaposing Alfieri’s thoughts and the more emotional calm moments of the play. Allowing the audience to link up what is happening during the action packed parts of the play to the much calmer and reflective parts. The audience is aided to comprehend the deeper themes of the play and then challenged to make a judgement.

Alfieri is also shown as a friend, who gives truthful advice. Eddie visits Alfieri for legal advice, Eddie knows that...
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