"A View from the Bridge" reflects Miller's background in terms of its setting, plot and context. Miller was born in New York City in 1915. The son of two immigrants, he lived in prosperity until the American Economic Crash, in which his father's business collapsed, causing deprivation to the whole family. They lived in Brooklyn, the setting of "A View From the Bridge" and Miller found himself interested in the work of longshoremen in the harbour, many of whom were exploited by their bosses, underpaid and had only recently immigrated to the United States. This, combined with Miller's upbringing and experiences on a recent trip to Sicily, provided the background to what would become "A View from the Bridge."
However, the first version of the play, which was a modernised Greek tragedy, received a very cold reception, and lacked the emphasis and tension that made the final version of "A View From the Bridge" so successful. After reworking the original, Miller proved that he had the ability to arouse the passion of audiences world-wide, with his sympathetic portrayal of Sicilian family life, emphasis on the incestuous relationship between Eddie and Catherine, and successful use of tension throughout.
In the scene that closes Act one, Miller effectively creates tension. Eddie, the protagonist, is an unsophisticated longshoreman. His language and that of Catherine and Beatrice has a powerful
colloquialism about it, which seems to hide more than it actually reveals. The stage directions throughout this scene quite often say a lot more about the characters than the actual script itself and also greatly contribute to the heightening of tension throughout. Not only do they describe the positions of the characters on the set; they help the reader to identify with their feelings.
Miller begins the scene begins with a simple conversation about a recent trip to Africa which Marco and Rodolfo had undergone through work. However, tension is still created, regardless of the triviality of the conversational subject, by Eddie, who, from a simple glance at Catherine, appears to be sceptical about whether the trip took place:
"The went to Africa once. On a fishing boat. (Eddie glances at her.) It's true, Eddie"
Eddie then retreats to his rocker, a prop which Miller makes significant throughout the play as it acts as Eddie's position of authority, as his "throne" - when in his rocker, he feels very much at the helm of the household.
The conversation then continues further, though it is clear from Miller's use of stage directions that Eddie is disregarding anything Rodolfo says to him, and talking to Marco exclusively, creating an uneasy atmosphere and increasing the tension further.
Miller accentuates the Sicilian household image throughout the beginning of the scene - Beatrice is stacking dishes and going in and out of the kitchen. Rodolfo then helps her:
"(Beatrice enters. She and Rodolfo stack the remaining dishes.)"
Beatrice is trying to be the mediator and keep the peace, but Rodolfo's stacking of the dishes exposes his femininity and goes against Eddie's views on the role of the male within the household. The audience is very mindful of this, and therefore the tension heightens.
Eddie then undermines Beatrice with a mocking tone, in response to her comment about fishing from the beach:
"Sure. (Laughing.) How you gonna catch sardines on a hook?"
Here, Miller successfully increases tension, as, although the subject matter is innocent, Eddie feels the need to mock Beatrice in order to feel a sense of supremity. The discourse continues, and Eddie mentions how he heard they "paint oranges in Italy". He responds to Marco's comments, but when Rodolfo joins in the conversation with a simple comment about Lemon's being green, Eddie is clearly looking for conflict, and resents his instruction:
"I know lemons are green for Christ sake, you see them in...
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