To What Extent Can Eddie Be Described as a Tragic Hero in ‘a View from the Bridge' by Arthur Miller?

Topics: Tragedy, Tragic hero, Poetics Pages: 6 (2443 words) Published: May 6, 2007
In writing ‘A View from the Bridge', Arthur Miller wanted to create a modern Greek tragedy. An Ancient Greek tragedy was a play where fate brings about the downfall of the characters involved. It has many other generic features which Miller has incorporated into his modern version. The character of Alfieri is used in the traditional chorus role, and Eddie is often likened to a tragic hero, the main character who contributes to their own downfall through a flawed personality, typically described as their "tragic flaw". The traditional Greek tragedies would have been performed in amphitheatres, in which the audience would look down on the actors. Not only is this similar to the way Alfieri looks down from the bridge, it is also similar to the way that Greek tragedies involved a strong sense of destiny controlled by the Gods, symbolised by the looking down. Miller uses the idea of destiny to great effect in ‘A View from the Bridge'.

Miller has used the idea of inevitability about the plot to great effect in ‘A View from the Bridge'. It is the fate of Eddie that Miller concentrates on, in keeping with Greek tragedy where the fate of the tragic hero is unavoidable. Alfieri is used to enforce the idea of destiny, as he is an onlooker in the play. Indeed the whole play is set in the past, with Alfieri's monologues saying what has passed, and the scenes involving the other characters shown as flashbacks. This adds to the sense of inevitability about the fate of Eddie, as the audience know what is going to happen as soon as Alfieri says ‘This one's name was Eddie Carbone', the was clearly indicating that he is dead. Alfieri also refers to fate's ‘bloody course', which immediately introduces us to the idea of destiny. It is an ominous statement as it suggests that from the outset there will be no fairytale ending to the play, and it gives the sense that unavoidable tragedy will occur. Alfieri's speech clearly shows how helpless outsiders such as himself are; he refers to how perhaps other lawyers have ‘heard the same complaint and sat there, as powerless as I'. This establishes Alfieri's position as a mere onlooker to something which is out of his control. This opening speech also has extensive ancient references, relating it to a Greek tragedy; ‘the law has not been a friendly idea since the Greeks were beaten'. Eddie is also the first character to be introduced after Alfieri's monologue, which emphasises his importance from the outset. As well as showing the audience the play in flashbacks, Alfieri constantly reminds the audience of the unavoidable fate that is waiting for Eddie, saying, ‘Eddie Carbone never expected to have a destiny' and remarking after the first of his two meetings with Eddie, ‘I knew then and there…I could see every step coming, step after step, like a dark figure walking down a hall to a certain door'. These are comments of an ominous nature which reinforce that Eddie's fate is waiting for him, in the same way as the destiny of a tragic hero is unavoidable, and this builds up dramatic tension as the audience wait to see how Eddie is led to his fate.

Eddie's destiny is unavoidable due to the tragic flaw in his personality. This again is a device used in Greek tragedy, and can be described as a weakness of character which brings about a person's downfall. This is a feature which all tragic heroes have, and to make their downfall more evident, traditionally a tragic hero would be a good person with significant moral stature. This is indeed the case with Eddie. At the beginning of the play, Miller portrays Eddie as a kind, loving man, who has taken in his orphaned niece and brought her up well. He is shown to care for Catherine, saying ‘I want you in a nice office', before giving in to what Catherine wants. He appears to have a typical father-daughter type relationship with his niece, and the audience warm to him because of this. Eddie is also shown to be a moral, respectable man, who upholds and supports...
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