2011 PAST PAPER
Choose a play in which a power struggle is central to the action.
Explain briefly the circumstances of the power struggle and discuss the extent to which it contributes to your appreciation of theme and/or character in the play as a whole.
“A View From The Bridge” by Arthur Miller is a play in which a power struggle is central to the action. The protagonist, Eddie Carbone struggles to keep his late sister in laws daughter, Catherine from marrying his wife’s illegally immigrated cousin, Rodolpho. Eddie also has a power struggle with his conscience about his inappropriate love for Catherine and his inability to tell anyone. When Eddie’s power struggle is lost he makes the ultimate decision to phone the immigration police on his wife Beatrice’ cousins. The dramatist successfully uses the power struggle, along with characterisation, conflict and key scene to enhance the audience’s appreciation of both the character of Eddie Carbone and the themes within the play such as love, code of honour and justice within the law.
At the beginning of the play, before Marco and Rodolpho have arrived Miller does not make it obvious to the audience that Eddie is in a power struggle with his conscience. Through the use of characterisation Miller paints Eddie as a honourable, decent family man. The audience are made aware of Alfieri’s opinion of Eddie, spoken before the entrance of Marco and Rodolpho:
“He was a good man as he had to be in a life that was hard and even. He worked on the piers when there was work, he brought home his pay, and he lived.”
Miller’s characterisation of Eddie highlights a good man who seems perfectly content. “When there was work” highlights that Eddie’s life was tough and he struggled to raise his family financially. “He brought home his pay,” suggests that although his income was inconsistent Eddie’s main priority in life was to look after his family and any money that he earned was spent on the household and by implication not on personal vices. “And he lived” indicates that providing for his family brought Eddie satisfaction and contentment. The audience are encouraged to trust Alfieri’s opinion, as he is a man of the law. As a lawyer, Alfieri is considered a good judge of character and rational, because he is professionally detached. Eddie’s further condemnation of Vinnie Bolzano conveys further Eddie’s sense of loyalty and honour.
“A guy do a thing like that? `How’s he gonna show his face?”
Eddie’s words here tell the audience that initially he has strong values and an intense belief in the code of honour that dominates the community; he is in disbelief that anyone could betray a family member. In addition the audience identify the drastic transition Eddie’s has to undergo to result in his treacherous betrayal of Marco and Rodolpho. At this early stage in the play the audience are encouraged to see Eddie as a decent and unselfish family man.
Nonetheless, Miller prepares the audience for the decision Eddie makes because of his power struggle due to Catherine’s newfound relationship with Rodolpho. The audience observes Eddie’s growing dislike for Rodolpho from as early as when they first meet, when Eddie begins to only speak to Marco.
“[He (Eddie) is coming more and more to address Marco only]”
This shows that Eddie does not want to hear what Rodolpho has to say as Eddie has been angered by the fact that Catherine took an immediate fondness to Rodolpho. When the audience first see Catherine and Rodolpho interact, Eddie attempts to stop them both talking by making Catherine get the coffee for their guests. This is one of the first indicators to the audience of Eddie’s jealousy towards Rodolpho. Eddie also comments on Catherine wearing heels by telling her to take them off. Miller uses the heels to symbolise Catherine’s maturity and help the audience see why many men including her uncle Eddie find her attractive. Eddie...
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