In A View From The Bridge, Arthur Miller aimed to write a modern tragedy involving ‘the common man’. He wrote in 1949 for the New York Times that ‘the common man is an apt a subject from tragedy in it’s highest sense as kings were. He thought that tragedy ‘is the consequence of a man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly’ and that most of us are willing to remain passive when our dignity and our image of our rightful status is questioned.
But some among us ‘act against the scheme of things that degrades them’ and question what ‘has previously been unquestioned.
Miller thought that the common man was capable of such a process of questioning and chose to demonstrate this by creating a character with the spirit to do so – Eddie Carbone. Miller’s definition of tragedy shows us that he wished to enlighten and spark discussion about the human condition with the play. Miller chooses to close the play with a speech by Alfieri.
Alfieri takes the role of commentator in the play. He is wise but unable to change the course of events, similar to the chorus in a Greek tragedy. He explains the story to the audience without really participating.
Ultimately, Alfieri can only look on as the events ‘run [their] bloody course’, because Eddie has an intrinsic ‘tragic flaw’ in his character which makes him unable to ‘settle for half as he has been able to.
On page 50 he says ‘I could see every step coming, step after step, like a dark figure walking towards a certain door. I knew where he was heading for, I knew where he was going to end. I was powerless to stop it. ‘ Alfieri doesn’t affect the events in the play but he isn’t detached from the character as they come from the same community.
Alfieri comes to form Red Hook as Eddie does so he has an understanding of the way the culture is Red Hook is an Italian-American community and there is a visible conflict between the two cultures. In Alfieri’s speech at the beginning he says that ‘In Sicily, from where their fathers came, the law has not been a friendly idea since the Greeks were beaten. ‘ This foreshadows the incident later in the play where Eddie tries to find a law to stop ‘a guy which he ain’t right (Rodolpho) can go to work and many a girl (Catherine) and finds that there isn’t one.
Eddie does not accept this and takes the law into his own hands and tries to execute his own form of justice, which ends in tragedy. Miller gives us the impression that Alfieri is omniscient and has a deep understanding of the characters and their influences which gives him gravitas. It seems that Miller wants his opinion on the situation to influence our opinion. Alfieri knows more about the characters than they realize themselves. When Alfieri first encounters Eddie in the play, he advises Eddie on how to deal with his feelings for Catherine that Eddie is not even aware that he has.
He warns him that ‘there is too much love for the daughter, there is too much love for the niece’ and advises him to ‘let her go’. Eddies’ tragic flaw is that he is unable to ‘settle for half. He loves Catherine who he cannot have and is not prepared to be a ‘sensible client’ and listen to reason. Alfieri’s final speech starts with ‘Most of the time we settle for half and I like it better. In Alfieri’s (and probably most of the audience’s) opinion, it is best to follow and rely on the law as much as possible even when you are only half satisfied.
The law will not always correlate with your idea of justice, but it is still better to follow the law than to take into your own hands. Alfieri holds the law above justice (which is subjective) and maintains that not obeying the law can lead to conflict, but he also tries to stop Eddie from reporting Marco and Rodolpho to the Immigration Bureau “When the law is wrong it is because it is unnatural, but in this case, it is natural and a river will drown you if you buck it now. “