Everything Apart From Coloured Leg Warmers

Friday, November 03, 2006

the last one?

Q. Does Arthur Miller fail in his indictment of American political policy to intervene in the lives of citizens regarding their choices? Base your answer on Eddie’s betrayal of Rodolpho considering Eddie a representative of the law.

“A View from the Bridge” revolves around an Italian family settled in Brooklyn in a fragment of the 20th century when McCarthyism was on the rise. The play focuses upon the turbulence caused by the entry of two illegal immigrants into the home of Eddie Carbone. His wife’s Italian cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, shatter the ostensibly comfortable atmosphere which previously existed in the family, shedding light upon the relationship between Eddie and his wife, as well as the somewhat suspicious relationship between him and his niece, Catherine. One could say Miller utterly fails in his attempt to indict American policy due to the fact that the audience invariably sympathizes with Eddie until his death. The pathos of the play must be examined as well as different levels of symbolism.
In the opening scene of the play, we find Eddie narrating an anecdote to Catherine of a neighbour, Vinny, Bolzano, who reported his own illegally residing uncle to authorities and was thrown out of his home for his betrayal. The intolerance of this kind of act is palpably conveyed by Eddie’s tone and here we may be exposed to Miller’s strong stand against McCarthyism. Simultaneously it is slightly foreshadowed that Eddie will eventually face the same fate that he speaks of despicably, as an earlier narrator mentions the protagonist’s doom. This upfront transparency of the storyline may be seen as ineffective, but it does provoke a new stream of thought: What could cause Eddie to become what he is so obviously against? What is it that could justify American policy to intervene in the lives of citizens? Can McCarthyism be perceived as something legitimate? If anything, this flow of questions serves as a Pandora’s Box for Miller if he does want to indict America’s policy.
As the play progresses and escalates, we are introduced to Marco and Rodolpho and their homely charm. Rodolpho’s plain attraction to Catherine is deliberately evident in their first meeting itself, and Eddie’s fatherly instinct towards her suddenly manifests itself as dangerously close to that of a lover as he warns her in an almost jealous manner. We continue to sympathize with Eddie as his hatred of the immigrants grows and understand the toil he has endured in the harbour for a seeming eternity. Do these feelings help justify McCarthyism in a strange sense? If symbolism is taken into account at this stage and the play is no longer perceived simplistically as the dispute within a family, that sympathy is somewhat lost. Eddie’s betrayal of Marco and Rodolpho stems from nothing but personal anger, caused by his sexual attraction towards his niece. Can these motives translate to anything on another level? Senator Joseph McCarthy, a conservative politician from Wisconsin, may have felt it an absolute necessity to cleanse his nation of communists and the ideology in its entirety before it could taint America, a country which he, in a sense, like all true Americans, helped to foster and grow. It can be construed that Catherine represents America as a nation in “A View from a Bridge”, and Eddie does not want her to be usurped by someone or something foreign, just as McCarthy had a paranoia about the communist takeover of America during the Cold War, a constant oscillation of aggression and containment. Is it not only natural that as a protective gesture, one should report anything unfamiliar or illegal? One could say, as reflectd in our recurrent sympathy for Eddie, Miller almost justifies McCarthyism, not in the least indicting it.
As the climax nears, Eddie, in an act of complete desperation, blindly stumbles to the artistically emphasized telephone booth. The brightly coloured telephone is depicted as a temptation, or something that is wrong and should be resisted, which in reversal of the law, as technically reporting an illegal immigrant is something “right” and not using the telephone would be the wrong act. In this light, American law and political policy is once again seen as something indicted by the playwright. Thus we are very aware of the fact that McCarthyism is something conventionally accepted as wrong today, yet we understand the undercurrent of the sentiments during the Cold War's tensions, somewhat synonymous to the tensions overwhelming Eddie Carbone’s household, eventually engulfing him.


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