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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

mccarthyism essay

Does Arthur Miller fail in his indictment of American political policy that intervenes in the lives of citizens regarding their ideological choices? Base your answer on Eddie's betrayal of Rodolpho, considering Eddie a representative of the law.

Arthur miller’s play ‘A view from the bridge’ is a relatively short, 2 act drama set somewhere around the middle of the 20th century, at a time when the ideologies of rightist American senator Joseph McCarthy were most abundant. McCarthy’s somewhat extreme beliefs and policies (known as McCarthyism) led to several consequences in American society, one of which miller has tried to portray in his play. McCarthy was a staunch opposer of any form of communism or other leftist beliefs, and tried his very best to remove people with any such associations from society. He felt it part of a citizen’s patriotic duty to his country to ensure that no such ideas existed in the minds of the people, to an extent that betrayal of friends and family to the government was justified. The general attitude was to be suspicious of everyone, and as a result of this a large number of people were prosecuted based on mostly implausible evidence. In most instances, the only ‘evidence’ that the government had to go on was the word of a third party, who would rarely be investigated for his or her credibility. Miller believed that people were beginning to use patriotism as an excuse to betray others as a means of achieving their own personal, and for nothing to do with the country at all.
The main objective of miller in this play was to show the audience the negative impact McCarthyism was having on American society, and how it was absolutely eroding the general sense of loyalty to one another. I believe that Miller has generally failed in this objective. This could be due to, in part, the fact that this edition of the play is the revised edition. It was revised as the original version of the play was met with much criticism, being called devoid of human emotion. The introduction of a larger emotional and humane element into the play could possibly be what has caused the audience’ mind to be deviated diverted from what they are actually supposed to see and feel.
Eddie Ccarbone is supposed to be seen as a person who has committed a terrible crime (which he did) by betraying his two cousins, and is not meant to evoke sympathy be sympathised with at all. however, in the entire build up to the climax to the play, miller depicts Eddie as an emotionally torn and troubled character who cannot help how he feels and is doing his best to try to understand what he actually feels for his niece, Catherine. Eddie seems to be trying to only do his best for Catherine by being protective of her, but it is clear to the audience that his affection for her goes beyond being merely fatherly. This realisation alone is supposed to turn the audience against Eddie, as such emotions are highly improper, but what happens earlier and what follows later takes away this impression.
First impressions are very important in literature, as they are in real life, and the author must keep this in mind when he portrays his characters. Eddie is initially shown as a hard working, honest family man, albeit a bit over-protective. This actually creates a good impression of Eddie in the audience’ mind, and it is due to this that later Eddie is sympathised with. Later on in the play, after Rodolfo comes into the picture and Eddie begins to see the romantic involvement of Catherine and Rodolpho, Eddie begins to fall apart and show his true emotions to the rest of the characters in the play. Due to the good impression the reader or viewer already has, the audience feels that Eddie is forced to behave this way. These events are seen as intrusions to Eddie’s personal and family life.
Miller wanted to express his political belief and criticism through this play, but then why has he made is such an extensive story of love and heartbreak? The audience is so caught up in the way all the characters feel that they are blinded from seeing the broader, deeper theme of the play. Even after the play reaches its end, after the betrayal of marco and rodolpho by Eddie, the audience sees the play as a romantic, comic tragedy, not as a fictionalised, literary criticism of the present political mindset of American society. I feel that the original version of the play would have been more effective in getting the message across to the audience, though less effective as a drama.
If the play is seen in the light of McCarthyism, etc., the end seems fitting- betrayal of family members for personal means. The problem here is that it should be- betrayal of family members for personal means under the pretence of patriotism and political beliefs. Nowhere in the play is the reader able to see the political undercurrents of the play, as the psychological ones are too overwhelming for the reader to look at the play from a macro level. The betrayal by Eddie is perceived by the audience as a last resort. Eddie tried every other way he could think of to prevent Rrodolpho from marrying Catherine, and only after those failed did he decide to betray them to the authorities. Eddie is seen as a man of despair rather than as a man of treachery.
Ultimately, I feel that though the audience does feel a certain amount of resentment towards Eddie, that resentment is cancelled out by the sympathy they feel towards him. Miller should have brought the political theme more to surface, instead of immersing it below such an extensive seemingly emotion based storyline. Alternatively, he could have downplayed the emotional side of it, which is perhaps what he had initially done.


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