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A View from the Bridge' as a Modern Tragedy: Argumentative Essay

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Alfieri is a key component in Arthur Miller`s ‘A View from the Bridge’. This is because he is the narrator, he comments on the action that happens throughout the play which gives the audience an understanding of the social complexities in Red Hook. He is also the champion of the law, as he is the man who guides the characters in the play when it comes to the law as he is a lawyer, and this is important as many of the people who live here do not trust the police. Another function is that he structures the play by using temporal markers such as mentioning the time and date and thus allowing the audience to understand what is happening, this is because the play only has two acts and no scene divisions. Also, he creates a sense of foreboding which is a device to increase tension. The play is a modern tragedy and is concerned with Eddie Carbone`s downfall due to his unconscious feelings for Catherine who is his wife`s niece.

Alfieri is the narrator of the play and is used by Miller in a role similar to that of the chorus in an ancient Greek tragedy. As the narrator, he is used for exposition by giving the context and background of the characters and the area in which the play is set, and he draws the audience into the play. He allows the audience to understand that Red Hook is a place where personal vengeance and justice based on honor are very important to the community. This means that they take the law into their own hands and do not engage with the police. Red Hook used to be a violent place as seen when Alfieri mentions: ‘Al Capone’ who is a well-known mafia gangster and that ‘Frankie Yale was cut precisely in half by a machine gun’ showing that brutality and fighting are common here. However, it is now less violent and a case like this only comes up: every few years. The community rarely gets the police involved and usually settles their disagreements themselves. Alfieri allows the audience to understand Eddie in greater depth saying that he was, a good man but his, life was hard and even. Phrases such as these show that he does not glamorize Eddie because Alfieri speaks bluntly and honestly about matters. This also promotes the audience`s trust in him and further establishes him as an unbiased source. Also, he immediately establishes a connection with the audience by breaking the fourth wall. This makes him seem trustworthy and so the audience will believe what Alfieri says and will side with him on certain matters such as when he tells Eddie to stop loving Catherine. Alfieri uses the word: ‘you’ during the play in order to engage with the audience by breaking the fourth wall:

You wouldn`t have known it, but something amusing just happened. Do you see how uneasily they nod to me?

This engrosses the audience in what he is saying, especially when he asks them a question as they now have to think about what he has just said. Alfieri is described as, portly, good-humored, and thoughtful. The language here makes him seem more amiable to the audience and he takes off his hat which is a sign of respect. This opening description of Alfieri sets him up to be a trustworthy character who the audience should pay attention to and listen to during the play. This play is a modern tragedy and is based on classical Greek tragedies. Alfieri resembles the Greek chorus because he is the commentator of the community but is not a part of the community himself and as he often points out, he is powerless to stop anything which is happening on stage.

Another function of Alfieri is that he is the champion of the law. Alfieri guides the characters and the audience through the play when it comes to the law, and he makes the difference very clear between book law and natural justice which is seen when Alfieri disagrees with Marco`s comment: the law? All the law is not in a book. This is because Alfieri believes the law should be upheld and should not give way to a law that is based on natural justice and dignity. Red Hook`s Italian American community distrusts the law and has a negative attitude towards the police which is supported by Alfieri saying:

A lawyer means the law, and in Sicily from where their fathers came, the law has not been a friendly idea since the Greeks were beaten.

They believe there is more to law than just what is written in a book and so they take the law into their own hands and often practice revenge law. They prefer to follow a code of honor which often results in acts of revenge and so the community punishes those who snitch to the police as it is dishonorable. This is critical, especially when Alfieri says that: ‘Justice is important here’. An example of this which is mentioned in the play is Vinny Bolzano. He snitched to the immigration office about his uncle and so he was beaten in front of the entire community by his own family in order to show their loyalty to others. Such informants were looked down upon. People are not allowed to talk to the law and if they do, they are dealt with by the community if they do then they are referred to as stool pigeons which shows the disrespect and contempt felt towards them. Eddie often goes to Alfieri and continuously asks him whether there is a way for him to get rid of Rodolpho by using the law which confuses Alfieri because he cannot see a legal problem. Alfieri says:

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I don`t quite understand what I can do for you. Is there a question of law somewhere?

To which Eddie responds:

that`s what I want to ask you.

Eddie wants to prove that Rodolpho only wants to marry Catherine in order to gain American citizenship, but Alfieri cannot do this and has to tell Eddie that Rodolpho has done nothing wrong according to book law. However, if Eddie wants to pursue this path, then it may go horribly wrong for him having seen what happened to Vinny Bolzano.

Throughout the play, Alfieri is also used to structure events for the audience. This play is made up of two acts and there are no scene divisions which is unlike more traditional tragedies such as Shakespeare`s which often had five acts with many different scenes. This style is used because Miller wants to show that life is not compartmentalized which is reflected in the play and that life has moved on before we realize mistakes, such is the case for Eddie. It also creates a sense of a continuous motion which gives an idea that the play is progressing to a conclusion that will be inevitably negative for Eddie. Alfieri also gives a sense of time to the audience: ‘On December twenty-seventh I saw him next’. Here Alfieri states that there has been a passing in time which he does throughout the play, this gives enough structure to the play so that the audience can understand what is going on and when there has been a transition of either time or place.

Finally, Alfieri is also a device to increase tension and create a sense of foreboding. Alfieri does this through his use of language during the play. At the beginning of the play, Alfieri mentions a past case which is the circumstance of Eddie Carbone, and it is this instance that he is about to talk about. Alfieri states that he: ‘watched it run its bloody course’ showing that what will now happen in the play will involve death and violence, which creates tension because at the moment in the play, we do not know who will die but it is insinuated through the word: ‘bloody’; it is also a reminder of having a blood feud in the past which is a key aspect to what occurs in the play. Furthermore, Alfieri says that Eddie’s: ‘eyes were like tunnels’. This was when Eddie went to Alfieri to try and find a way to get rid of Rodolpho even if it was at the expense of his name and dignity. This shows that Eddie only had one thought on his mind and would not see nor hear anybody’s view apart from his own. His plan to remove Rodolpho so that he can have Catherine to himself will inevitably happen whether people like it or not due to his ‘tunnel’ vision. Eddie is not thinking logically, and it shows how he has become engulfed by his overbearing and unconscious attraction towards Catherine, and he is determined to get her. Later in that scene, Alfieri says: ‘I could see every step coming, step after step’. The repetition of the word step shows he is slowly gaining on his destination. This creates a sense of foreboding as he is focused on an endpoint, and he will carry it out whether it is right or wrong. In addition, at the start of the play: ‘Alfieri walks into darkness’. This non-naturalistic technique brings a sense of foreboding, and it could represent how the characters in the play will experience sadness, loss, and anger. This is seen with Eddie`s death, Beatrice`s love for Eddie, and Catherine not being able to leave the house and marry who she loves.

In conclusion, Alfieri is very significant in ‘A View from the Bridge’. This is because he is used as narrator and so gives the audience exposition and draws the audience into the play. He is also used as the champion of the law and so explains to the audience and the characters what is happening in terms of legality. Moreover, he is used to structuring the play by giving temporal markers and this allows the audience to understand the play more. Finally, he is also used to increase tension. Overall Alfieri is used by Miller many times throughout the play and is very significant for the audience`s understanding of the play and to entice the audience to watch more intently as well.

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A View from the Bridge’ as a Modern Tragedy: Argumentative Essay. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“A View from the Bridge’ as a Modern Tragedy: Argumentative Essay.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023,
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