Discuss the character and role of Alfieri in A View from the Bridge paying particular attention to the contributions he makes to the audience’s understanding of the issues of the play. Alfieri’s character and role in A view from the Bridge is a very important one he sets the scene and environment and is an engaged narrator helping the audience understand the play.
Arthur Miller has used the characteristics in Alfieri to help us understand the background information an overlook of the play almost to unfold the play to the audience.Alfieri is the best character to do this because he is a lawyer and should know best, he is unable to take a side which is how he manages to create tension and emotion for the audience and the characters. Alfieri also gives us the feeling that he is retelling the story, because he mostly talks in a past tense. The play begins and ends with the narrator, the lawyer Alfieri, directly addressing the audience from his office.
Alfieri’s opening speech directly relates to the events that will unfold throughout the play, set in Brooklyn.Alfieri tells us how they consider ‘to meet a lawyer or a priest on the street is unlucky. We’re only thought of in connection with disasters, and they’d rather not get too close. ’(Miller, p4) This gives the audience a clear understanding that the play is going to be of tragedy and disaster.
Alfieri not only discusses the here and now but also the history of the area he thinks this attitude lies in ‘three thousand years of distrust. ’(Miller, p4) He proclaims that: ‘justice is very important here. (Miller, p4) Finally he explains how he mostly deals with longshoreman and their wives, fathers and grandfathers in compensation cases, evictions and petty squabbles, however ‘every few years there is still a case,’ that is different from the everyday petty troubles, ‘This one’s name was Eddie Carbone. Brooklyn Bridge to the breakwater were the open sea begins.
’(Miller, p4) Alfieri purposely talks to the audience during the re-enactment of the story. Alfieri also understands he is the teller of and incredible story that he cannot change.He comments on the actions of the characters almost as though the audience is meant to view the events through Alfieri’s eyes. Alfieri is the ‘view’ in the title of the play.
However he is still part of the action almost acting as the ‘Bridge’ as well which is how he contributes to the audiences understanding of the play, he not only discusses the plot but also his personal feelings he describes Eddie as a ‘good a man as he had to be in a life that was hard and even. ’(Miller, p18) But also states how Eddie ‘never expected to have a destiny. ’(Miller, p27) This makes the play even more tragic.He is giving the indication that Eddie has some deep obsession, “a trouble that could not go away”.
(Miller, p43) Alfieri understands that times are not easy. He is still part of the Sicilian-American culture in which he lives he understands the connections of the old and new world. Unlike Eddie, Beatrice and Catherine he was born in Italy which is why he understands this connection. Alfieri attempts to present an un-biased and reasonable view of the events of the play.
Throughout the play Alfieri discusses the importance and dimensions of Eddie Carbone’s story.Alfieri admittedly cannot help Eddie Carbone, but must powerlessly watch the tragic events unfold before him. Alfieri never the less try’s to give Eddie some support, one of the two main important scenes between Alfieri and Eddie is in Act one the first time Eddie goes to visit Alfieri’s office we not only see how far Eddie is willing to go to stop Catherine and Rodolpho’s relationship, we also find out the history between Alfieri and Eddie ‘I had represented his father in an accident case some years before, and I was acquainted with the family in a casual way. (Miller, p38) The way Alfieri describes this very simply shows us how connected and close the neighbourhood really is.
Eddie has come to Alfieri’s law office to seek legal advice that he can take to stop Catherine’s relationship with Rodolpho. However Alfieri has to explain that ‘there’s nothing illegal about a girl falling in love with an immigrant. (Miller,p39) The body language and stage directions shown in this scene are the first time we see how seriously Alfieri takes his position within the law, and that he would treat any client who entered his office the same, Alfieri pauses, looks down at his desk, then to Eddie as though he were continuing a conversation with him. All Alfieri can do is advice Eddie to let Catherine live her own life.
As a participant in the action of the play, Alfieri is on the side of the American law in his role as a lawyer, from his very first monologue Alfieri understands social and ethical issues are in conflict with one another.Alfieri explains how the law is different in a Sicilian neighbourhood in Brooklyn; he has witnessed men ‘justly shot by unjust men. ’(Miller, p4) Harbouring illegal immigrants is a crime however this is not to be spoken of as this would be a crime against the clan. Alfieri informs this to both Eddie and Marco but he is powerless to prevent the law of the tribe.
As the play moves on, we see how moral law is far more in control than civil law. Alfieri asks Marco if he wants bail till his hearing date. This suggests that Alfieri is a nice and thoughtful person to go to for help.Even when Alfieri goes to bail out Marco and Rodolopho, he makes Marco promise to not take revenge on Eddie.
Alfieri tells him ‘Only God makes justice’. (Miller, p73) Alfieri is warning Marco not to take the place of God in meeting out a sentence for Eddie’s crimes. As an audience we can see that Alfieri knows what is going to happen from the first time Eddie goes to his office ‘a passion which had moved into his body, like a stranger’ (Miller, p39) Alfieri is aware he cannot change or amend what is going to happen only inform us of what is happening ‘I knew, I knew then and there – I could have finished the whole story that afternoon. (Miller, p43) We can also see what an emotional effect this had on the character of Alfieri ‘I even went to a certain old lady in the neighbourhood, a very wise old woman, and I told her and she only nodded, and said, ‘Pray for him…’(Miller, p44) this shows that no one had a control or could control the situation especially not the law.
In most of Alfieri’s scenes he develops tension, action; he also guides us from one scene to the next. The way Arthur Miller has done this is very clever as it helps create time and atmosphere.This is shown most clearly between acts one and two; the second act begins with a set-up by Alfieri: it is 23 December, a case of scotch whiskey had ‘slipped’(Miller, p53) while being unloaded on the docks, Beatrice is shopping, Marco is working. Rodolpho had not been hired that day; consequently, he and Catherine are alone in the Carbone apartment.
Alfieri is constantly talking to the audience and provides commentary on what is happening throughout A View from the Bridge; Alfieri’s speeches to the audience at the beginning and end of scenes use figurative devices.Such as his opening monologue in Act One, he uses images of sea and blood. He asks questions which help the audience understand, he also gives an unbiased view especially of Eddie because the sympathy shown for Eddie comes from Alfieri, without him our views and opinions would be very different. Alfieri tells the audience that he mourns Eddie with a ‘certain alarm’(Miller, p79) this shows his connection and feeling towards Eddie without this we simply wouldn’t be guided in the right direction to understand the meaning and plot of the play, Alfieri acknowledges how wrong Eddie was and that his death was seless but inevitable.
We would also lose the opening and the conclusion as Alfieri gives them both to us, meaning we would miss out all the background information, “Yale himself was cut precisely in half by a machine gun on the corner of a union street”. (Miller, p4) This quote reveals how dangerous the area was just with one sentence by Alfieri. Without him in the play we wouldn’t know anything about the area in which the play was set. There is nothing unbelievable about Alfieri, he works to earn a living and he has feelings like everyone else would.
Alfieri is an honest and open character and tells the story thoroughly, clearly and very well, but sometimes he twists his words to get the audience thinking and keep them up to track. He also explains the message of the play effectively. “It’s better to settle for half, it must be! “(Miller, p79) He says this because if Eddie had settled with Rodolpho and Catherine’s relationship and dealt with it the play would not have become the tragedy that it is.