How important is conflict to the performance of the Arthur Miller play ‘A view from a bridge’?

Many dramas that we see on T.V (Eastenders) and hear on the radio (The Archers) nowadays are packed with words and actions of conflict. Conflict grabs the attention of the audience and often shows us what real life is about.
‘A view from a bridge’ shows great conflict and like many dramas around at the moment it can easily attract peoples interest. We know conflict must be important as all good dramas – with conflict in – have high ratings.
The play was set in 1940’s America when Italians were moving to America. Italians thought that moving to America was a good idea because it offered opportunities of work and a chance to gain prosperity, which they would never achieve in their native land. However, America wasn’t all it seemed. They were given jobs that America needed doing to increase their wealth and power – not jobs that would fulfil them.
The living conditions for the Italians were poor. They were dirty and the smell was disgusting, there were no trees, flowers, parks or birds, it was dull and depressing. This was supposed to bring them happiness but it often gained them sadness. Americans had a stereotypical view of Italians – they thought they were violent and suspicious. Did they ever really stand a chance?

Miller wrote about ordinary people in an ordinary setting, speaking ordinary American English. The play is a ‘modern tragedy’ and shows how hard life can really be for real people. “The people in this neighbourhood lack elegance, glamour.”
‘A view from a bridge’ is set in the mid 20th century America in New York – the Red Hook. The main characters live in a flat, which is small and not greatly furnished, but it is clean. I get the impression it isn’t the best area to live in but at least it seems safe. “This is the slum that faces the bay on seaward side of Brooklyn Bridge.” As most of the Italians had gone across to America together they are very loyal towards each other and look out for each other.
Eddie and Beatrice are Catherine’s Aunt and Uncle. Catherine is Beatrice’s sister’s daughter. Her parents have died so she now lives with them. Eddie and Catherine have a very close relationship and sometimes this can be a problem.

In the exposition we see Catherine telling Eddie she has got a job. This does obviously not please Eddie.
Alfieri, the narrator’s first words make us think and almost expect there to be conflict during and throughout the play. Are we really that wrong to think this? “…heard the same complaint and sat there as powerless as I, and watched it run its bloody course.” Alfieri’s words defiantly make the audience think a feeling of inevitable conflict and give us a sense of foreboding.
Eddie is very protective of Catherine and the thought of her going out to work upsets him. I think maybe Eddie is apprehensive of Catherine growing up, isn’t she old enough to look after herself? When Eddie finds out the location of Catherine’s new job he is clearly put out. “Near the Navy Yard, plenty can happen in a block and a half…” He seems to not want to let her grow up and move on with her life. At 17 is Catherine not old enough to go out on her own? We realise it’s a little dodgy around that area but she is a big girl now. “I know that neighbourhood B., I don’t like it.” Eddie seems to think Catherine’s change in appearance is too grown up but at 17 is a short skirt and high heels really a big thing? “I think it is too short, ain’t it?” We already start to feel an atmosphere of tension and it seems to be mounting.
With the imminent arrival of the illegal immigrantsMarco and Rodolfo – there is defiantly tension being created. We can see that Eddie is obviously very territorial about his home and with already being quite small do they really have enough space? Eddie has never met these people yet; they are coming into his home and invading his space. “Beatrice, all I’m worried about is you got such a heart that I’ll end up on the floor with you, and they’ll be in our bed.”

When referring to the conflict in development we see the arrival of Marco and Rodolfo, which adds to Catherine and Eddie’s already strained relationship.
When Marco and Rodolfo arrive we see the conflicting character types of Eddie and Rodolfo. They are both very different. Eddie is a very ordinary man, a responsible, protecting family man with the typical dark Italian features. However, Rodolfo is very laid back and somehow glamorous, with great ambitions Rodolfo is easily excited – this seems to make Eddie very wary of him. Maybe it is because he doesn’t look like a true Italian with his blonde hair. “He’s practically blonde!”
Soon after Rodolfo starts to sing and this seems to anger Eddie greatly, surely singing brings fun and happiness? When Eddie rises this suggests anger, as Eddie repeats the word “Hey” we realise this is because he wants Rodolfo to know he is in charge. So, if he is stood up does this make him feel bigger and more important? “Hey, kid, -hey; wait a minute-“ Although, if singing isn’t usual in their house maybe Eddie is wary that people will become suspicious.
When Rodolfo first arrives we can tell Catherine is clearly attracted to him. Catherine has worn her new shoes to try and impress Rodolfo, Eddie tells her to take them off, why has he done this? “Do me a favour will you? Go ahead.” Eddie is yet again seen as the over bearing Father who just cannot let go. Stage Direction: (“Embarrassed now, angered, Catherine goes into the bedroom”) This stage direction suggests the growing conflict between Catherine and Eddie, is she finally starting to get fed up of him?
As Catherine and Rodolfo start to grow closer Eddie and Catherine grow further and further apart. Eddie tells Catherine some home truths about Rodolfo but Catherine refuses to believe him. Catherine cannot bear to hear a bad word said about Rodolfo because she loves him so much. “Katie, he’s only bowin’ to his passport.” After this Catherine’s usual respect for Eddie changes when she says hell, as time goes on her aggression grows. “I don’t believe it and I wish to hell you’d stop it!” The change in Catherine’s language does suggest an increase and somewhat of a development of the conflict.

Alfieri suggests that Eddie’s love for Catherine is too strong, is this at the heart of the conflict? “…There is too much love for the niece. Do you understand what I am saying to you?” Eddie’s overreaction suggests there is truth in Alfieri’s words. “What’re you talking about, marry me! I don’t know what the hell you’re talkin’ about!” Maybe Eddie doesn’t realise how deep his love for Catherine really is… We believe and respect what Alfieri has to say because as a professional lawyer we feel he’ll have an honest word. As he is the narrator telling the story we kind of expect him to tell the story right and for it to be truthful.
There is a build up of conflict at the end of Act 1. Three scenes that show great conflict are when Eddie rolls up a paper, bends it and tears it into two. This suggests he is angry and makes others wary of him. Stage direction: (“He has bent the rolled paper and it suddenly tears in two”) also, when Marco raises the chair above his head like a weapon we see Eddie’s fear for the first time. It makes us realise Eddie isn’t always in control. This makes us anticipate a physical struggle between the two in act 2.
Another event, which shows the development of conflict, is when Eddie challenges Rodolfo to a fight. Is this to get him back and to hurt him for talking Catherine off him? “Yeah. (Rubbing his fists together.) He could be very good, Marco. I’ll teach him again.” Rodolfo and Eddie fight and it seems Eddie’s intention to harm Rodolfo, not that he would admit this.
At the end of act 1, the audience would be anticipating what was going to happen next. With there being so much conflict in the first act – which has now become physical – what can happen now, we wonder. We realise that the conflict is spreading and not only affecting Catherine and Eddie’s relationship but also Rodolfo and Catherine’s too. Catherine: (“Near tears”), (“Stealing herself”) and (“weeping”). Rodolfo: “I am furious.” However, this is soon resolved and their relationship is consolidated as they sleep together and their relationship is stronger than Eddie likes to believe.

The complication of the play comes from two very strong actions make by Eddie that will change things forever.
Eddie comes in to find Catherine and Rodolfo coming out of the bedroom – it is obvious to him that they have slept together and that this outrages Eddie. This seems to lead in Eddie kissing Catherine and Eddie. I’m not sure, out of spite but it is certainly not out of love – maybe they were kisses of conflict? . When Eddie kisses Catherine and Rodolfo we see a very controversial action. We see, finally, Eddie’s forbidden desires for Catherine show its true colours. I think he kisses her because of that attraction he feels for her and to try and control her more than he already does. We can already see he is controlling her physically and mentally. Or is that just the drink? However, to kiss anther man at the time the play was written is a very shocking thing to do. I though that Eddie kissed him to see if he kissed him back to see if he is gay – like he always suspected. I don’t think it did anything but push Catherine further away from him and into Rodolfo’s arms.
Eddie makes a phone call to the immigration bureau. This action is simple, effective and a greatly dramatic action. The audience know that this will lead to further conflict and tension will grow because of this.
The community start to become more wary of Eddie. If he can set immigration on his family maybe he can do it to other peoples. Community members start to alienate him (LIPARI, the butcher, turns and starts up left with his arm around his wife.) A butcher is a prominent part of the community and the fact that Eddie has made some of his family be arrested seems to turn all the community against him.

We learn that Catherine is getting married to Rodolfo and see the subsequent conversation between Catherine and Eddie. Eddie says Catherine can go out more, trying to push her away from marriage to Rodolfo. “Catherine? (She turns to him.) I was tellin’ Beatrice… if you wanna go out, like…” In seeing this, the audience are reminded of the essential conflict of Eddie’s desire for Catherine before it moves onto its climax.
In the climax of the play we see conflict reach its height. With the arrival of the immigration bureau the conflict reaches great heights.
Eddie and Marco’s actions and words of conflicts show us things will never be the same again… Stage directions: (“MARCO spits into EDDIE’s face”) and (“EDDIS, with an enraged cry”). Words of conflict: “I’ll kill you for that, you son of a bitch.” And “I don’t forget that, Marco. You hear what I’m sayin’?”

We now see Catherine’s attitude to Eddie change. When Catherine uses a rat metaphor we wonder if Catherine truly thinks Eddie is a rat – dirty, devious and evil? Words of anger: “Who the hell do you think you are!? – Catherine verbally attacks Eddie.
Tension then increases with the entrance of Rodolfo; we have come to expect conflict when they are on stage together after the kiss and punch. Rodolfo however apologises and the audience are given the temporary hope that things maybe resolved again.

Finally, Beatrice reveals the heart of the conflict. “You want somethin’ else, Eddie, and you can’t have her!” The following conversation about Eddie’s desire for Catherine heightens the tension and the feeling of imminent conflict on stage. Stage directions: (“his fists clench his head as though it will burst”) Eddie’s eyes are: (“murderous and he cracks his knuckles.”) There is a feeling of conflict – similar to the end of act 1 (when Eddie punched Rodolfo) – but greater.
The conflict is increased by the presence of a weapon. When Eddie turns on Marco with a knife we sense that the conflict has really reached its height. Is this finally the end?
When Marco takes the knife off Eddie and stabs him we see the ultimate result of conflict – death. Stage direction: (“EDDIE lunges with the knife.”) Will death solve anything though?

In the resolution of the play we hear Alfieri’s words trying to encourage the audience to see Eddie as an ordinary tragic hero. We have the feeling of a wasted death, as there is no real chance for things to be resolved by his death. “…not purely good, but himself purely, for he allowed himself to be wholly known.”
“And yet, it is better to settle for half, it must be.”


To conclude, as the audience we see the build up of conflict lead to a great tension. Conflict keeps the audience interested and as the conflict builds up throughout the play with the kisses and the more traditional fighting, we wonder what did all this achieve? Every time something happens we have the constant feeling of potential conflict brought by Eddie’s obvious desire for Catherine. Of course, we all know Eddie’s incestuous desire for Catherine is at the heart of the conflict. We all know that whenever Eddie makes an action that it’ll lead to conflict, why did Miller include foreboding conflict? I think Miller included this conflict to show the audience that not all families are perfect and sometimes things aren’t what they seem.
The conflict in this play is what makes it successful. It attracts the audience and interests them greatly and surly that is what all-good plays need – conflict.

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