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Arthur Miller's

An exploration of the themes of one of Miller's lesser known works,

?No man knows what he might do in a given situation, and surely many men must wonder how they would act if they were in Arthur Miller's shoes. I wonder what I would do.? This was a statement made by John Steinbeck when defending Arthur Miller in the way he best knew how; in writing. Arthur Miller was known as a playwright who was accused, and tried of treason by the House of Un-American Activities Committee under the reign of Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Arthur Miller was born in New York, New York on October 17, 1915. As I myself am, Miller is a product of the public school system. He attended school in Harlem, New York and during the first year of high school, his father looses his job, and they are forced to move to Brooklyn. Miller graduates from Abraham Lincoln High School and begins his college career at the City College. This brief stint with academia lasts for two whole weeks, and Miller drops out. He works many different jobs, and during that time gets a taste of anti-Semitism not by Nazi Germany, but by American citizens working with him in an auto-parts warehouse.
Miller goes back to school at the University of Michigan where he majors in journalism. He becomes a reporter, and a night editor for his school?s newspaper, The Michigan Daily. Arthur Miller writes, No Villain, a play in six days and wins the Hopwood Award in Drama for it. Miller realizes his true calling, and switches his major to English. (Now, is I were more conceited, I would make some comment about English majors, but I digress).
Miller writes several plays in school, and has many honors and rewards bestowed upon him for them. He graduates with a Bachelor?s degree in English, and although Twentieth Century Fox offers Miller a very high-paying job in Hollywood, he refuses and takes a job with the Federal Theatre Project in New York City to write radio plays, and scripts. Arthur Miller seemed to have a tendency to write plays of social and political meaning, and several of his plays were thinly disguised attempts at social commentary. For example, in The Crucible, probably one of Arthur Miller?s renowned plays regarding the Salem Witch Trials, he is actually speaking out against the McCarthy blackballing of supposed communists, something he was accused of as well. In the play I am critiquing, A View From The Bridge, Miller writes a tragedy showing the immigration laws, and how reasonable they are. After the Fall was a play poorly disguising his tragic romance and marriage to Marilyn Monroe, and it also takes another look at the congressional investigations that Miller had dealt with.
I think that Arthur Miller is one of the finest playwrights of our time. He is able to not only connect two seemingly unrelated subjects to cover up the intent of his writing, he is also able to remain consistently a fabulous playwright. With the amount of plays that Miller has written, continuously being of a quality far exceeding many others, he is obviously one of our Century?s best.
I read the play, A View From The Bridge, and was entranced. At first, when I began reading, I tried to convince myself that I would not like it. My attempts failed. I did have difficulty reading through the first monologue; hardly a striking piece. After I finished that, the plot was easier to get into. I would suggest (As if I am worthy to suggest something to Arthur Miller) that there be more of a ?hook? in the opening scenes. Miller keeps the play concise, with a little filler here and there, but it flowed well, after the first few pages.
It is obvious from the beginning of the play that Miller is at least slightly sympathetic to the plight of illegal immigrants. The play begins with Alfieri, the ?waterfront lawyer?, engaging in a monologue that really does not set the scene, and I consider to be quite distracting. Alfieri?s role in the play is quite interesting actually. Seeing as this play is about people coming illegally over from Sicily where the Greek theatre began, it only makes sense that some elements remain true to Greek tragedies. Alfieri seems to me to be a perfect example of the Greek chorus, as found in the play Antigone. He is someone who sets up the story, is only partially involved in the plot, and is able to break the fourth wall of acting (An invisible barrier separating the audience from an actor?s interaction) while still remaining cohesive as a character.
We are then introduced to Eddie, a hardworking, in fact, Miller describes him like this, ?He was as good a man as he had to be in a life that was hard and even. He worked on the piers when there was work, he brought home his pay, he lived? (Miller 322). Regardless, he is a dock hand who seems to be rather over-protective of the character Catherine, making some comment about her ?wavy? hips. We find out right away that he is not her father. ?Katie (Catherine), I promised you mother on her deathbed. I?m responsible for you. You?re a baby, you don?t understand these things. I mean like when you stand here by the window, wavin? outside? (Miller 318). We find that Eddie gets pretty upset when he learns that Catherine has landed a job on the docks, as opposed to some nice, comfortable lawyer or stenographer?s office. He is shown as overprotective, but also charitable when we discover that he is going to be harboring two illegal immigrants in his own home. Of course they happen to Beatrice, his wife?s, cousins. Eddie immediately defends them to his family, and makes sure that they know to let no one know of their existence. He admits, in his dialogue that he does not want Catherine to grow up, something that is quickly to become a recurring theme. As in the tradition of the Greek tragedies once again, Alfieri is distinguished by lighting (which the Greek?s didn?t necessarily have the benefit of) and introduces the next big step in the play, the cousins have arrived. Eddie is at once seen as the consummate host, telling them that he will not kick them out of his house, and that they are to stay. This proves to be dramatic irony soon, as the plot develops.
Beatrice seems to be the voice of reason between the two strong willed characters of Eddie and Catherine. Quite strong willed herself, she is able to play a balancing act between her ward, and her husband. She is an advocate of Catherine?s new job, and tries to have Eddie see the benefits of such a job. She is continually informing Eddie that she is growing, and soon enough has grown up. Latr during the play, she has the unfortunate situation of being torn between her daughter and her husband, between right and wrong, and invariably chooses the daughter, who is right. She knows that Eddie has some valid concerns, however she also thinks that Eddie is over reacting.
Catherine seems to be as strong willed as her uncle is, and slightly na?ve. This helps to set up the fact that she could possibly be taken in by a scam that Eddie shows her the possibility of, but she is also shown as having some common sense. She is soon courting Rudolpho, withough necessarily even knowing it. They spend a lot of time together, he buys a lot of nice things (to impress her or some other, more insidious reasons) and they are inseparable. Yes, Catherine does show her stubborn streak, when Eddie notices that the two young people are spending ?far too much time together?, but it is a good contrast to the father?s stubborn streak. She is seen from her first reaction of Rudolpho to have some sort of interest of him, mentioning his hair, and just doting on him.
Marco seems to be the strong, silent type, willing to be almost subservient to Eddie and his family for the kindness that they have shown him and his brother. He makes it clear that they do not intend to be in Eddie?s house forever, and doesn?t want to be imposing on their hospitality. He is strongly concerned with peace and honor in the household, and does everything he can, with the help of Beatrice to be a peace keeper of sorts. Like Catherine, he seems to be slightly na?ve, but unlike Catherine, he shows a much stronger sense of character and sense of self. This comes out in force later, especially when there are questions of his honor at stake. The character of Marco is a good balance to Rudolpho, he is used to help show Eddie?s quickly growing jealousy, insanity, whatever, quite well.
Rudolpho is almost at once pictured as the Don Juan of the story. He is handsome, different, and flamboyant. Eddie consistently says throughout the whole play that something is not right about Rudolpho. He is a huge contrast to the very stern, serious portrait of Eddie that is painted for us. Rudolpho spends money on clothing, is able to sing, cook, mend dresses, is constantly harassed at work for his less than masculine pastimes, and can be viewed in the play, especially by Eddie, as someone who is potentially homosexual. I was not sure in the beginning of the play (relatively) if Eddie was correct, and Rudolpho was trying to steal his ward away strictly for the purpose of citizenship. Closer to the end of the play, we actually do find out that one of his motivations are in fact citizenship, but it does not seem to me to be his only motivation, and in fact, love does seem to come into play. Of course, he does refuse to move back to Greece when Catherine brings up the possibility to him, but who would want to go back to being poor in Greece from being comparatively rich in the United States. On that hand, I can see his point, but wouldn?t he want to please his potential wife?
The plot of this story is somewhat simple, and has been repeated in similar fashion several times. As I have always held to, there are no new stories, only new twists on old stories. The plot could read like a soap opera?s script. You have jealousy, rage, love, deception, intrigue about someone?s motivations. There is definite character growth and development, and we see a very strong beginning, middle and end of the story. Depending at which character you look through the eyes of, you would have a different plot. Whether that be a man who tries to protect his ward from a conniving illegal immigrant, a wife and mother who tries to keep the cohesiveness of her family together through times of strife, a man who moves to a different country who tries to provide a living for his family that live over seas, and how important honor is to that man, or a man who falls in love with an American, and who wants to become an American citizen. If we were to look through the eyes of Alfieri, perhaps we would see a plot something like, the comedy/tragedy of a family who has far too many issues who always comes to my place to resolution to these issues.
The theme, as I said earlier may just be the unreasonableness of the immigration laws, or it could be something as timeless as love through all circumstances, never trust anyone, or honor will overcome rage. If there has to be only one major theme, I would say it is the first I mentioned, however, all of those I mentioned are themes of the play. I would say that some of these sub-themes are well drawn out, and there are supporting characteristics of each theme to lend to its credibility. Knowing now, a little of Arthur Miller?s background, and the fact that much of his writing deals with not only his political views, but also shows situations from his own life, as in the case of Marilyn Monroe, does this play have those multiple meanings. Perhaps Miller?s own ancestry or relations included a pair of ?submarines? who were returned to their homes because of some rage, or perhaps it is just a slam against the laws that have been laid concerning immigration. Either way, Arthur Miller is a master story teller, and is able to convey all of these themes in his writing because of that fact. Miller does a fabulous job at conveying the fact to his audience that all of these things are true, and that all of these plots and themes are conceivable. His plays have changed the nation?s views on many things, and he is looked highly upon by many of the world?s most excellent writers, as seen by my opening quote. Whether this play was social commentary or just an excellent story, you can ask Miller himself.

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