A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE2.docx - A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE Eddie...

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A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE Eddie Carbone, a representative type Western drama originates in the Greek tragedies of Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides, all of whom wrote in Athens in the 5th century B.C. Drama, theatre, actor and tragedy are all Greek words. In these plays the tragic hero or protagonist (=first or most important actor) commits an offence, often unknowingly. He must then learn his fault, suffer and perhaps die. In this way, the gods are vindicated and the moral order of the universe restored. (This is a gross simplification of an enormous subject.) These plays, and those of Shakespeare two thousand years later, are about kings, dukes or great generals. Why? Because in their day, these individuals were thought to embody or represent the whole people. Nowadays, we do not see even kings in this way. When writers want to show a person who represents a nation or class, they typically invent a fictitious "ordinary" person, the Man in the Street or Joe Public. In Eddie Carbone, Miller creates just such a representative type. He is a very ordinary man, decent, hard-working and charitable, a man no-one could dislike. But, like the protagonist of the ancient drama, he has a flaw or weakness. This, in turn, causes him to act wrongly. The consequences, social and psychological, of his wrong action destroy him. The chorus figure, Alfieri, then explains why it is better to "be civilised" and "settle for half", thus restoring the normal moral order of the universe. If Eddie is meant to represent everyman, does this mean that Miller believes all men love their nieces (those who have nieces)? Of course not. What Miller does suggest is that we have basic impulses, which civilisation has seen as harmful to society, and taught us to control. We have self-destructive urges, too, but normally we deny these. Eddie does not really understand his improper desire, and thus is unable to hide it from those around him or from the audience. In him we see the primitive impulse naked, as it were: this explains Alfieri's puzzling remark that Eddie "allowed himself to be perfectly known". Clearly, Eddie is, in the classical Greek sense, the protagonist of the play. Alfieri tells us this at the end of his opening address: "This one's name was Eddie Carbone..." Eddie is the subject of Alfieri's narrative, and all other characters are seen in relation to him. We are shown at first a good man who seems perfectly happy: he has the dignity of a job he does well, he is liked in the close-knit community of Red Hook, he has the love of wife and foster-daughter/niece, and his doubts about Catherine's prospective job are not very serious. Showing a happy domestic scene is a favourite device of Miller's. Next a catalyst is introduced, and we see, by steady and inexorable stages how the happiness is destroyed. A catalyst is literally something which speeds up a chemical reaction; in this play it refers metaphorically to Rodolpho, one of Beatrice's illegal immigrant cousins. Catherine's attraction to him brings Eddie's love for his niece into the open. This

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