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Rock Street, San Francisco

In the play, Miller includes a lot of characters with a lot of different views on justice and the law. Alfieri is a lawyer, and his opening speech forms the prologue in which he says that he and most other lawyers are thought of ‘only in connection with disasters’ in his society; he also believes that everyone is ‘suspicious’ of him as he walks down the street. He explains this by saying ‘the law has not been a friendly idea since the Greeks were beaten’ because he is from Sicily like Marco and Rodolpho.

Alfieri has strong views on the law and justice as he believes that ‘justice is important here’ so he obviously believes in the job that he is doing. He talks about his society in both of the countries that he has been a citizen in. He is comparing the American society in which he lives now to Sicily when he says ‘this is Red Hook, not Sicily … now we are quite civilised, quite American’ he appreciates the fact that America is more civilised and more modern than Sicily.

He says ‘now we settle for half and I like it better’ and this is a general comment about the society in Red Hook and how they no longer just kill someone if they have done something wrong but the law is usually involved. He gives us an insight, in this prologue, into what’s to come later in the play and how he was ‘powerless as [he] watched it run its bloody course’ we don’t truly know what he is talking about at this point, but it all becomes more apparent later in the play.

Alfieri recalls previous injustice that he has seen as ‘Frankie Yale himself was cut precisely in half by a machine gun. ‘ And there were ‘many here who were shot by unjust men’. Alfieri regards this as wrong; he is a lawyer and believes that in discrepancies should be a matter of the law and not for people to take the law into their own hands. The different characters have their own distinct attitudes to justice and the law. Alfieri is a lawyer so is obviously on the side of the law and believes in getting justice through the justice system an not by taking the law into your own hands.

Conversely, Eddie does not believe in the law, when he tells Alfieri that he is not too fond of Marco and Rodolpho and Alfieri suggests telling the immigration bureau Eddie says ‘Oh, Jesus, no, I wouldn’t do nothin’ about that’ suggesting that even if he wanted to get rid of them for good he wouldn’t use the law to do it. He knows that in his society, betrayal is injustice; the story of Vinny Bolzano is a good illustration of this, when he ‘snitched … on his own uncle! ‘ the idea of family honour was betrayed so Vinny Bolzano went away and was never seen again.

There is irony in this, in that even though Vinny snitched and Eddie is explaining how terrible it is and no one should never do it, he still goes on to do it later in the play. Marco has much the same outlook on the law as Eddie but has to be more involved in it because he is an illegal immigrant. He is always aware of anyone that might report him to the police or the immigration bureau, and as soon as the immigration bureau come he says’ I accuse that one! ‘ repulsively pointing at Eddie. When Marco breaks free, he spits in Eddies face, this is a form of his own justice, and he has taken the law into his own hands here.

Eddie responds to this by also disobeying the law and lunging for Marco whilst shouting ‘I’ll kill you for that, you son of a bitch! ‘ Eddie is evidently enraged by Marco and his terrible act of hostility towards him. Rodolpho is like Marco in that he always has to be aware of the law, but he is not as bothered about it as Marco because he goes out late with Catherine to places in the middle of town where he shouldn’t go. Catherine is also like this because she doesn’t really care where she and Rodolpho go as long as they are having a good time. Unfortunately for Marco, he is the innocent victim of Eddies attempt to get Rodolpho.

Out of America though he quickly realises that Eddie is to blame for the appearance of the immigration officers and get slightly annoyed. He feels that justice needs to be brought on him because he “killed his children”. If he did something similar in Italy, he would have to pay for the crime by fighting. He comments on America’s judicial system – “I don’t understand this country” and eventually he challenges Eddie, but Eddie is already prepared to murder Marco so got his knife out. In the end though, it is Eddie who ends up being killed because Marco is a much better fighter because he has had a lot of practice in his own country.

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