Alfieri, an Italian-American is a very important character within Arthur Miller’s ‘A View from the Bridge’ and has many significant symbolic roles in the play. The most significant role probably being a breakdown of reality in the sense that he purposely breaks down the “fourth wall” between the characters and the audience and is more of a narrator that helps the audience to understand the story. Inevitably the audience, like me believe and trust Alfieri as he is a lawyer, a member of society in which we trust and a kind friend to the other characters. Alfieri is also a symbolic bridge between old Europe and new America. So what importance does Mr Alfieri have both as a dramatic device and a character in his own right?
Miller was inspired to write AVFTB in the 1950’s after working on the dockyards of Brooklyn and witnessing many illegal immigrants coming to the country and working along side him, and was able to study there backgrounds. Miller’s intention in writing the play was to highlight the ‘lawlessness’ of the Red hook neighbourhood in Brooklyn, America and a community in which the people where willing to accept unlawful illegal immigrants and protect them!
They worked longer hours on lower wages then the rest of the Americans, therefore believing they did not belong with them and that they could live by there own laws and customs which made Brooklyn a very ‘lawlessness’ community. This links to why Alfieri is ‘the bridge’ as he appreciates living in America but strongly holds onto his Italian culture and traditions. Alfieri is a highly intelligent man which is evident in many ways. Firstly, his chose of words “My first thought was that he has committed a crime, but soon I saw it was only a passion that had moved into his body, like a stranger.”
As the quotation shows Alfieri’s choose of words is sophisticated and also his use of poetic devices, in this case a simile, also shows his well educated status and sophistication. Secondly, his profession shows he is a highly educated man. However, most importantly his quick ability to understand people, this is evident when he quickly comes to grip with Eddies complicated problem in the previous quotation. Alfieri could be described as a structural ‘bridge’ in the play as there is no set scene breaks in this simple structured play. It consists of two acts in which Miller cleverly uses Alfieri to defiantly break up the play in places. Miller purposely puts no set scene breaks into this play because of his desire to hark back to Greek theatre and create a Morden Greek tragedy in which Alfieri’s role in the play could be compared to that of a chorus within Greek theatre.
The Greek chorus traditionally foreshadows the drama creating dramatic tension. Alfieri demonstrates Brecht’s complex theory of breaking the Fourth wall between characters and audience; Alfieri is there to help the audience understand what’s going on in the play by forming a bridge between the audience and actors and to provide background information which we see in Alfieri’s first appearance at the very beginning of the play. In which he delivers a speech providing the audience with essential background information on Italian culture. However, at the same time insisting the audience makes their own judgement on the action that has taken place “You see how uneasily they nod to me.” Alfieri’s interludes purposely change in Act two as he gives more precise dates and times “On the twenty-third of December…” therefore enabling the
audience to feel even more involved in the action thus increasing the dramatic effect. Alfieri’s first interlude which I have briefly discussed is a very important one as it sets the scene for the rest of the play. Alfieri’s first appearance is the first of the whole play in which he introduces himself as a lawyer and proceeds to provide the audience with essential background information. Within this background information he begins to introduce some of the key themes of the play including the different types of law and how the Italians take law into there own hands.
More importantly, how “Now they settle for half.” Meaning how they are now half supposedly satisfied with a more mundane life. It will be Eddie’s refusal to accept this that will lead to his tragic downfall. Alfieri has an extensive knowledge of the issues within this play, law being the major theme, but is completely powerless in stopping the inevitable events to come despite being a character and claiming he could “see every step coming, step after step.” He can only ‘sound the alarm’ of events to come, which is Millers way of creating dramatic tension and worry within the audience.