Diverse Cultures: A View From The Bridge-How is justice important in the world of the play? What moral does Arthur Miller intend us to take? “Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better”. Justice, in its many forms is a central theme of A View From The Bridge. It is also a very prominent theme in much of Arthur Miller’s work. Most of his plays are centred on some kind of downtrodden, hard-done-by section of society and many have a ‘Tragic hero’ at the centre of the play. Miller portrays many different aspects of justice in the play A View From The Bridge, whose conflict (community law vs. US law, an individual’s sense of justice vs. that of the community) eventually brings about the play’s tragic end. In this essay I will show how these different viewpoints affect the play.
Firstly the us justice system, Which does not control life in red hook and generally leaves them alone but has absolute legal power and at all times is feared and antagonized by the community, holds a constant presence in the world of the play, Alfieri’s office is in a background propinquity with all the characters’ everyday life and he is their insight into the us justice system. The us justice system does not, because of gangs, the mafia, wanting to keep the peace and corruption, care about low level crime, but keeps in check any crimes that may affect it or the world outside of red hook. For instance if “a case of scotch whiskey [slips] from a net while being unloaded” there are no recompenses paid, the dock owner is slowly losing money and it is in this way with people in the impoverished area resorting to crime that the people of the area are victimized by each other indirectly, meaning poverty is worsened and the government has a tighter grip on them.
However if a crime occurs that will adversely affect the government and its attempts to control them for example by a policeman being killed, illegal immigration (which will take money out of the economy) or other threats like a gang getting too powerful, they will intervene. This system of giving the community a certain amount of control by the tolerance of crime also subdues the people into thinking they have a high amount of power when they actually don’t meaning they are less likely to directly go against the government and alleviates the need for law enforcement.
However, the community and its laws are not powerless either, they affect the everyday lives of people in red hook, as they (the people) collectively subconsciously create them, and this is reflected in what aspects they affect, the things the community deals with concern more personal matters and moral issues. The people mostly permit any “victimless” crimes (not directly affecting anyone in the community), And depends on people enforcing it for each other, you don’t rat anyone out and no one will rat you out, if they do, people will help you deal with it because you would help them.
The residents of red hook are driven to this by poverty; it alleviates the stress of their lives. It is closely linked with their ideas of honour, for many of the poor working class it gives a sense of self-importance. In this respect it is a relic of their Italian forebears, it still has the sense of community of rural Italy (the American people were notably anti-Italian and so the Italians stuck together), the mafia, which was the highest level of this system, was originally brought over from Italy by migrant workers, and they still keep as much the same as Italy as possible. This meant that because they were all Italian, they were mostly catholic; all were religious and very moralist, the neighbourhood would deal with sexual taboos of the time like homosexuality and incest.
Eddie can be seen in this play as the epitome of animalistic man, his raw carnal lust and pride are the driving force of the plot, and his sense of justice is no different, any decision is made purely on his desires and without consideration of consequences. Because of his background as catholic and his and the community’s views on anything different he does not even acknowledge his feelings for Catherine. He is also very logical he feels that his time put into raising Catherine is being repaid with her being taken from him. His strong need for personal justice and revenge finally tops all including the community and he is forced to go against all that he stands for.
Eddie is poor, he has worked all his life just to live and make ends meet, so when Marco and Rodolfo arrive and he takes them in, endangering himself helping others for nothing in return, he feels nothing but pride, however when Rodolfo and Catherine fall in love he feels betrayed, that he gave them all he had but they took more. Being poor he holds no power in society, and the only place he has power over people is within his family, so when Rodolfo and Catherine about to get married, he feels that he has invited Rodolfo into his family and not only does Rodolfo not respect his authority but he has taken Catherine out of his jurisdiction. So when he attacks Rodolfo, and Marco and Beatrice turn on him and defend the couple, what little power he had is taken from him, and he seeks to gain it back in the one way he has left, through the us legal system, mirroring the actions of vinny bolzano whom he damns at the start for those exact actions.