A View from the Bridge


Major themes


The Bankruptcy of the American Dream:


The essential ‘American Dream’ is that a man can come to the country a nobody and work his way up to a position of power, respect and influence – the classic example is that a common every day man could, in theory, become the President, although in practice this is highly unlikely. A more diluted, more modern version of the dream is that, if you work harder and smarter than your neighbours you can earn a lot of money and buy a nice home and car.


Miller, living in 1950s America and surrounded by poverty, corruption, violence, racism and class division, believed this ‘Dream’ to be nothing more than an empty delusion. The immigrants who came to the United States in search of a better and more equal life, often found themselves living in the worst housing and doing the jobs that no one else wanted to do. Equality was very far from a reality. In fact, the American Dream simply appeared to be little more than an excuse used by the powerful, wealthy and influential to justify their exploitation of others. After all, if everyone started off on a level playing field, then the winners of the game are entitled to exploit any one they want to because the boot could just as easily have been on the other foot. For example, when someone scores a goal in football you don’t tell them off for hurting the other sides’ feelings. The lie, of course, is that for millions of Jews, Italians, African Americans, Poles, Eastern Europeans, countless other minority groups and women the playing field was never level to start with.


In many of his plays, therefore, Miller explores the American reality, in contrast to the dream. He explores the reality of the every day man and he tries to ground his work in the real domestic issues of every day life: domestic pressures and illegal immigration issues, for example, were part of the lives of millions of average Americans. Often he explores the destructive effects that American society can have on the individual, a theme which he explores most famously in another play called ‘Death of a Salesman’ where the salesman mentioned in the title eventually kills himself because his dreams do not match with the reality that he is faced with.



Page No




Alfieri introduces the context at the start of the play by mentioning that ‘Al Capone … was learning his trade on these pavements.’




When discussing her job, Eddie says to Catherine, ‘I want you to be in a nice office. Maybe a lawyers office.’ ‘I mean, if you’re gonna get out of here then get out; don’t go practically in he same kind of neighbourhood.’




His aspiration for her is that ‘Someday she could be a secretary.’




Eddie explains to Catherine how the immigrants are smuggled into the country ‘The captain’s pieced off.’ ‘Captain gets a piece, maybe one or two of the mates, piece for the guy in Italy who fixed the papers for them …’


When Catherine is shocked that the Captain could be bribed, Eddie replies ‘What’s the matter, the Captain don’t have to live.’




‘The syndicate’ll fix jobs for them; till they pay ‘em off they’ll get them work every day. It’s after the pay off then they’ll have to scramble like the rest of us.’




Rodolpho however, is impressed with his first taste of America ‘This will be the first house I ever walked into in America. Imagine! She said they were poor!’




Marco says ‘I understand that it’s not so good here either’ and we know that Eddie cannot always find work at the docks




Catherine is, ironically, excited by the world that Rodolpho has longed to escape ‘In Italy, he says, every town’s got fountains. And you know what? They got oranges on the trees where he comes from, and lemons. Imagine – on the trees.’




Eddie talks about his struggles to find work ‘In the worst times, when there wasn’t a ship comin’ in the harbour, I didn’t stand around lookin’ for relief – I hustled. I walked hungry plenty of days in this city.’




When questioned by Catherine over whether he is only marry her for his passport, Rodolpho responds angrily. ‘It’s so wonderful? You think we have no tall buildings in Italy? I want to be an American so I can work, that is the only wonder here – work!’




Alfieri’s comment to Marco is that ‘If he [Eddie] obeys the law, he lives.’


Yet Marco responds ‘He degraded my brother. My blood. He robbed my children, he mocks my work … where is the law for that?’ and Alfieri admits ‘There is none.’



12 & 85

Alfieri says ‘Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better. But the truth is holy, and even as I know how wrong he was, and his death useless, I tremble, for I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from his memory – nor purely good, but himself purely, for he allowed himself to be wholly known and for that I think that I will love him more than all my sensible clients. And yet, it is better to settle for half, it must be! And so I mourn him – I admit it – with a certain … alarm.’