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To what extent is 'A View from the Bridge' a play about a clash of cultures?

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Introduction

To what extent is 'A View from the Bridge' a play about a clash of cultures? Culture is the most significant factor in any society; it defines who and what we are. It is an all-pervasive influence on our actions and the way we live our lives. It is a key feature in Arthur Miller's 'A View from the Bridge', and a dominant theme throughout, if not the most dominant theme throughout. The period that 'A View from the Bridge' is set in is one where America, especially New York was seeing immigration from Italy and the Mediterranean when it had always previously received immigrants from Western Europe. They formed pockets of cultures, in which was a mix of aspirations to the American culture, but still the very strong foundations of the culture from whence they came. Two generations since the 1920s saw the height of immigration into America, with the Italian/American culture still receiving illegal immigrants from relatives and friends in the Mediterranean. 'A View from the Bridge' is a play about a personal tragedy, set under the conditions of a cultural clash, which defines the plot and prefigures the ending. Although we are made very clear from the offset that all the characters work in low pay American jobs and aspire to Americanism, the Sicilian culture is the most prominent feature of the play. ...read more.

Middle

The most obvious example of Sicilian ideas is the way that it seems right to help and protect relatives to get into the country, despite it being both illegal and expensive. By far the most prominent illustration of Sicilian justice, and relating directly to the plot, is the story of Vinny Bolzano. Upon hearing the story of Vinny Bolzano in the first scene of the play, we are immediately introduced to the aggression of Sicilian justice, and are given a glimpse of events that are to unfold. After Beatrice has told Catherine the story of Vinny Bolzano, Eddie exclaims 'On his own Uncle!', expressing disgust that anyone could possibly do such a thing to a relative under any circumstances. At this point in time it is totally out of Eddie's character to go to the immigration authorities, at this time in the play he would not even think about it, but he is later driven to it by what he feels to be a personal tragedy on an epic scale. This tells us that when Eddie informs the authorities he knows exactly what effect this will have on him; he knows of his inevitable fate after word gets out. The Sicilian values of justice are totally separate and exempt from American law. In some ways it is more lenient; it does not condemn Marco for killing Eddie because of two things; firstly, Eddie reported him to the authorities, and secondly, he won in a fair duel. ...read more.

Conclusion

The plot of the play itself is more about the personal tragedy between a parent's incestuous love for his daughter, and a girl who is growing up to become a young woman and wants to behave in accordance with her womanhood. This is the subject of the play, rather than the clash of the cultures, this is not to say that the culture difference is not relevant, on the contrary, it is a main theme of the play, but it only aggravates the personal problem. It confuses Eddie's situation, as he is obviously more in favour of Sicilian values, but finds his personal situation with regard to Catherine threatened by Sicilians, and therefore has to resort to using American culture to neutralise the situation. It makes the divide that Catherine has to cross into womanhood much greater, making it necessary not only to become a woman from her childhood under Sicilian ideas, but also to become a fully, modernised, Americanised, independent woman. In addition, it supplies Eddie with a method of solving his personal problem, if in a rather extreme manner. It makes the consequences of doing so much more dramatic. The personal tragedy suffered is fuelled by great love, which leads to insanity, giving the play the qualities of a Greek tragedy, if not a somewhat contemporary Greek tragedy. Matt King Page 1 ...read more.

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