Betrayal in ‘A View from the Bridge’
How does Miller Explore the Theme of Betrayal in ‘A View from the Bridge’?
“Betray a friend, and you’ll often find you have ruined yourself” (Aesop, Aesop’s Fables). This heinous act, is one which seems to have an omnipotent, omnipresent effect on those it mercilessly harms; crippling them, torturing them, agonising them, to a point of no return. An effect which describes the unfaithful failure in the guarding, maintaining, and fulfilling of long-standing values. An effect which is flawlessly captured in Arthur Miller’s ‘A View from the Bridge’. It is shown through the many forms of betrayal of the values of the society, and the characters in the play (like that of the betrayal of the Law of Omerta, the betrayal of one’s duty, and the values within the community). Arthur Miller’s play, first written and performed in 1955, depicts the many acts of betrayal endured by a man’s family and their community– acts which had been brought about due to the passionate, immoral feelings he harboured towards his surrogate daughter.
What is the Law of Omerta? To many, it is not a ‘true law’, not the type of law represented by a lawyer, or the type of law that achieves ‘traditional justice’. However, to the Italian community in the 1950s, its meaning and its worth was so much greater than any ‘true law’ could have achieved. To them, it was the embodiment of all they valued: trust, family and honour – with it being a code of silence of those who followed it; prohibiting them from aiding the authorities at the cost of their ‘family’ (preventing them from speaking out against their fellow Italians). Betraying this is like betraying one’s masculinity – with Miller portraying one’s masculinity as key to their society; most prominently being shown through Eddie desperately attempting to raise a chair “like a weapon over [his] head”, in an effort to assert his masculinity; with the weapons having connotations to masculinity, due to the play taking place in the wake of the aftermath of the Second World War, where only men were allowed to fight. The Law of Omerta itself has connotations to betrayal – with the purpose of it being to prevent betrayal within the community – in turn, portraying the theme of betrayal through its presence. All values can be betrayed, with a higher the status, causing a greater betrayal – the Law of Omerta is a value of the highest regard, and is no exception. The betrayal of the Law of Omerta and the severity its consequences, is evident from the very beginning of the play – with Miller introducing them, alongside Eddie Carbone, the play’s protagonist. In this, Eddie describes the story of how Vinny Bolzano had “an uncle that [he was] hidin’ in [his] house”, and how he had “snitched to the Immigration” about his uncle; in turn betraying the Law of Omerta. The consequences that Eddie describes are severe, with the boy’s brothers and father “grabb[ing] him in the kitchen and pull[ing] him down...