American Literature Lecture notes

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Only for Private Circulation Tilak Maharahstra Vidyapeeth Tilak Maharahstra Vidyapeeth Gultekadi, Pune - 411037 Gultekadi, Pune - 411037 Department of Distance Education Department of Distance Education American Literature E-204 Notes M. A. English – Part 2 INTRODUCTION The scope of the Distance Education System is unlimited. It has opened avenues of higher education for those who had been denied the opportunity. In the present era when constant updating is the need of the hour, Distance Education is doing wonders with the fast developing communication technology. Although the students are at distance, a complete learning experience is provided to them through the Self Learning Material, developed by our expert faculty. We are very happy to hand over to you learning material of M.A. - English for Part II. This year our thrust areas are - 1. Literary contribution of a great British author William Shakespeare as a special author 2. Contribution of American authors in modern times, 3. Selective English literature of a few Indian authors and 4. A very interesting, but analytical field of Literary Theory and Criticism. We are sure that you will find this learning material useful as a base for your studies and as a guideline from the examination point of view, too. More over we hope that this material would arose in you interest for further reading of American and Indian literature, in writings of William Shakespeare other than the ones prescribed in the syllabus and would develop in you a critical approach towards literature. We take this opportunity to express our gratitude towards Hon'ble Vice-chancellor Dr. Deepak Tilak, Dean - Faculty of Distance Education Shri. Ratnakar Chandekar and the Registrar Dr. Umesh Keskar for encouragement, support and guidance provided by them. We are thankful to Prof. / Dr. Rajashri Kulkarni for preparation of this study material. Wish you all the best Prof. Neelima Mehta Head, Faculty of Distance Education About the Subject Though American literature is comparatively new, it is not only prolific, but also has variety in form and genre. The works prescribed for study include poetry, drama, as well as the novel, and have been written in the period from the early nineteenth century, to the sixties in the twentieth century. Though the works display the trends of their respective times, the artists retain their distinct individuality. An attempt is made to introduce the student to these works without imposing any opinion or criticism of the work. The student should regard this only as a guideline which will indicate the direction of study. Critical works are an essential part of study, but it is very important to remember that a close study of the text is indispensable to the student of literature. - Author - American Literature Content Sr. No Chapter Page No 1 01 Robert Frost 2 04 Wallace Stevens 3 06 Emily Dickinson 4 08 Sylvia Plath 5 09 Eugene O’Nell : Desire Under the Elms 6 14 Arthur Miller : A View from the Bridge 7 18 Edward Albee : Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf 8 28 Ernest Hemingway : The Old Man and the Sea 9 34 Mark Twain : The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 10 39 Nathaniel Hawthrone : The Scarlet Letter 45 Conclusion 46 Question Bank 47 Select Bibliography CHAPTER I ROBERT FROST Poems : 1. Mending Wall 2. Birches 3. Home Burial 4. The Gift Outright 5. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Robert Frost was born in 1874, in San Francisco, California. His father was a native of New England, and his mother was a Scots woman, an emigrant from Edinburgh. His father had developed a dislike for New England and moved to seek his fortune in San Francisco. When he died, he left in his will the request that his remains be taken back to New England for burial. Thus it happened that Robert crossed the continent with his mother and younger brother. Since funds were not available for the return trip to California, the widow and her children settled in the village of Salem, New Hampshire. After his schooling, he enrolled at Dartmouth College, but soon left. During the next few years, seemingly without ambition, he tried his hand at various ways of living, like working in mills, newspaper reporting, and teaching. Meanwhile, his fondness for writing poetry occupied his leisure hours. After his marriage to Elinor White in 1895, he tried his hand at teaching, but could not settle down in it. Frequent illness, and failure in attempts at the business of poultry farming, made him decide to go to Buckinghamshire, England, and risk everything on poetry. The gamble was very successful. His first book of lyrics, A Boy’s Will (1913), and his book of dramatic dialogues, North of Boston (1914), were a great success, but being extremely shy, he avoided public attention. But due to economic reasons, he could not long refuse invitations to give public lectures and readings. He became one of the first American poets to make arrangements with various institutions to live on campus as poet-in-residence, for a few months or years. At the same time, Frost managed to indulge in his liking for the life of a farmer, particularly during vacation months. The poems in Mountain Interval (1916) show a combination of lyric vision and narrative contemplation along with Am 1 erican Literature poetic subtlety and versatility. New Hampshire (1923) is a venture into the humorous, witty, relaxed world of gentle social satire. West-running Brook (1928) contains some of his best lyrics. Though his volumes, A Further Range (1936), A Witness Tree (1942), and Steeple Bush (1947), contain some excellent lyrics, they have unimpressive editorials which do not add to Frost’s stature. In 1940, he bought a two-acre plot of land in Florida, where he set up two small cottages amidst citrus trees, indicating his feeling for the soil and for living things that remained a passion with him throughout his life. Robert Frost died in 1963, from the after-effects of an operation for cancer. Frost’s ‘”Mending Wall” is the opening poem of his North of Boston. It is a poem in which the brief narrative represents two opposed attitudes towards tradition. The poet imaginatively challenges the literal and therefore meaningless rituals, symbolized by repairing a wall at a point where there is no need for a wall. While the opposed views of the two neighbours are presented with playful seriousness as foils, the conclusion resolves the conflict in favour of the poet’s view, as he shows the neighbour’s blindness through dramatic dialogues. The wall is not only a physical wall, but also a mental one and the gaps in it are the possible meetings of the minds of the two people. There are many references to the cycle of the seasons in nature, and spring embodies warmth and the poet’s wish for a close and friendly relationship, while winter represents cold reserve. “Birches” first appeared in Mountain Interval and is a familiar favourite with readers. It is beautifully varied in tone and rhythm and begins by evoking the image of birch trees and the farm youth swinging up and down against the background of a dark wooded landscape, recalling the childhood of the poet. The swinging of the boy is the movement of the imagination away from the dark wood and into freedom, and by the end of the poem a balance is restored between imagination and common sense reality. As the title suggests, “Home Burial” is a narrative about the death of a child – the first child of a couple on a New England farm, and about how they both handle grief in their own way. The wife gazes from the window at the child’s mound which is not yet marked with a stone and refuses her husband’s concern for her sorrow. Her continued withdrawal and insistence that he cannot say the right thing, makes him reflect that she does not want to discuss her troubles with him. The woman’s American Literature 2angry reticence and rejection also implies that she has repulsed his sexual advances and that their marriage is cold and empty. Frost’s well-known poem, “The Gift Outright” was read by him at the inauguration ceremony of President John F. Kennedy. He talks as the spokesperson of the Americans to express his deep love for his land and the need to give themselves “outright” to their country. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” records a moment of pure delight in mid-winter, which is a transitory moment of contemplation of the beauty of snow-covered woods before he must go on with his duties. The lyric is an interior monologue, and the first line establishes the tone of a person musing quietly to himself on the situation before him. He transforms an apparently commonplace scene into something deeply convincing, and again suggests that there is the world of the woods, which offers perfect quiet and solitude, which exists side by side with the world of people and social obligations. ▪ ▪ ▪ Am 3 erican Literature CHAPTER II WALLACE STEVENS Poems : 1. Of Modern Poetry 2. Sunday Morning. 3. The Idea of Order at Key West 4. The World as Meditation 5. Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Bird Wallace Stevens was born in Pennsylvania in 1879. His father was a lawyer who enjoyed writing in his spare time, and his mother was of Dutch origin. He went to Harvard, but left without a degree in 1900, and joined the New York law school. He was admitted to the bar in 1904, and in 1916 joined the legal department of Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, of which, in 1924, he became vice president. While in New York, he became acquainted with Marianne Moore, E.E. Cummins and Carlos Williams. Throughout his later life, Stavens managed to lead a double life: to be at once a poet, a lawyer, a man of letters and a family man. His collections, Harmonium (1923), Idea of Order (1936), The Man with the Blue Guitar (1937), and Parts of a World (1942), and Transport to Summer (1947), attracted much notice, and Auroras of Autumn won him the Bollingen prize in poetry. His Collected Poems were published in 1954, and he won the Pulitzer prize and the National Book Award in 1955. Wallace Stevens was an insurance man and a poet and he scrupulously kept both his sides apart. He was very much an American, and though he had rather conservative views in politics, he was quite daring and innovative in poetry. Critics have praised his “Sunday Morning” for its grandeur of rhetoric and complexity of ideas. The poem is a statement of personal belief and conducts a meditation through the persona of a woman about the choice between the vision of American Literature 4paradise proposed by the Christian faith and the vision of an earthly paradise. In “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”, the blackbird is the focus which brings out meaning from the context. The interdependence of meaning and context, and the relationship between imagination and reality is highlighted. His poems show great variety in form and experimentation in metre. ▪ ▪ ▪ Am 5 erican Literature CHAPTER III EMILY DICKINSON Poems : 1. I Tasted Liquor Never Brewed 2. After Great Pain a Formal Feeling 3. I Died for Beauty 4. I Heard a Fly Buzz 5. A Narrow Fellow in the Grass Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1830., where she lived in their family house until her death from Bright’s disease in 1886. Her parents belonged to a well-known and respected family, and whatever social and intellectual life was possible then, was available to her. But she chose not to avail herself of it, and preferred retirement from society, which was carried to extreme and bewildering heights. She concealed her mind and her persona from all but a very few friends, and it was with great difficulty that she was persuaded to publish three or four poems during her lifetime. It was suggested that this seclusion was the result of a disappointed love affair, or that it was caused by a mental breakdown. Feminists interpreted this not as a retreat but as a strategy so that her remarkable capacity to live intensely would not be diluted through contact with the external world. Whatever the reasons for her seclusion, Dickinson made a conscious choice and did not see it as a limitation of her activities. Her sense of herself as a complete and self-sufficient world is a prominent feature of her poems. Many of her poems are supposed to have been written after she experienced a psychic catastrophe. Yet none of them are the products of a distraught mind – they are the creations of well- controlled artistry. Dickinson’s “I Tasted Liquor Never Brewed” is a self-exploratory poem which tries to distinguish between subtle internal differences within the mind itself. “After Great Pain a Formal Feeling” describes a state of mind, which, though vaguely American Literature 6related to the overall ceremony of a funeral, shows these as all external manifestations enacted in a trance as though they were some part of a meaningless rite. Dickinson’s “I Died for Beauty” is one of her best-known poems on the theme of death, as also her “I Heard a Fly Buzz”. In the latter poem, she imagines her own death-bed scene, and ironically says that all that she can hear in the stillness of the room is the buzz of the fly. Among her lyrics on the natural world, “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass”, which is about the snake, is one of the best. It displays her ability to capture in a few phrases, the essence of the creature she describes. ▪ ▪ ▪ Am 7 erican Literature CHAPTER IV SYLVIA PLATH Poems : 1. Daddy 2. Lady Lazarus 3. Tulips 4. Love Letter 5. Ariel Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, in 1932, and the family moved to Massachusetts, where she attended public school. In 1940, her father died due to complications after a leg amputation. For Sylvia, the death came to signify a traumatic disturbance of her childhood experience. She often suffered from depression, which she had inherited from her father’s family, and had to undergo treatment for it. She began writing poems and short stories, for which she won many contests and prizes. She won a scholarship and began attending Smith College, from where she graduated in 1955, and went to Cambridge on a Fullbright scholarship. In 1956 she met Ted Hughes and married him. They came to America, but went back to England, where they began to live in Devon. Their marriage was in trouble, and they separated in 1962, and Sylvia began to live in London with her two children. She went into depression and committed suicide in 1963. Plath’s poems have a distinctly autobiographical element in them. They reveal her restlessness and frustrations at unfulfilled love and broken relationships. “Daddy”, “Lady Lazarus”, and “Ariel” are confessional in tone and display the scars of her childhood trauma. “Tulips” and “Love Letter” are also autobiographical in tone and reveal her innermost feelings and insecurities. Her poems always show mastery over metre and form. ■ ■ ■ American Literature 8CHAPTER V EUGENE O’NEILL : DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS Eugene O’Neill : his life and work Eugene O’Neill was born in 1888 in New York. His parents were devout Catholics, and his father James O‘Neill was an actor-manager. The family travelled round the country with James O’Neill, but their home was unsettled in more ways than this. None of them were in good health, the father drank heavily and the mother took drugs. His education at Princeton University was cut short in 1906, when he was suspended before the final examination. In 1909, he married Katherine Jenkins, and was divorced in 1912. He lived a dissolute life, drinking and gambling, until his illness during the same year. In 1918 he married Agnes Boulton, and they had two children. In 1928, after his divorce, he married his third wife, Charlotte Monterary, an actress with whom he lived happily until his death in 1957. It was during his months of convalescence, around 1912, that he wrote the first short plays, eleven of which were published together. His plays, The Emperor Jones (1920), The Hairy Ape (1922), All God’s Chillun Get Wings (1923), were intellectual and stylistic experiments. In Desire Under the Elms (1924), he used a simple, naturalistic form to achieve the highest imaginative peak of his career. His next play, The Great God Brown (1928), is an allegory between the artist and the materialism of society, which O’Neill expresses through the use of masks that the characters take on and off as the situation requires. Lazarus Laughed and Marco Williams (both 1928), were purely intellectual in concept and demanded extravagant productions. Strange Interlude (1928) is three times the length of a normal play, chiefly because the characters speak their thoughts as well as their words. His next attempt, Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), was a trilogy – his version of the Greek story of Orestes. His Days Without End and Ah, Wilderness (both1934), are not particularly interesting. O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh appeared in 1946, is naturalistic, projects the fears and weaknesses of man, and the futility of human existence. Among his remaining plays, the only one of any significance is Am 9 erican Literature Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1940-41), in which he presents multiple aspects of personality and relationships within the circle of the family. Desire Under the Elms : A Summary Desire Under the Elms is a story of greed on a New England farm in the middle of the last century. The farmer, Old Cabot, married his second wife twenty-five years ago purely in order to get the title-deeds of the farm into their own hands. Their son, Eben, knows this and also believes that his father killed his mother by overworking her. Not surprisingly he hates his father and is determined to get possession of the farm himself as soon as possible. Then Old Cabot marries a third wife, Abbie – partly to spite Eben. Abbie is only a few years older than Eben and now her greed is added to the others’. She makes Old Cabot promise that if she bears him a son he will leave the farm to him entirely, cutting Eben out of his will. She then sets about seducing Eben, hoping to have a son by him and to pass it off as Old Cabot’s. At this point the tight mesh of ambition turns to one of passion, because Abbie is also genuinely attracted to Eben. Her scheming ends in a deep and genuine love for him. He feels the same for her and is content to comply in the pretence that his newly born son is really his father’s, until one day his father gloatingly tells him of the promise which Abbie made him give. Abbie, in a mad attempt to prove her love for Eben by removing the object of her original plot, now kills her baby. Eben doubly maddened by this, fetches the sheriff to her and then suddenly, at the last minute, maintains that he killed the child with her. Old Cabot is left alone on his farm as the sheriff takes them off. And the sheriff’s last words, looking around as they leave, are: “It’s a jimdandy farm, no denyin’. Wish I owned it.” The stark simplicity of this play, both in the writing and in the strict concentration on the theme, raises a plot that could have become melodrama into tragedy. But the play also contains a sense of doom which, without ever seeming extraneous, does help to give it a classical quality. Eben’s mother, for example, haunts the play like a figure of ill-omen because of Eben’s conviction that his father killed her. So his father’s harsh treatment of her looms like a crime in the past, awaiting expiation: she becomes the Thyestes or the King Hamlet of the plot. Fate American Literature 10too is easily suggested by the superstitions of these country people. Old Cabot is convinced for two reasons that it is his destiny to stay on this bleak farm. First, he left it as a young man for richer land out West and yet, when he was already prospering there, something about New England pulled him back to the harder life. And secondly, at the end of the play and after the disaster, when again he plans to leave, he finds that his sons (he also had two by his first wife) have long since taken the horde of money which he had hidden under a floorboard. This is enough to convince him that it is God’s will that he should stay where he is and that God sent him evil grasping sons so that His will should be effected. As with the oracle in Greek tragedy, all that matters is that the characters involved believe it. So O’Neill’s use of superstitions fatalism becomes a much more effective modern version of Fate than any specific Greek echoes or freaks of physiognomy can be. In Desire Under the Elms, O’Neill made a temporary break with his intellectual and stylistic experiments. Using a simple naturalistic form he achieved in this play the highest imaginative peak of his career. His other plays of a comparable stature were all direct and painful distillations of his own experience, and they are at their best when they come nearest in every detail to that experience. Desire Under the Elms is pure imaginative creation, and the psychological patterns present in the play are an integral part of the dramatic situation. Some Observations on the play Desire Under The Elms is a tale of ancient desire and violence structured around many centres of meaning. All the conflicts in the play arise from the self- centred, exploitative desires of the characters ambushing each other in a game of outwitting each other. Ephraim Cabot, the synoptic centre of all these desires of greed, lust, authority and acquisitiveness, stalks over his New England farm like a giant under whose power the rest of the characters look very small. His real rival is his dead wife, demanding the restitution of an ancient wrong, unleashing the invisible fury of her vengeful, violated maternity. She is symbolized by the elm trees described at the outset of the play. She is symbolized by the elm trees described at the outset of the play. Am 11 erican Literature If the elms represent growth and fecundity, the rocky soil of the farm and the stone fences built by Ephraim, stand for man-made values, which seem to thwart the free, aspiring spontaneity of the life-force. As Peter complains, the father has slaved everybody to death so that the farm may live and yield. Thus both the living and the dead, in combat of their evenly matched powers, bring remote, explosive forces out of the darker regions of the racial unconscious to converge on their helpless forbears. Ephraim, the patriarch of the primitive kind, is intensely feared and hated by his sons, who struggle against his omnipotent will and desire to steal his farm, his mistresses, his gold, in short, everything that belongs to him. Simeon and Peter, the two elder sons, are somewhat unequal to the task, and lacking logistic subtlety, try to achieve a symbolic slaying of the father by themselves fleeing to California. But Eben, wily like his father, whom he resembles physically, too, and, protected by the guardian spirit of his mother, combines the two primal lusts of possessiveness and revenge into an effective strategy for the usurpation of Ephraim. The themes of possession and revenge are unfilled in Eben’s quest for a harmonious adult life. He is the victim of an Oedipus complex, because he is caught between the father’s desire to possess and the mother’s desire for revenge. The incest with his step-mother is an outlet for this double fulfillment, as well as a means of normalizing his psychic urges. Abbie’s marriage to Ephraim is in itself the mother’s first act of revenge, because she marries Ephraim for exactly the same reason as he had married Eben’s mother - the possession of the farm. Furthermore, the mother obtains her natural fulfillment of sex through the adultery of Abbie, her symbolic incarnation. For the lovers themselves, their coming together results in a self-knowledge, and a transfiguration of their initial desires. Eben’s desire for revenge, and Abbie’s for the farm, change concomitantly into a desire for each other. By killing her child, Abbie proves that her lust has become love; and, by unconsciously sharing her crime, Eben achieves the murder of the primordial father, whose symbolic surrogate the child really is. Their mutual sacrifice constitutes a consecration of selfhood, and a liberation from the dragons of adolescence, so that they can both now grow freely into a meaningful adulthood. The mother and son ‘belong’ to each other, as well as the lovers, because the experience of growth, once feared, is now accepted through an edification of desire. A mark of their acceptance of adult life is that they are free from guilt feelings. But American Literature 12the world belongs to Ephraim. His identification with the universe is aided, rather than destroyed by his pride. He remains unvanquished, if not victorious, because he is severe, immutable and lonely, the very centre of a perpetual, indestructible power. In Ephraim, O’Neill has modernized the portrait of the Puritan, in that he has traced the ambiguities of Puritan spirituality and Puritan sensuality alike. Ironically enough, the most positive quality of power is essentially negative, and consists in the denial of power, and possibly life, to others. A similar truth says that the Puritan is one who fears that someone somewhere might be happy. Ephraim’s spirituality is in fact reduced purely to the level of passion. He finds himself more at home among his cows and horses and fowls than among men. Ephraim is also a prisoner of the farm and the homestead, over which the sinister serenity of the dead wife’s motherhood broods, torturing him with a tyrannical love that makes him guilty. The father and mother, interlocked in a continual contest for power and authority, have no escape from each other. They prevail as opposites, for they are the archetypes into which all life is divided. Man is torn between the father’s love for power and the mother’s power of love. This duality of primal nature is the moral and psychological conditioning of man’s being, an insight which O’Neill reinforces in Desire Under the Elms by integrating into a single complex, Puritanism, naturalism, primitivism and Freudianism. The realism of the play is in fact an artistic simplicity in depth striving towards a wider universality of vision. The characters in Desire Under The Elms accept with ascetic abandon their ‘heroic knowledge’ of the human condition, the mystic undercurrents of which are controlled by purely naturalistic symbols which the elm sheds its mythic shades. ■ ■ ■ Am 13 erican Literature CHAPTER VI ARTHUR MILLER : A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE Arthur Miller : his life and work Arthur Miller was born in Manhattan in 1917 in a conventional, well-to-do Jewish family. As a boy, he was a good athlete, interested in sports, and decidedly nonintellectual by nature. When he was thirteen, economic conditions forced his father to give up his business and to move the family to a small house in Brooklyn. During the next ten years, he worked as a delivery boy for a bakery, a dishwasher, a waiter, a warehouse clerk, a truck driver, a factory labourer, a singer at a local radio station, and a writer of over thirty radio plays. All this experience left him with a great respect for hard work. After his schooling, Miller began reading works of Shakespeare, Brecht, Shaw, O’Neill, Ibsen and others and was deeply influenced by them. In 1934, Miller enrolled in journalism in the University of Michigan, and eighteen months later, began writing plays. His first play, Honors at Dawn, a piece written in four days, won the Avery Hopwood Award, and gave him great confidence in his ability to write plays. During the next few years, he wrote several radio plays, most of which were very successful. His No Villain (1937), They Too Arise (1938), and The Man Who Had All The Luck (1944), were all well- acknowledged by contemporary critics. Miller’s All My Sons (1947) won the New York Drama Critics Circle award, and he was given the Pulitzer Prize for his Death of a Salesman (1949) and the Antoinette Perry Award for The Crucible (1953). Miller’s A View from the Bridge was first a Broadway production, which he later turned into a full-length play. His most successful plays are carefully planned with powerful characters and usually depict how the pressures of society distort and destroy human relationships. All My Sons, is a story of guilt from the past permeating and destroying the present, and central to it is the theme of betrayal. Joe Keller, an industrialist, has committed the double crime of firstly selling the government a batch of faulty cylinder heads during the war, which cause the death of twenty-one pilots; and later laying the American Literature 14blame on his innocent manager, Deever, who has to serve a prison sentence. The emotional tangles of the situation are concentrated by the fact that the Keller and Deever families have always been close friends: young Chris Keller and Ann Deever are even in love. So the parallels and contrasts provide frequent dramatic opportunities. In Death of a Salesman, the whole life of the Loman family is dominated by Willy Loman’s idea of “success”, which he sees as a ladder leading from a brilliant athletic career at school to a good job and a life surrounded by scores of influential friends and admiring neighbours. The play is an admirable blend of pathos and satire, and there has been much argument about whether or not it is a tragedy. A glance at Miller’s works shows that his output has been small but it has maintained a very high standard, and that he is a dramatist of passion, conviction and intelligence. A View from the Bridge : A Summary Miller’s characters function more intelligibly as fathers, sons, husbands, or wives in a family setting than as citizens in society. Of course, the protagonist of A View from the Bridge acts in a specific social milieu that conditions his sense of guilt and his sense of dignity. Yet for Eddie Carbone guilt and dignity derive from an intimate attachment: his fatherly concern for his niece is obsessive. For the first time, in this play sexual desire and jealousy become the dominant components of reality. Eddie’s fervent insistence on his niece’s loyalty carries with it an implication of physical attraction. Eddie refuses to accept such an implication and involuntarily bears his emotional secrets with his words and actions. From the beginning of the play his extreme possessiveness suggests his strength of a passion he will not acknowledge. The thought that Catherine could be contaminated by the world’s wickedness or subjected to another man’s authority is intolerable to him. Morbidly sensitive about her claim to adulthood, he dislikes her short skirts, her clacking high heels, her wavy walk, her chats with Louis, and her plan to get a job. Though she is almost eighteen, he insists that she is a baby. But Catherine has grown up and her feminine maturity represents a potential threat to the innocent, affectionate rapport between uncle and niece. Beatrice, Eddie’s wife, detects this threat. She feels obliged to warn the naïve girl not to throw herself at him as if she was twelve years old or appear in front of him when she is half dressed. Alfieri, a Am 15 erican Literature lawyer refers more directly to Eddie’s motives. Eddie’s agitated responses to such statements attest to his unwillingness to admit the presence of this motive. Miller was particularly interested in the destructiveness of his hidden but irresistible passion. The rivalry in the situation rises upon the entrance of Rodolpho and Marco, brothers who have illegally entered the United States from Sicily. At first Rodolpho dominates the conversation and impresses Catherine with his exuberant charm. Eddie had addressed his first remarks mainly to Marco. But he is soon eclipsed by his brother and speaks progressively fewer lines. This reticence, together with the defensive nature of his occasional comments, subtly indicates his growing uneasiness and resentment. Later, Eddie’s responses reveal the death of his turmoil. He insists that Rodolpho is an irresponsible thief, who breaks into a home and wants to marry Catherine only to obtain American citizenship. This accusation, however inaccurate, is not nearly so far-fetched as the next, that the blond Rodolpho must be a homosexual as well as a thief. Eddie entangles himself in his delusion and tries to prove it to his niece by kissing Rodolpho before her. The grossness of this act and the irrationality of his accusations, further alienates Catherine and indicates the intensity of his desperation. Shame and hopelessness drive Eddie to a still more irrational deed, seeking to protect his family’s integrity, he destroys it. He violates the code of honour of his social world by betraying his brothers, and unintentionally, the relatives of a friend, to the immigration authorities. Disgraced now both in his neighbourhood and his home, he is delivered from humiliation by death. A View from the Bridge may be seen as a psychological study that shows the self-destructiveness of an inflexible, passionate individual, but Miller hoped to enlarge his scope beyond that of psychological analysis. Eddie’s behaviour is seen to be idiosyncratic, erratic and shameful, and he is as fanatic and as uncompromising as a Greek tragic hero. There is a vendetta situation in which Marco avenges Eddie’s disloyalty, and Eddie in turn feels injured by Marco’s insults. Miller explains that he introduced the feud idea to broaden the ethical frame of reference and to highlight the interior dilemma of family loyalty. Miller’s play seems an attempt to utilize the austere technique of Sophocles in a modern setting. American Literature 16

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