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Analysis

What’s Up With the Title?

Imagine you're standing on the Brooklyn Bridge. A strong breeze rushes up from the East River down below. The wind slams into your face, bringing the smell of the river, the ocean beyond it, and probably a big whiff of car exhaust. You look to one side and see the giant gleaming buildings of Manhattan. To the other side, you see the comparatively stubby buildings of Brooklyn. You shift your gaze down to Brooklyn's waterfront and see the riverbank lined with dock after dock after dock. You squint your eyes and see the longshoremen, crawling like ants across those docks.

Many critics say that Arthur Miller was referencing just this view when he titled his 1950s drama, A View from the Bridge. Of course, no one in the play ever goes to the bridge, which is so close their Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. In fact, the bridge is barely even mentioned. So, what are the critics talking about? By far the most popular theory is that the title refers to how Arthur Miller wanted audiences to view the play. He was much more concerned with people understanding its larger context than he was with them focusing on the melodrama. How do we know this? He says so in the introduction.

But what does any of that have to do with a bridge? Think about it. When you're looking down on the world from a very high place, like oh say…the Brooklyn Bridge, you have a much bigger perspective on the world. Instead of getting caught up in all the little dramas down below, you get a great big panoramic view. You can see how all the smaller parts fit together and affect each other.

Throughout the play the narrator, Alfieri, shows up to help audiences see this larger view. Between most scenes, Alfieri steps in and asks the big questions. How does Eddie's drama fit into the bigger story of Italians adapting to American life? What are the larger moral implications of Eddie's choices? What is justice? These are questions that can only be answered if one has "a view from the bridge."

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