Book Report: A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller (1955, 1988?)

Book coverWell, gentle reader, I asked in my Good Book Hunting post from this weekend if you could guess which of the books I would read first from the stack.

It was this play, and maybe I should actually make a point of buying plays to read in hotel rooms when I travel; you might remember (but if not, the blog is semi-forever) that I read The Marriage of Bette and Boo in a hotel room right after I bought it in Leavenworth, Kansas at a book store that might be named Half Price Books but is also possibly not related to the book store I visited this weekend. It definitely had a different vibe.

I’ve read The Death of a Salesman, but apparently not in the last 19 years or since I’ve started reporting on books on this blog. This play, which premiered in the middle 50s, deals with a family of Italians in a tenement in New York City: A husband, his wife, and their niece. When they agree to shelter the wife’s cousins, illegal immigrants from Italy, everything goes awry. One of the brothers is a hard worker on the docks with the husband, but the other brother, who does not even look Italian, likes to sing, has home skills like sewing, and starts dating the young niece. The husband doesn’t like it because the boy is different and perhaps because he has romantic feelings for her himself, or at least does not want to let her grow up. Things come to a head when the husband calls the immigration authorities to remove the men.

I have to wonder if it was a bit anachronistic in the 1950s, hearkening back to a past from that point in time. A fairly simple play, not very clever but very serious in its indictments of tradition and the patriarchy.

You know, back in college, I read David Ball’s Backwards and Forewords, and one thing still sticks with me: He said that every character in every scene has his or her own agenda, his or her own goal, and that you should have that in mind when writing every scene. The characters in this play seem a little thin: I cannot figure out, really, what the wife wants, or the older of the cousins wants aside from the broadest of strokes. I read it, and I get a sense that the playwright had a story to tell and maybe at a bit of sacrifice of real characters.

At any rate, not bad, but not great. It’s not what Miller was known for.

Which reminds me: The author has an introduction to this play written for this edition, thirty years from its original run. As is my wont, I did not read it before I read the play, and I should remember to read it now that I have read it.

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories