Throughout the play, Miller attempts to make the audience agree with Alfieri by carefully crafting him as an all-knowing, educated and experienced lawyer, which leads us into thinking that he should be trusted and believed. At the end of the play, Alfieri tells us that despite the wrongful things that Eddie did, he still finds him admirable because of his primitive passion which he did not allow the civilised community to mould. Although Miller succeeded to a certain extent in making me trust Alfieri, I believe that he was misguided.
By thrusting forward the raw emotions which Alfieri found so admirable, Eddie had in fact betrayed his family as well as the Sicilian code of honour. Therefore, I disagree with Alfieri, and feel that Eddie should not be loved and sympathised more than the ones who learn to compromise. By portraying him as a civilized lawyer and giving him an omniscient role as both a character and narrator in the play, Miller provides Alfieri with credits of trustworthiness.
He created Alfieri as a “lawyer”, and by choosing this profession out of all the other possible choices, he characterises Alfieri as the symbol of American legal justice. We are made to see him as the voice of reason, which gives him a reliable quality. When the play begins, Alfieri is described to be “turning grey” and “thoughtful”, which has connotations of wisdom. The fatherly figure implied through the word “portly” also adds to the dependability of his character.
Later in the play, we find that Eddie’s father described him to be a “smart man”, and it is hard to doubt Alfieri when we see how self-assured he is when he tells us that he is an “intelligent man” himself. Furthermore, Alfieri talks in standard English and a measured tone, which contrasts with Eddie’s raw aggression and nonstandard regional Brooklynese dialect. This makes Alfieri seem more smart and authoritative compared to Eddie, who shows a lack of education. Additionally, Alfieri is, in the play, a pontificating narrator who is in control of telling us the story in flashbacks.
He already knows what will happen, which we can see from the phrase “I knew, I knew it then and there – I could have finished the whole story that afternoon”. This gains our trust. In his concluding speech, Alfieri tells us that although it is undeniable that Eddie did wrongful things, he still admires him for being able to express his passionate and primal impulses, when the society has succeeded in making most people hide them. We are told that Eddie’s primitive passion is the “perversely pure” thing that “calls to… [Alfieri] … from…
[Eddie’s] … memory”. This is what makes Alfieri remember Eddie with such affection despite the fact that he knows “how wrong… [Eddie] … was” and admits that his “death [was] useless”. The reason behind Alfieri’s empathy for Eddie may have been because they are both from Italian roots, which can be seen from the phrases “I [Alfieri] was born in Italy” and “suppose my [Eddie’s] father didn’t come to this country”. We can see that Alfieri is a respected figure who understands Eddies, as well as the Italian code of justice and honour.
By using Alfieri – the character that he created to be trustworthy – as a way to guide our reactions to the drama that unfolds, Miller tries to make us agree with him and feel empathy for Eddie despite the wrongful things that he did. However, his attempts to distinguish Eddie as a legendary figure are not as convincing as his attempts to describe Alfieri as a dependable character. On page 48, Alfieri describes his conversation with Eddie; yet he says that he “hardly remember[s] the conversation” because he was too transfixed by Eddie’s eyes, which he illustrates to be “like tunnels”.
He mentions that he “will never forget how dark the room became when… [Eddie] … looked at” him, and these show how Miller tired to give Eddie epic proportions. Miller’s aim here is to try to convince us that Eddie is the hero of the tragedy, and that we should empathise with him. I felt that Miller was trying to make Eddie seem like a more legendary character than he actually was, and that Eddie is in fact not worthy of grand tragedy.
This is because I think that what happened to Eddie at the end of the play was more his fault, and that he could have changed the story himself, had he tired harder to control his selfish emotions. In the play, Eddie’s story of jealousy and revenge is portrayed to be grand, and although I do not agree with this, perhaps this is how it seemed to Alfieri. Compared to the “petty troubles of the poor” that he usually deals with, this “bloody course” may have seemed more dramatic than it actually was.
Miller, through Alfieri, also introduces an historical element in the phrases “since the Creeks were beaten” and “in some Caesar’s year”. These references to classical antiquity adds to the sense of grand tragedy, and gives this story that is about to unfold a timeless universal quality. A sense of inevitable fate is implied, suggesting that Eddie was overrun by fate, and that it was not Eddie’s actions alone that destroyed him and finally lead to his death. I disagree with this view given by Alfieri, because I feel that Eddie could have learnt to “settle for half” and compromise.
Although Alfieri feels that Eddie’s raw emotions were admirable enough to make up for the wrongful things that he did, I disagree. His inability to control these primal instincts actually led him to betray the Sicilian code of honour, despite the fact he knew the consequences to follow. Before Beatrice’s cousins arrived, we find that Eddie already knew that informing the Immigration Bureau about them as illegal immigrates was going to cost both his name and the respect of his family, yet, later on in the play, he was too desperate and blinded by self-delusion to stop himself.
In the phrase, “a guy do a thing like that? … How’s he gonna show his face? “, Eddie shows his disgust of what Vinny did, yet at the end of the play, he followed Vinny’s footsteps and ended up losing his name just like Vinny did. I feel that it is ironic how Alfieri finds this admirable although he should be disapproving of those who are disloyal to the code of honour of the country he himself comes from. Alfieri must know how disloyal it is to betray the code of honour and the family, as these are considered to be very important in Italy.
Although Miller succeeded to a certain extent in making the audiences believe that Alfieri was a wise man, I think that Alfieri was misguided in his empathy for Eddie. The primitive desires that are expressed by Eddie do not make him admirable. In fact, I feel that he should have learnt to compromise, and that being moulded by the community may have been the right decision in this case. The sensible clients who learn to live as cilivised Americans are, in my opinion, more admirable than one who betrayed the code of honour just to suit his selfish desires.