How does Miller Set up Mood and Atmosphere at the Start of the A View From the Bridge? (first page and a half).

The stage directions lay out the scenery of the action as a ‘street and house’. The house is ‘skeletal’ which implies that in this community nothing can be hidden. This creates an atmosphere of other people judging you, seeing what you do. The first scene is of dockworkers, ‘longshoremen’, at rest ‘pitching coins’, killing time, maybe gambling.The working class atmosphere is added to by the dressing of the ‘worker’s’ flat and the ‘distant foghorn’. The context here supports Arthur Miller’s Introduction to the play where he said he wanted to show Eddie, ‘living out his horror in the midst of a certain normality.’

Miller places ‘forestage, a desk’ belonging to Alfieri, the lawyer who also functions as the Chorus, who interprets and comments on the action. This puts the theme of passing judgement, and laws – moral or legal – at the front of the stage, and at the front of our minds as we see the action ‘through’ the desk. The ‘Chorus’ is a feature of classical plays, and Miller establishes a classical tone from the start, at the same time as showing the modernity and the Americanness of the play, shown where Alfieri says, forcefully – ‘we are American’.

Alfieri’s mood is ‘good humoured’ and he is ‘grinning’ and he says he’s just seen something ‘amusing’. This creates a friendly, comfortable feel, but this is immediately undercut by the word ‘uneasy’, which creates a foreboding feel, linking to the word ‘unlucky’ – which Alfieri says would only happen ‘on this street’. There is something particularly odd, and perhaps worrying in this community. His lexis (word choice) is rich with the semantic field of ‘disasters’ ‘ruins’ ‘beaten’ ‘distrust’ and more specifically of gun crime ‘shot’ and ‘machine gun’. The unusual, darkly comic sentence construction ‘cut precisely in half by a machine gun’, suggests factory work, precision and skill which is very uncomfortable as a means of killing someone. 

This theme develops in Alfieri’s speech…
[this essay is 300 words, one and a half sides medium handwriting, and is not finished!]