First performed as a one-act play in 1955, Arthur Miller's "A View from the Bridge" was later rewritten and restaged as a full-length, two-act play. In "Timebends", his autobiography, Miller speaks at length of his interest in the Brooklyn waterfront and of his relationship with Vincent James "Vinny" Longhi. Longhi and Longhi's friend, Mitch Berenson, sought out Miller to help them make known and keep alive the work of Pete Panto, a young longshoreman who had earned a gangland execution for attempting to foment a revolt against the union leadership of Joseph Ryan, the corrupt head of the International Longshoremen's Association. With Longhi and Berenson as his cicerones, Miller entered the dark, dangerous, corrupt world of Red Hook, the largely Italian, Brooklyn waterfront neighbourhood. From this experience and from a Longhi anecdote the story and atmosphere of "A view from the Bridge" seem to have been born.
Justice and the law
Alfieri, as a lawyer, is aware that the law, despite its limitations, must be upheld. However, he is also aware of the inability of the law to dispense total justice. He feels powerless to intervene when a character in the play decides to find justice in his own way - outside the law.
Eddie Carbone is a man who does not understand the reasons for the limitations of the law. Early in the play he asks Beatrice to tell Catherine the story of Vinny Bolzano. In Eddie's eyes and in the eyes of the community Vinny was guilty of injustice and his family ensured that justice was done when he was punished and shunned by the neighbourhood.
There is a feeling that if people always abide by the law then they will have to "settle for half". Alfieri seems to be saying that the law is often incapable of satisfying everybody.
Eddie tries to force Alfieri to give him his kind of justice. He believes that Rodolpho is going to marry Catherine in order to make him a legal immigrant. He feels that this is unjust and that the law should be capable of making a case against Rodolpho. Alfieri is very rational and unemotional as he informs Eddie that no law has been broken.
The real injustice as far as Eddie is concerned is that Rodolpho, who, according to Eddie, is an effeminate "weird guy", is taking Catherine for his own and away from Eddie who is, in his own opinion, all that a man should be.
Alfieri warns Eddie that if he betrays the brothers he will be breaching the code of his people and that they will turn against him. Here Alfieri is placing the law against natural justice - he is emphasising that it would be unjust to betray the Italians even if Eddie is actually upholding the law by reporting them.
Throughout the play there is an emphasis on justice, but as Alfieri tells us there is a price to pay for total justice - a price that most people, most of the time, are not prepared to pay. This is why the majority feel that "it is better to settle for half".
As its very title suggests, Miller's play is about being between extremes, about disparate loyalties and mixed motives, about tribal versus codified law, about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. "The Hook" and "On the Waterfront" simplify, "A View from the Bridge" problematizes. In this way, "A View from the Bridge" marks Miller's significant development as a writer after "The Hook".