What do I need to know about ... Justice and the Law?

Brief Description

In the play “A View from a Bridge” Arthur Miller represents justice and law in a number of ways. Alfieri represents one side of “the law”, the legal systems which are written in books on which Alfieri bases his ideas. However throughout the course of the play it seems that these laws do not always provide justice. Miller's second view of justice is Eddie's moral law, which concerns what he thinks is right and the third is true Justice which can be seen through Marco's attempt to avenge 'the death of his familly' by killing Eddie.

Key Quotations

‘It is better to settle for half, it must be!’
Alfieri’s who based his decisions on the law starts to lose confidence in the law of books and revealed his uncertainty in his final speech he now sees the truer, more complete ‘holy’ versions of justice that we have just witnessed.

“Eddie, I’m a lawyer. I can only deal in what’s provable” pg45
The law (for Alfieri) must be based on proof and cannot concerns people’s emotions and motives therefore the law does not always serve the truth.

“You have no recourse in the law, Eddie”
Alfieri’s version of the law is definite and simple. This law stops Eddie from preventing Catherine and Rodolpho to get married.

“In Sicily, from where their fathers came, the law has not been a friendly idea since the Greeks were beaten...”

"I only came here when I was twenty-five. In those days, Al Capone, the greatest Carthaginian of all, was learning his trade on these pavements, and Frankie Yale himself was cut precisely in half by a machine-gun on the corner of Union Street, two blocks away."

From the two quotations above Alfieri highlights the significance of the theme ‘law and justice’ in the beginning of the play by stating about lawyers in ancient as well as modern times, and that they were unable to prevent a ‘complaint’ from ‘running a bloody course’ causes us to question the power and influence of the law.

"When the law is wrong it's because it's unnatural, but in this case it is natural and a river will drown you if you buck it now"
Alfieri knows and tries to warn Eddie about his relationship with Catherine and argues that he cannot stop her from marrying Rodolpho. He is suggesting that it is Eddie's feelings for Catherine that are 'unnatural'.

"You hear? Only God makes justice."
Alfieri tries to show Marco that although justice is important the law may not always deliver justice and shows him that God is the real 'judge' of events

"The family had an uncle that they were hidin' in the house, and he snitched to the Immigration."
"a guy do a thing like that? How's he gonna show his face?"

In the beginning of the play; family honour is the most significant form of justice and is prized very highly between Eddie and Catherine. To them Vinny (the boy who betrayed his family) had commited the worst crime and is justly punished. He recieves no sympathy from Eddie which is ironic as Eddie ends up doing the same thing as Vinny by snitching to the immigration at the end of the play.

Marco's got my name - and you run tell him, kid, that he's gonna give it back to me in front of this neighbourhood, or we have it out.

Eddie is desperate to get his name back because he believed that by Marco taking his 'name' he was dishonoured. Honour is very importatnt to the characters in the play (espically male characters) Honour means alot more to the characters than the law.

Its role in the novel

Marco’s version of the Law
Marco’s version of the law is not the version written in books (Alfieri’s version of the law), but is the law of ‘justice’ and honour which Alfieri’s version of the law may lack. This form of law is in the form of justice in which a person who acts unjustly needs to be punished for their actions, regardless of how it is carried out. It is a law which personal honour is necessary for judgement. For example, Marco cannot promise not to kill Eddie as he sees that promising this would be dishonourable in that either has to break his promise or fail to punish Eddie for his betrayal. In conclusion, Marco allows his personal feelings to affect his view on justice and how it should be carried out. Although the audience may feel that this punishment is too harsh, like Alfieri, we are unable to fully believe that it is better to follow the rules and 'settle for half' because we feel that there is something 'perversely pure' in Marco's actions. adn that 'the truth is holy'. We also see that there is no justice in the real world, either in books or in our own thoughts.

Eddie’s version of the Law

Eddie's actions represent the tension that exists between his own moral code (of justice and family loyalty), the law written in books (of Alfieri) and his own personal desires to be rid of Rodolpho. Eddie frequently visits Alfieri in search for advice and consults him hoping to find a way to prevent Rodolpho “stealing (Catherine) from (him)”. However, Eddie’s actions are affected by the fact that he has deeper feelings for Catherine which ultimately encourage him to break that family law. This unconscious desire for Catherine affects his ability to act according to his earlier conception of morality. The possibility that Eddie is right that Rodolpho is marrying Catherine purely for the would suggest that he is right to stop Rodolpho. As a result we may find Alfieri’s form of law inadequate, as it is unable to do anything to prevent Rodolpho from taking this action. Therefore, Eddie takes control and tries to prevent this from happening. Alfieri says that Eddie “(has) no recourse in the law” leaving Eddie with no alternative but to find a devious means of removing Rodolpho from Catherine's life.

Alfeiri's version of the Law
Alfieri represents the kind of law written in books and used by the goverment to decide upon a course of action. It is according to this law that Marco and Roldolpho are immigrants and needs to be sent back to Italy, it is also this law that prevents Eddie from stopping Catherine marrying Roldolpho. At first Alfieri describes the law as natural however at the end of the play he seems to lose confidence as he realised that the law may not bring justice as there is uncertainty in his claim that "it is better to settle for half it must be!"