The federal theatre projec - Sample Essay
What biographical details about Miller are relevant to our understanding of the play? Arthur Miller, the son of illegal immigrants to America from Poland, was born in 1915 in New York City. Like many people, his father lost his business in the Depression and the family was forced to move to a smaller home in Brooklyn. After graduating from high school Miller began writing plays as a student at the University of Michigan, joining the Federal Theatre Project in New York City after he received his degree. He therefore understood the social status of illegal immigrants and the proletarian area of Brooklyn.
He spent some years working in the Brooklyn Naval shipyard as a longshoreman, which gave him direct sources for his play. The majority of the shipyard workers were underpaid immigrants to America, many of them from Italy and Sicily in particular, where the Mafia dominated society. This experience enabled Miller to describe realistically the society, politics and culture of the Italian immigrant community. Arthur Miller’s experience of working in the Brooklyn docks as a longshoreman allows for the possibility that he based the play on personal accounts and accounts of people he knew in the local area.
He would also have been able to see the control the Italian Mafia exercised over the unions. Arthur Miller was a well-known socialist and was summoned before the House of Representatives UnAmerican Activities Committee as a communist sympathiser. This witch hunt led by Senator McCarthy inspired his play, The Crucible, which is another example of Miller writing a play from his own experience. A View from the Bridge is a political play written from a socialist point of view. What is the historical context of the play?
A View from the Bridge is set in New York in the 1950s amongst the Italian immigrant community, many of whom are illegal and called ‘submarines’. In the fifties immigrants to America came from Ireland during the period of Protectionism that led to mass emigration, Spain and Italy, where there was great poverty and unemployment. The immigrants in this play come from Sicily, which was one of the poorest areas of Europe after the War. This was because of the power invested in the Mafia at the time. What is the political context of the play?