Conflict is a theme which has quite a large role in this play because all the characters have a little bit of conflict between each other. In 1930s Brooklyn, there was conflict between two cultures due to Italians moving over to America. This caused conflict because both the cultures had a different way of doing things such as in Italy; the most important thing is loyalty in their family, but in America, if the rules are not written down in ‘the book’, that means they can do it, for example, forcing someone to marry them. Throughout the play, Arthur Miller explores conflict between the cultures and the characters: Rodolpho, Eddie, Catherine, Beatrice and Marco. The two most important characters to this conflict are Rodolpho and Eddie because they experience the most conflict and it is carried on through the whole play.
Arthur Miller presents conflict throughout the play between Eddie and Rodolpho; we found this out at the beginning because there is immediately conflict between them as soon as Eddie is introduced to Rodolpho. This is revealed when Eddie “nods at him testingly” directed to Rodolpho. The adverb designates that Eddie is challenging Rodolpho. This shows conflict because we can tell there is tension between the two men by the word “testingly” because it shows Eddie is intimidating Rodolpho and testing his ability. This tension is then exposed later on in the play when Eddie threatens to go to the authorities to get rid of Rodolpho. We get shown this when Eddie says to Rodolpho, “By rights they oughta throw you back in the water.” This metaphorical phrase suggests that Eddie is using the act of the law to try and get rid of Rodolpho because he is that desperate to get rid of him, as Rodolpho is an illegal immigrant. We see more conflict when Eddie says, “You just get outa here and don’t lay another hand on her unless you wanna go out feet first.” This indicates how much Eddie dislikes Rodolpho and that he doesn’t want Catherine being with him. The alliteration “feet first” displays that Eddie is intimidating Rodolpho that he will throw him out the city the hard way if he doesn’t leave. This displays how Eddie and Rodolpho have a discreet hate towards each other. It has been building up over time because Catherine and Eddie have a strong bond, with Eddie acting as a father towards Catherine, whereas Rodolpho has only just come into Catherine’s life and Eddie feels like Catherine is leaving him for Rodolpho and he feels intimidated. Eddie is still very protective over Catherine even though she has grown up and she doesn’t need to be looked after anymore. We see this when Eddie says, “that ain’t what I wanted, though.” This gives us the impression Eddie doesn’t want Catherine to leave because he is making up excuses for her to stay as he doesn’t want her around other men.
Another way Arthur Miller presents conflict is between the two cultures: Italian culture and American culture. This is shown when Alfieri says, “this is not our God, Marco. You hear? Only God makes justice.” Tension is created here between the two cultures because Marco’s culture is Italian which means that Marco wants to take it into his own hands and kill Eddie. But Alfieri is telling him that that’s not the way the law works, and Marco is getting frustrated because earlier on we get told that the laws in different cultures are different. This is shown when Marco says “The law? All the law is not in a book”; the clash of cultures occurs because the law in Marcos’ culture is not all in a book and written down, but its much different in American culture because Alfieri says, “yes in a book, there is no other law.” This implies that Marco is very angry with Eddie and he wants to kill him but the laws say that it is illegal, but there is nothing he can do because the law changes when he goes into a different culture. It is important that the law in America is only in a book because then they have an idea what is right and wrong and it means they only ‘break the law’ if they did something that is in the book.
Arthur Miller also presents conflict between Eddie and Beatrice. This is shown when Beatrice says “when am I gunna be a wife again?” From this we can infer that Eddie is not treating Beatrice how she wants him to. This is essential because Beatrice thinks that Eddie has changed and that he is not treating her the same way. The reason Eddie is changing is because the conflict between Eddie and Rodolpho is reflecting on their relationship as Eddie is angry that Catherine is leaving for Rodolpho. Arthur Miller supports this when Beatrice says “I’m no different.” The italics specify she is suggesting that he is the one changing. This causes conflict because Beatrice is known as a peacemaker and she is challenging her and Eddie’s relationship and suggesting that he Is not there for her as much as he used to.
Fundamentally, Arthur Miller displays a lot of conflict through the characteristics of the personas in this play. Eddie and Rodolpho show the strongest conflict through their competing masculinities. This is caused by Eddie’s envy towards Rodolpho and Catherine’s relationship, which infuriates Eddie as he still sees Catherine as his property. This conflict then reflects onto Beatrice and Eddie’s relationship which causes more conflict between the two characters due to Eddie changing. The last main way that Arthur Miller presents conflict in this play is through the clash of different cultures: Italian and American. The reason that this causes conflict is due to different ways of doing things and America having all the laws written down on paper.
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