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A View from the Bridge. Socio-political context (The social and political history that is explored in the play) . Overview. Immigration – mass influx into New York and US from war-torn Europe during 19 – early 20C. The Wall Street Crash – 1929 = The Depression. The Cold War – 1950s

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A View from the Bridge

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A View from the Bridge

Socio-political context

(The social and political history that is explored in the play)

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  • Immigration – mass influx into New York and US from war-torn Europe during 19 – early 20C.

  • The Wall Street Crash – 1929 = The Depression.

  • The Cold War – 1950s

  • HUAC and McCarthyism

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  • 22 million came through Ellis Island and the port of New York.

  • 70% landed in New York.

  • Impoverished and war-torn Europe.

  • American government became alarmed at the numbers and passed laws to limit immigration.

  • Many attempted to enter illegally – stowing away on ships.

  • Corruption on the docks – dockworkers and officials overlooked illegal entry if immigrants were able to pay a fee. A sense of suspicion, secrecy and hypocrisy grew as a result.

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In this Rosh Hashana greeting card from the early 1900s, Russian Jews, packs in hand, gaze at the American relatives beckoning them to the United States.

Over two million Jews would flee the pogroms of the Russian Empire to the safety of the US from 1881-1924

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U.S. postage stamp commemorating the vast Irish immigration to North America during the Great Potato Famine

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Ferries at Ellis Island

For decades, immigrants were quarantined on the island until their entry was approved.

Today, Ellis Island is a museum that commemorates the millions of United States citizens who entered the country there.

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The Statue of Liberty

Symbol of welcome to returning Americans and Immigrants at the port of New York, the entry point for thousands of European immigrants to the US.

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Immigration (cont….)

  • Immigrants were attracted to ‘the American Dream’: rank and social class did not determine a successful future but hard work and determination.

  • The ‘American Dream’ is the idea (often associated with the Protestant work ethic) held by many in the United States of America that through hard work, courage and determination one could achieve prosperity.

  • These were values held by many early European settlers, and have been passed on to subsequent generations.

  • What the American dream has become is a question under constant discussion.

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The American Dream in Miller’s work

  • Marco and Rodolpho are seeking this kind of life for themselves and their families in ‘A View from the Bridge’.

  • Arthur Miller’s play, ‘Death of a Salesman’, is a caustic attack on the idea of the American dream and the problems associated with the idea of being able to ‘get rich quick.’

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The Great Depression

  • Wall Street Crash of 1929 saw the collapse of American economy.

  • October 29, 1929 – known as Black Tuesday.

  • Prior to this it had been ‘the Roaring 20s’ a technological golden age: innovations in radio, automobiles, aviation and telephone.

  • The Depression began in the States and quickly spread to Europe and every part of the world.

  • International trade declined, personal incomes and tax revenues, prices and profits all declined.

  • Construction was virtually halted, farming and mining suffered, mining and logging suffered major blows.

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Impact of the Crash

  • 1) 12 million people out of work

  • 2) 12,000 people being made unemployed every day

  • 3) 20,000 companies had gone bankrupt

  • 4) 1616 banks had gone bankrupt

  • 5) 1 farmer in 20 evicted

  • 6) 23,000 people committed suicide in one year - the highest ever

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Impact on Miller

  • Arthur Miller’s father lost everything and family moved from luxurious apartment to a working class area in Brooklyn. Life became hard.

  • The situation was desperate for thousands of workers who were out of work.

  • The American Dream turned into a nightmare.

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The Bread Line, Great Depression

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Political Effects

  • Democracy was weakened as a result of economic dissatisfaction – Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini made major gains which set the stage for WWII in 1939.

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  • ‘The Depression was only incidentally a matter of money. Rather it was a moral catastrophe, a violent revelation of hypocrisies behind the façade of American society.”

    • Miller, 1987, autobiography ‘Timebends’

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The Cold War

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The Cold War: America’s Fear of Communism

  • ‘Cold War’: period of conflict between US and Soviet Union, 1940s – mid 90s.

  • Not a traditional war. It was played out in the arenas of:

    • psychological warfare (the arms race);

    • political ideology and propaganda (democracy vs communism);

    • espionage;

    • and the great space race.

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The Cold War: beginnings

  • Began with the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan started the Cold War.

  • US and Russia had been allies against Hitler but argued over how post-war Europe was going to be split between them.

  • America bombed Japan to show its power and strength.

  • Created a sense of paranoia, suspicion and fear of nuclear attack.

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The fight against Communism

  • The spread of Communism (Soviet Union) was a constant fear to the US.

  • ‘Reds under the bed’ was a slogan used to describe the fear that communists lurked everywhere, unseen.

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Example of



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  • McCarthyism is the term describing a period of intense anti-Communist suspicion in the United States from 1940s – 1950s.

  • coincided with increased fears about Communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents.

  • coined to criticize the actions of U.S. SenatorJoseph McCarthy.

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Joseph McCarthy’s senate Inquiry

  • McCarthy started a Senate inquiry which accused thousands of Americans of being communists or communist sympathizers.

  • They were questioned (on trial) in front of a government panel (Senate).

  • Many were suspected in spite of limited evidence. Many suffered loss of employment, career opportunities and imprisonment.

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McCarthy’s Blacklist & HUAC

  • HUAC – the House of Un-American Activities

  • McCarthy created a black list of the accused and those who worked for government agencies, the entertainment field, educators and union activists were targetted.

  • The trials were basically a ‘witch-hunt’.

  • Many of Arthur Miller’s friends were interrogated and blacklisted.

  • This event in history became the basis of his plays ‘The Crucible’ and ‘A View from the Bridge’.

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