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Author Topic: On the Waterfront Essay  (Read 4862 times)  Share 

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kimk2kr

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On the Waterfront Essay
« on: August 22, 2012, 08:30:47 pm »
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Any advice will be great :) thanks


Terry says to Charley “I could have had class. I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody. Instead I’m just a bum” Does the film support Terry’s judgement of himself?

“I could have had class. I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody. Instead I’m just a bum” Elia Karzan’s acclaimed film “On the Waterfront” is the story of waterfront union violence and corruption under the control of Johnny Friendly. After the death of Joey Doyle, the protagonist, Terry Malloy, is sent into a spiralling battle with his conscience from which he is able to develop from being a “bum” to a “contender”. Terry is considered a failure not only as a failed boxer but also as an apathetic and mumbling “errand boy” who seems to have little interest in what goes around him. By the end of the film it is clear Terry has progressed into something more than just a “bum”; a “contender” who stands up for what he believes in and has pride in himself. While Terry is initially portrayed as a poorly-respected “bum” through the increasingly remorseless crimes of Friendly, with encouragement of Edie and Father Barry, and ultimately galvanised by his brother Charley’s death, Terry accomplishes what others couldn’t finish, thus gaining the respect of other co-workers and evolving into a “contender”.

In the early scenes of the film, Elia Karzan depicts Terry Malloy as brooding, uneducated, defeated and a “bum”. This is exemplified when Terry acknowledges the fact that he sacrificed his dream to become a boxer for his brother Charley and Johnny Friendly. This shows that though becoming a boxer may have been Terry’s dream, he was ready to dismiss his personal progress in apathy to satisfy Friendly. Despite being the younger brother of Johnny Friendly’s right hand man, Charley Malloy, Terry is generally considered a “bum”, not respected and lazy “You wouldn't mind working once in a while to justify this lofty position, would you?”. Even though Terry starts off as a “bum”, he ultimately becomes a “contender”, not in his former profession a boxer, but as a person respected by others. This progression is only made possible with the help of Edie and the Father who stir his conscience, and the death of Charley which climatically drives Terry to action.

Despite being a “bum”, Terry displays redemptive qualities from the outset. Unlike rest of the Mob members who show little remorse to those “ratting” on them, Terry displays sympathy and remorse for those killed for trying to make a stand against Johnny Friendly when referring to Joey Doyle’s death Terry says “I thought they was gonna talk to him – I thought they was gonna talk to him to dummy up – I figured the worst they was gonna do was lean on him a little bit”. Despite being different from the rest of the Mob and showing remorse, people see little in him, he’s not only considered a “bum”, he’s not respected by anyone, considered a lazy drifter, a slacker and Friendly’s errand boy. In addition, Terry shows loyalty to those close to him. Because Terry exists in the present, at the mercy of Johnny Friendly’s whims, Terry believes that “Johnny [has] bought a piece of me [Terry]”. Hence, Terry’s sacrifice in boxing may, in some way, is seen as loyal “I was doing a favour for some pals”. When pressure by Edie to confess Terry declares to her “I know what you want me to do but I ain’t doing it, so forget it” thus showing loyalty to his own brother Charley. This shows that even though he exhibits redeeming features, not many people see this in Terry; this is because his admirable qualities are shadowed by the overwhelming reputation of Johnny Friendly and his mob.

Terry’s complacency is challenged by the remorseless crimes on the waterfront. It is apparent Johnny Friendly and his Mob do not have any boundaries, moral integrity or conscience. When Joey Doyle was pushed off the roof, rather than showing any sort of remorse, the members of the Mob chooses to make derisive jokes about it “Maybe he could sing, but he couldn't fly.” This indicates that the Mob is prepared to take action when required without any hesitation, thus highlighting their brutality. It is clear Terry is conflicted by seeing the remorseless crimes of Friendly from the death of Joey Doyle through to the death of Kayo Dugan who was also prepared to give evidence. The brutality and the extent of the crimes can be stressed when Friendly orders the hit on his own right hand man Charley as he is unable to convince Terry to be “deaf and dumb”. Charley’s murder and the desire for revenge seals Terry’s decision to testify against Friendly and stand up for what he believes in. Thus, Terry’s redemptive qualities can finally be seen by others.

Terry’s journey to becoming a “contender” is only made possible by the assistance of others including Edie and Father Barry. If it weren’t for his meeting with Edie, who is portrayed as angelic, always shot in bright light throughout the film, Terry would probably have stifled his feelings of guilt and his awakening sense of responsibility. It would be much easier for Terry to continue on as before, but Edie offers him a vision of himself as a better man than he ever imagined he could be. As Terry gets to know Edie and then to fall in love with her, he is given a new perspective on the life that he has been living. When Kayo Dugan is murdered and Father Barry gives the eulogy, Terry is obviously taken by his words especially the warning that silence is consent “And anybody who sits around and lets it happen, keeps silent about something he knows has happened— shares the guilt of it just as much…” Though influenced by Father Barry’s words, Terry cannot act as he is caught in the middle. If Terry was to act as Edie and Father Barry asked him to, not only would he be putting his own life in danger, “If I spill, my life ain’t worth a nickel”, but he would be “pointing the finger” at his own brother whom he care for. Yet, ultimately, he did “point the finger”. As a result, by the end of the film, he is a different person. He has grown into a man of honesty and integrity who has won his own personal battle and gained self-respect as well as the respect of the other workers.

The cab scene of the film is by far the most important scene. It displays Terry’s potential to have been a greater man, a “contender” if it wasn’t for Johnny Friendly. The scene stands out because of the genuineness of the love Terry and Charley reveal for each other. It is clear the waterfront world is full of fear, moral compromise and misplaced loyalty, but this is a moment of clarity where the brothers find each other again through a mutual confession. The regretful and tender disappointment with which Terry pushes the gun away demonstrates his deep trust in Charley’s love. Charley is reminded of his previous betrayal of Terry where he was forced to throw away his dream “You came down to my dressing room and said, ‘Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson.’” Though Charley initially tries to come up with an excuse, Terry pleads Charley to recognise that he lost much more than just a boxing match “I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody” This forces Charley to acknowledge Terry’s pain, what he has lost and the injustice he is part of, thus realises there is no way he could sacrifice Terry to prop up Friendly’s operation.

By the end of the film, it is clear Terry has made himself a “contender” Terry grows in stature as the fog lifts from his mind and he is clear about what he must do. This can be seen through the juxtaposing body language and speech from the beginning and the end of the film. Initially Terry mumbles and finds it hard to express his thoughts and emotion but he becomes increasingly authoritative “I’m glad what I done”, “I’ve been ratting on myself all this time”. Terry’s final walk after being beaten up by Friendly’s thugs is the walk of an individual who has challenged the system and triumphed. Though realistically Terry’s action does not dispose of the whole Mob, from being a disrespected “bum” Terry becomes a “contender”, a symbol of the film’s moral compass and the workers’ intolerance of exploitation by union boss. However, though ending as being a “contender”, Terry’s blurred vision is a reminder that nothing is certain in this world.

dilks

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Re: On the Waterfront Essay
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2012, 09:29:51 pm »
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“I could have had class. I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody. Instead I’m just a bum” Elia Karzan’s acclaimed film “On the Waterfront” is the story of waterfront union violence and corruption under the control of Johnny Friendly. (Don't.) After the death of Joey Doyle, the protagonist, Terry Malloy, is sent into a spiralling battle with his conscience from which he is able to develop from being a “bum” to a “contender” (You need to demonstrate your understanding of what these words mean, either by defining them, or introducing your own terms). Terry is considered a failure not only as a failed boxer but also as an apathetic and mumbling “errand boy” who seems to have little interest in what goes around him. By the end of the film it is clear Terry has progressed into something more than just a “bum”; a “contender” who stands up for what he believes in and has pride in himself. While Terry is initially portrayed as a poorly-respected “bum” through the increasingly remorseless crimes of Friendly, with encouragement of Edie and Father Barry, and ultimately galvanised (good word) by his brother Charley’s death, Terry accomplishes what others couldn’t finish, thus gaining the respect of other co-workers and evolving into a “contender”.

Ok, so you have this interpretation of the film as charting Terry's transformation from a bum to a contender, which is fine and all, but you have neglected to address the question: Does the film support Terry’s judgement of himself? Indirectly you have to some extent, but you need to be clear about how you are doing this in your introduction and throughout, addressing the prompt implicitly just won't cut it in the exam if you are writing text response.

The second problem is that there is a lot of retelling of the story going on here, and not very much analysis. An excellent scene to analyse in relation to this prompt is the final fight with Friendly. Have you noticed how visually reminiscent it is of a boxing match? Here a few brief points that come to mind: for Terry it is a rematch of the fight he threw to Wilson, and thus integral to his redemption; the dockworkers are visually framed by the fence and the camera, they are spectators in the stands, eagerly watching in the hope that their champion will win, one of them even remarks "He fights like he used to"; Terry is knocked down, it would appear to be a K.O. (as if the boxing connection weren't blatant enough at this point); But wait, there's more! Father Barry urges Terry to stand up, saying, almost sadistically (for of course he knows the effect these words will have on Terry, and the pain associated with the remembrance fact), "Johnny Friendly's laying odds that you won't get up", so of course this is a re-enactment too: in the real match against Wilson Terry didn't get up, because he was told that Friendly was going for the price on Wilson - this time Terry defies Friendly, and defies the lousy bet, thus proving that he is a contender and not a bum, not just to the dockworkers, but to himself. Note that being a contender isn't just about social status and prestige (albeit Terry does indeed suggest that is an aspect of it ("I coulda had class")), but it is also about being your own man, and standing up for your rights ("I am going to go down and get my rights"), instead of "selling your souls to the mob for a day's pay". When Terry makes the "I coulda been a contender speech" in the taxicab, it is not only the first time he has ever voiced these thoughts to Charley, it is the first time he has ever voiced them to himself, and realised what he had lost by throwing that boxing match, merely for a little money from Friendly, when he could have amounted to so much more. In much the same way that he allows himself to participate in Joey's murder, telling himself it is 'a favour' ("A favour, who am I kidding? It was do it or else"), by allowing himself to fall into ambitionlessness, he sacrifices his dignity, his soul, like the dockworkers who refuse to fight against the shape-up operation, instead choosing to play 'deaf and dumb', because he is no longer his own man, but a cipher, Friendly's pawn ("Friendly . . . owns you."), and this is why Terry is held in a lower esteem than even the bedraggled unemployed beggar outside the church who first calls him a bum.

Ok, so that was quite rambly, but hopefully you can see why I have reservations about the piece. It just seems to me that you are copping out on doing all the real work this prompt involves :p.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 09:36:02 pm by dilks »
English (49) Software Development (44) Psychology (43) IT Applications (40) Methods (35) Physics (34) ATAR: 97.15 Course: Master of Engineering (Software) Also providing English tuition. Students in the North Eastern suburbs especially convenient as I live in Ivanhoe. Interested in giving tuition to students studying Computing.

kimk2kr

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Re: On the Waterfront Essay
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2012, 08:39:46 pm »
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thanks for the advice :)

ill definitely take them into account and improve on my essays for end of year!

and just out of curiosity what would i be aiming if i wrote what i wrote in the exam ?

p.s. im currently doing esl :)

dilks

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Re: On the Waterfront Essay
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2012, 10:09:41 am »
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You'd have to ask someone who has done ESL.
English (49) Software Development (44) Psychology (43) IT Applications (40) Methods (35) Physics (34) ATAR: 97.15 Course: Master of Engineering (Software) Also providing English tuition. Students in the North Eastern suburbs especially convenient as I live in Ivanhoe. Interested in giving tuition to students studying Computing.

Felicity Wishes

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Re: On the Waterfront Essay
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2012, 10:54:34 am »
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Like someone else said, you have to address the topic fully to get the best marks. On a positive note, you have included quotes really well and you have talked a lot about film techniques which is essential to get good marks so keep that up!
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