Themes in *On the Waterfront*

Themes in ‘On the Waterfront’
• D & D culture provides acceptance for many
• Terry also finds acceptance in ‘The Golden
• Edie and Father Barry, perhaps guided by
Christian principals, do not accept the culture
• End sequence- Terry is rejected after the court
case but is finally accepted by workers after
‘The Walk’
• Edie- is she worried about acceptance?
• Edie “with patience and kindness” represents goodness.
“everybody is a part of everybody else”. Wants to be a
• Does she want to change
• Father Barry “There is light”
• K.O.Dugan- does he know
right from wrong? Why him?
• Charley- “It’s not your night”
but shares the winnings with Terry- good or bad?
• What/who else represents goodness in the film?
Is respect self-perpetuating?
How does Detective Glover get Terry talking?
Tommy and Terry- respect?
Do the longshore men respect Father Barry?
• Pop Doyle- is he respected? Does he deserve
to be?
• Longshoremen- D &D blocks conscience
• Father Barry- conscience awakened “who ever
heard of a saint hiding in a church?”
• Longshoremen- “if
He don’t work we don’t
• Father Barry, to Terry
“how much is your soul
worth” “You’ve got
Some other brothers”
• Question: Is everyone’s individual conscience the
• This is a major theme in the film
• Edie’s loyalty to Joey is a driving force. It makes
her courageous and infects others
• Is Terry showing loyalty to Edie through his
• The mob- a mixture of fear and loyalty is the glue
that sticks them togeether
• Charley- loyal to Terry?
• Pop- loyal to Joey?
• Edie- naturally courageous?
• Terry- needed courage to be a boxer. Loses courage
(why? Too kind to succeed in boxing?) but regains it
• Father Barry- helps people find courage- who?
• Is courage something innate (natural) or can it be
taught? (mentor)
• How is courage
linked to respect?
• How is courage
linked to anger?
• Is justice the same for everyone?
The mob
Father Barry
The police
Tommy “pigeon for a pigeon”
• How are Edie’s ideas of justice at the start and at
the end of the film different?
• Do the workers get justice in the end?
Realism in ‘On the Waterfront’
What makes the film seem so real?
• Location: mise en scene- the New Jersey docks. What
other locations are memorable?
• Black and White: suits the mood of the film
• Slang: pigeon, bum, cheese-eater, rat, canary, dummyup, goof-off, D & D, stooling, juicehead…
• Double negative: “he won’t take no loans” (JP)
“if I was wise I wouldn’t be no longshoreman for for 32
years” (Kayo) Why is this realistic? Why does Father Barry
use no double negs? Edie: “I didn’t day I didn’t love you”powerful
• Marlon Brando: method acting

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