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Unit 3/4 On the waterfront English essay.
What would you include in and essay relating to this topic?


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1 Answer

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"Torn between loyalty and love." Is that how you see Terry Malloy?
Conflict: Truth V Silence V Love V Loyalty
“Do you want to hear my philosophy of life? Do it to him before he does it to you.” Terry

Quote: “I want to know who killed my brother.’(Edie Doyle)
“Why don’t you tell her?’”(Father Barry to Terry.)

Quote: “Which side are you with?” (Edie Doyle)
Me? I'm with me,” Terry. (Terry Malloy)

Terry Malloy can be seen as being torn between his love for Edie, his loyalty to his brother, Charlie, and his uninformed obedience to the power of the “mob”/Union and Friendly. His knowledge of his role in murder and his moral conscience also are awakened through Edie and Father Barry. His gradual conversion evokes a desire to tell the truth even knowing that if he does so, his life, “ain’t work a nickel.” It is perhaps the recognition of his betrayal by his brother Charlie that is the catalyst for his final decision to cast a new moral responsibility for himself and then to take action as an individual in search of redemption. Love equally creates new loyalties and with it, again, an awakening of his individual conscience and awareness of choice.

Essentially this is a question about “conflict” (both external and internal), “conscience”(both individual and group and the lack of it) and “character” (Terry Malloy and his divided loyalties), as well as those ideas that are also in tension – “love” versus “loyalty” – and how they are resolved and with what consequences. The question also asks what do you think about “Terry Malloy’s journey” (his initial state, how he is changed and what makes him change, and, in the end what he achieves if anything) and its symbolism in both a literal and a figurative sense.

Is his Terry’s change convincing, emotionally satisfying or too idealistic? Is the film a call to action or is it a more troubling resolution in which individual conscience may always be challenged by dilemmas, and where even when a choice is finally made, it only guarantees a partial and perhaps temporary end to hostilities? Does “love” win over “loyalty” or to the two eternally exist is tantalising conflict? What we do for love is not the same as what we do out of loyalty? Or is it?

What motivates Terry? Is it a simple or a complex decision?

Starting with his confessions to both Father Barry and Edie about his complicity in the murder of Edie’s brother might be considered beginning the final catharsis and atonement but there is not perhaps any single defining epiphany in the growth of Terry’s conscience. It is on the other hand, his recognition of his betrayal by his “loyal” brother that serves a watershed.

Loyalty is under most circumstances a noble trait. When used to coerce, control and manipulate individuals it becomes immoral, even shameful. The dockyard unions and Friendly and his “mob” are clearly loyal to each other, but their loyalty is derived from a sense of mutual obligation (financial and a false sense of mutual legitimacy perhaps), a shared illegality and base fear, rather than unselfish sacrifice for each other.

What type of “loyalty” has Terry? He begins in one “form” and gradually transforms through various stages and conflicts, from a perhaps an apathetic and naive selfish loyalty, to an acknowledgement of family and fraternal betrayal, to a position where his individual conscience (and an awakening sense of love and moral commitment) compels him to act where other would not. Yes, there is new won pride, a moral righteousness and a sense of personal injustice involved in his transformation.

But his act of “rebellion” is also an act of newly discovered loyalties that are based on not just on his victimisation but on a sense of moral indignation, compassion and empathy.

There are several types of loyalty – unselfish commitment to a cause, a self-interested loyalty “‘I am in this for what I can get from this relationship, solely for myself”), unquestioning loyalty (“I am in this because I actually believe in it and I will support this position whether it is right or it is wrong – a naive devotion that is blinded by total trust or even dependence) and a noble loyalty based on the values of honesty, integrity and mutual trust.

In what sense then is Terry “torn” i.e. in personal torment about a choice? Who might he let down? What obligation does he owe to himself? In what sense does he have divided loyalties and how does this eventuate? To whom does he owe his original loyalty? What events bring about his change of conscience and of loyalty? What compels him to take action, where his previous loyalties would have dictated another course of action?

How does “love” change Terry” What sparks a deeper moral questioning of his identity? Does Edie provide him with a standard to live up to or does she simply placed in the story to provide a gender contrast in a patently male dominated world? How does Edie “open” Terry’s eyes to allow his empowerment both morally and psychologically? Is this intangible “love” a motivating factor greater than justice or a potential reward for Terry’s atonement?

There is much more complexity to Terry’s crisis of conscience and it should not totally be reduced to a conflict between “Love” and “loyalty”. Terry’s early remorse on Joey’s death, although “silently” proclaimed, establishes an emotional and ethical fracture in Terry’s moral awareness, being pushed and pulled between loyalty to his ‘friends’ and the growing seed of inner doubt about how to resolve his own part in the violence of his world and the coercive power of Friendly and his “mob”.

Loyalty on the waterfront is rewarded by employment, but such loyalty demands the loss of certain freedoms. What freedoms does Terry initially give up in order to satisfy his need for employment? Focus on the intimidation, standover tactics, murder and extortion being used by the Union ... what freedoms are lost? Is “silence” demanded as payment by the “mob”? How does this “silence” create manifest itself? What bring Terry into conflict with this “code of silence”? Is it just “love” for Edie? Is it simply an awakening moral independence incited by injustice? Or is it incited by Father Barry’s demand for a moral outcry and for justice? Or is it Edie’s need for justice?

Without justice and accountability, is it possible for a close-knit community to allow themselves to be coerced by a small group of corrupt individuals? What place do “love” (compassion and empathy as opposed to obedience) and “loyalty” (unquestioning, vulnerable and dependent as opposed to moral awareness and the capacity for independent decision-making) have is Terry Malloy’s life ... at the beginning, in the middle and by the end of the film?

What events coincide to develop Terry Malone’s realization of the true cost he has paid for his “blind loyalty”? How does he claim back his individuality and freedom of choice?

Will Terry’s example, his self-sacrifice, be enough to bring change in deeply rooted loyalties? Is his struggle with his own divided loyalties symbolic of victory or of a more deeply troubled community, that craves the certainly of leadership and moral direction that an underdog’s success can inspire? Does Edie’s “love” resolve his need for atonement? Does his brother’s death cry out for revenge?


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