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I need some help with my essay on 'On The Waterfront'. What type of thing should I put in this essay? All help and ideas welcome. Thanks

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"It is simply love that changes Terry. To what extent do you agree?"
KEY WORDS: 1. "simply", 2. "love" and 3. "change" - Do you agree or disagree? Why? Why not?

In reviewing this question, be aware that no reference has been made to the political background of Kazan's direction and motivation for the film. You may wish to draw on that, but the romance narrative (Edie and Terry) may also needed to be understood in the context of its persuasiveness for any audience. Would the film "work" without a love sub-plot? Is anything ever “simple” especially with changes in human behaviour? Is there one direct cause for Terry Malloy’s “transformation”? Is it “love”? “Love” for whom? Love for what? Is this “love” self-sacrifice in the cause of truth? Or is it selfish and self-seeking? Does Terry have to make a choice between “love” and something else? Does “love” inspire him? How has “love” changed Terry, or is it a variety of different colluding factors that eventually coalesce to bring about a decision that Terry had found difficult to make? Are there other factors that can explain Terry Malloy’s transformation?

If OTW has a dominant reading/viewing of Terry’s character it is arguably about "transformation" - Terry Malloy's transformation from "bum", 'could-a-been' champion and ignorant dupe to erstwhile "stooley" or "pigeon" but ultimately a man of moral purpose and growing conviction in his self-worth, a person possessed of a purpose in pursuing "truth" where others could not or would not, and his potential leadership for others who do not have his "courage". Within this gradual series of "changes" (NB: Look for certain crisis points about decision-making in the film), Terry is characterized initially as apathetic about the fate of others and self-interested -

Edie Doyle: Shouldn't everybody care about everybody else?
Terry Malloy: Boy, what a fruitcake you are!
Edie Doyle: I mean, isn't everybody a part of everybody else?
Terry Malloy: And you really believe that drool?
Edie Doyle: Yes, I do.
Terry Malloy: You wanna hear my philosophy of life? Do it to him before he does it to you.
Edie Doyle: I never met anyone like you. There's not a spark of sentiment or romance or human kindness in your whole body.
Terry Malloy: What good does it do ya besides get ya in trouble?
Edie Doyle: And when things and people get in your way, you just knock them aside, get rid of them, is that your idea?

Terry: Conscience... that stuff can drive you nuts!

Terry Malloy’s transformation can be seen as being founded on a growing inner conflict that is brought about by his involvement in Edie’s brother’s “murder”. Terry becomes torn between his growing love for Edie (narrative artifice?), his loyalty to his brother (Charlie) and his uninformed obedience to the power of the “mob”/Union and Friendly. Terry Malloy transforms from a non-ambitious follower to a strong, independent hero; at least this is one reading, but be aware it is not the only one! However, perhaps Terry’s transformation is not driven by any active determination on his part (Is he not passive initially?), but is gradually evoked by a growing self-awareness in the part he has played in Joey Doyle's death, a new found romantic involvement with Edie Doyle, the persistence and moral questioning of Father Barry and finally his brother’s death. His knowledge of his role in the murder and his moral conscience are also awakened through Edie and Father Barry. His gradual transformation 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 final catalyst for his decision to accept a new moral responsibility for himself and then to take action as an individual in search of redemption.

Love equally creates the possibility of new loyalties for Terry and with it, again, an awakening of his individual conscience and awareness of choice.
Edie Doyle: I want to know who killed my brother.
Father Barry to Terry: Why don’t you tell her?

Edie Doyle: Which side are you with?
Terry: Me? I'm with me

Is Terry’s change convincing, emotionally satisfying or too idealistic? Is the film a call to action or has 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”? 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 arguably, on the other hand, his recognition of his betrayal by his “loyal” brother that serves a final watershed. 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 is 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 self-empowerment - both morally and psychologically? Is this intangible “love” a motivating factor greater than justice or a potential reward for Terry’s atonement? Is “love” a reward for seeking redemption? There may be much more complexity to Terry’s crisis of conscience and eventual transformation. Terry’s early remorse over 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”.

“Love” is not rewarded on the “Waterfront”! Loyalty is in terms of employment, but such loyalty demands the loss of certain freedoms. Does “love” require the loss of such freedoms? What freedoms does Terry initially give up in order to satisfy his need for employment? Focus on the intimidation, stand-over 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? Does Terry need "love" in order to find redemption? 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 in 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? Is it through “love”? Or is “love” just a sub-plot? Does Edie’s “love” resolve Terry's need for atonement or does it provide comfort as well as inspiration? Can he find forgiveness of himself through Edie or from Edie? Does his brother’s death not cry out for revenge? Does Terry “love” his brother even though he has been betrayed by him? Which scene might show this?

Hope these ideas help, even though they do not provide a "simple" answer.