What’s the answer?

We all know that there is no single correct answer in English. But you can always improve on what you’ve got.

Consider the following two responses to a question about Terry’s judgment of himself as a bum rather than a contender:

Terry Malloy sheds his reputation as a bum when he testifies against Johnny Friendly.


Terry Malloy takes further steps to shed his reputation as a bum when he testifies against Johnny Friendly.

In response one, Terry’s transformation is completed in a single step, whereas the second response acknowledges that there are other factors (occurring both before and after the court testimony) that play a role. The second response also invites you to explore in more detail.

We can now examine the nature of Terry’s transformation. His testimony doesn’t give him the self-worth he seeks. Instead, he is isolated from the community, as demonstrated upon his return home by the rudeness of his neighbour and the reprisals of the Golden Warriors.

To redeem himself in the eyes of the community and to gain self-respect he has to act on his own terms (not under pressure from Father Barry, Edie or the Crime Commission), and this means a violent confrontation with Friendly (he is a boxer after all). Thus it is only at the end of the film that he is able to shed the title of ‘bum’ and replace it with the status of reluctant working mans’ hero.

Tip: Keep this in mind when you make blanket statements. When analysing a scene don’t rip yourself off by ignoring what has come before and what will follow in the narrative.

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4 Responses to What’s the answer?

  1. Mohamad Chandab says:

    Edie and Father Barry are the two characters who mainly assist Terry to figure things out, they both had faith in something intangible. They both acted as a catalyst in which helped Terry have ‘the guts’ and obey moral authority by choosing to inform the corrupt union officials and make the morally correct decision. Although, it is not until the final confrontation with Friendly that Terry redeems himself and has the inner ability to stand up and regain his status on the waterfront which is as a ‘hero’.

  2. Ahmad Ali says:

    Little did Terry know, his agony had a subtle impact on his decisions. His pasts despair plunged his present into an unexpected controversy between him and his conscience. An emotional and psychological conflict far greater than those he endured as a prize fighter, which led to the further developed of his being and the enormous transformation of his character. And his choice between loyalty and compassion. In the opening scene of Kazan’s insightful reality of the waterfront, it is evident from Terry’s nervous gestures, stuffing his hands in his pockets, his sluggish walk to his facial reactions, confirm his carelessness regarding his situation.

    Please feel free to leave feedback. I appreciate corrections or improvements. And before you criticize, you better have something up here.

    Thank you.

  3. Tas says:

    Thanks for the last sentence Ahmad. I call Dibs to use it on my SAC.

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