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Cinema: On the Waterfront Edie tells Terry to "let your conscience tell you what to...

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thebookworm1995 | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted September 5, 2013 at 5:55 AM via web

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Cinema: On the Waterfront

Edie tells Terry to "let your conscience tell you what to do."

Is his defiance of the Mob ultimately motivated by his desire to do what's right and tell the truth or his desire for vengeance?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 5, 2013 at 9:37 AM (Answer #1)

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While Terry Malloy possesses an awakening conscience ignited by his falling in love with Edie, the sister of his murdered friend, Tommy Doyle. it seems that Terry's main motivation for testifying against Johnny Friendly is vengenance against the powerful union boss for what he has done to him personally, and what he has done to his friends and co-workers. For Johnny Friendly has 

  • killed Joey Doyle
  • made him throw a fight
  • killed another dockworker
  • killed his brother for not murdering him
  • prevented some of the dockworkers from working on certain days

After Terry testifies against Friendly and reports his corruption, Terry is not permitted to work because his name is not called out. A fight ensues between Terry and Friendly; until Friendly's thugs intervene, Terry has the edge, but then he is beaten. However, after he is beaten, he tells Friendly that his conscience has been awakened and he is glad to avenge himself,

I was tattling on myself all them years, I didn't even know it.
You gave it to Joey, you gave it to Dugan...
...and you gave it to Charley who was one of your own.
You think you're God Almighty, but you know what you are?
You're a cheap...
...lousy, dirty, stinking mug...
...and I'm glad what I done to you!

The other men refuse to work unless Terry is allowed to, but Friendly says Terry can barely walk. But, when they encourage Terry to "finish what you started," he holds himself up and walks onto the dock.

 

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