In Elia Kazan's On The Waterfront, discuss how Terry Malloy is an unlikely hero.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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If we just study Terry's character, and not Brando who portrayed him, a case can be made that Terry is an unlikely hero.  Terry is an unlikely hero from the start of the film.  He lures a man to his death and recognizes his own part in it.  Terry represents a rather surprising lack of moral responsibility and moral affect.  This makes him an unlikely hero.  We recognize that we are seeing a movie, something that will transform him, and hopefully, us.  Yet, Terry is an unlikely hero because the opening of the film has him doing something fairly awful.  Terry continues to be an unlikely hero because of how complicit he has become in his life on the docks.  He has become so used to acquiescing to Friendly's world that it becomes unlikely that he will speak out against it.  When he is told to throw the fight, he does so.  When he has to play "D and D," he does so.   When he is told to follow orders, he does so.  It becomes unlikely that a part of his character will be morally and ethically awakened because for so long it has remained silent.  In this light, Terry becomes an unlikely hero and in doing so, represents the very essence of dramatic change and structure.

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