In Elia Kazan's film On The Waterfront, Terry complains that he “coulda been somebody”, does he finally become somebody worthy of our admiration?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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While it is true that Terry becomes "somebody who is worthy of our admiration," I think it is more important that he regains his own self-respect. In the cab scene with his brother he also says, "I'm just a bum." But after he testifies against Johnny Friendly and the other union racketeers, and after he has suffered insults and abuse for doing so, he tells Edie that he is going to go down to the waterfront and "claim my rights." At that point he appears to undergo a change which can be seen in his (Marlon Brando's) facial expression and in his posture. He has decided that he isn't going to take it anymore, he isn't going to act like a bum anymore. We can see the difference in the way he walks. He looks like a leader of men, a true champion. Everyone is watching him, and he seems to be representing all of them. We do not believe that he could become a professional boxer again, because too much time has past. But we admire him in his new role as an honest, self-respecting man and a leader. We also realize that he has won Edie Doyle, a greater prize than he could have won in the ring.

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