In On The Waterfront, change is not only brought about by individual effort in relation to Edie Doyle and Terry Malloy. How so?

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

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Individual effort is extremely important to initiating the change in the On the Waterfront. However, it is due to social change of a group that the message of the film is one that resonates.  Edie and Terry do a great deal to help bring about that change.  Yet, in the end it is the group of workers that receive the message and this is where real change lies.  The ending of the film is one where the workers stand up for Terry, making the point that they won't work if he doesn't.  It is through this solidarity and act of collective resistance where the film's message of social change becomes powerful and becomes compelling.  Consider, for a moment, if the ending was one in which the workers didn't care, played "D and D" to Terry's plight, and simply closed ranks and allowed Terry to be "black listed."  The ending of the film as a cold and cynical one would end up blunting many of the efforts of Edie and Terry.  In this light, it becomes clear that the efforts of Edie and Terry are significant in how they end up feeding a larger social change, a change in the climate and culture of the dock workers collective identity.  In doing so, change is seen as something that resides in the realm of individual effort, but something that must be connected and appreciated by the larger group in order to be lasting and viable examples of change.


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