What is the position of Elia Kazan's On The Waterfront       towards violence?

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

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Kazan's film depicts violence as part of the reality with which the workers on the dock live.  On one hand, I think that violence is shown as part of Terry's reality.  He is a boxer, and his belief of "being someone" is predicated upon violence.  Had he been successful in boxing, a sport of violence, he would have seen himself as achieving something worthy of praise.  The opening of the film, when Joey Doyle dies, is predicated upon violence.  This is the same as Kayo Dugan's death.  In both, violence is used as a way of maintaining the Status Quo.  Violence is not debated or is it repudiated.  It is simply seen as part of life.  When Terry gets beat up by Friendly's goons at the end of the film, it is seen by others and little is done to stop it.  Such a reaction makes violence as something natural, something as a part of consciousness and being in the world.  There is little in way of opposing it or of denying it.  Violence is not necessarily glorified, but it is not rebuked in the film.  It is shown as a part of the world in which the dock workers live, something that helps to densensitize many to what is happening in their world.  Violence becomes part of the machinery that helps to facilitate what Arendt would call "the banality of evil."  In this, violence is shown as an integral part of the social fabric of the men who live and work on the docks.

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