Terry says to Charly: ''I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum. which is what I am"  Does the film support Terry's judgment of himself?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Terry's words are only true if Terry refuses to act against the structure of power that is wrong.  Terry is a "bum" not because he takes a dive or because he listens to his brother.  Rather, he is a "bum" because inside his heart, he knows that which is wrong and yet he does nothing about it.  Terry's desire to "be a contender" from a philosophical or ethical point of view is to be a person of value, of merit.  Terry is not that not because he didn't win the title, but because he is a tool of the underworld establishment.  He is a "bum" because he has not activated the self- awareness that enables him to feel good about himself or feel that he has dignity and self- worth.  It is for this reason that Terry's words are valid.  If he remains silent, knowing that what he is doing and how he is protecting is wrong, then he is a "bum," not from a materialist point of view, but from a spiritual and ethical one.  It is here where Terry's words have meaning.  Perhaps, this explains the ending as a point where Terry wishes to be something more than he has been, someone who is a moral or spiritual "contender" and not a "bum."