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Setting – The story starts out in the nineteen fifties in a typical small town exploited by the mob. The title On the Waterfront befits it well, for the town’s only way of employment is working on the docks for the mob. The mob controls everything in this town; they are the union and the law. If anything accurs you don’t know anything about it. Even if you were right there you were blind or D&D (Deaf and Dumb).
Situation – The situation in the town is that a very prominent man in the town was thrown off of the roof of his apartment building. Most of the people in the town were mystified by this because he as a good man that would not have many enemies. Most people would say he was a saint. His name was Joey. When the police arrive at the scene of the crime no one is cooperating with them because of the fear of the mob. Although some witnesses were almost family with the victim they will not be a canary or pigeon to squeal. This problem has been around for a while and some town members are starting to feel the guilt of their silence (with help from the priest) and decide to meet and talk about the problem.
On the docks work was on a first come first serve basis. Friends of the mob was given good easy jobs while the other work tokens were thrown on the ground and the men would fight for them.
Characters – The main character is Terry an ex semi-professional boxer who became friendly with the mob during his career. He is a common unintelligent man (typical of his town) that unlike his brother quit school. He was the man that helped the mob kill a good man in the opening scene by distracting him to come onto the roof and check out his pigeons (Symbolic). His brother keeps the mobs papers.
The Antagonist is the mob boss named Johnny who blames poverty for causing him to transform into a crook and murderer. It is either make no money or make money. They live like animals in a Social Darwinism.
The other main actor is the sister of the murder victim named Iddie. She comes from a totally sheltered life, growing up in a catholic school raised by nuns. She refuses to return to school because she wants to face a real problem, not just read about them.
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The priest plays the role of the godly guiding force that directs the characters to tell the truth and to stand up to the evil forces of the mob. "They won’t be beat by saying silent" he rallies them to stand up. He also directs Terry do confess to Iddie about her brother.
Final Outcome – After truly listening to the priests speeches and looking around his town a realizing that staying quiet is not going to get anyone any better conditions. He truly came to grip that he was a nothing because of the mob and everyone else was also being held down because of this. He could have been a champion boxer but he fell because of the mobs bet. After thinking about the outcome he decided to confess to the case of Iddie’s brother and to come forward and be a witness to all the injustices that were done to the innocent people of Waterfront. Now that he became the pigeon and sang everyone in town no longer knew him or talked to him he was an untouchable. The next day at the docks the mob mentioned that today everyone would be given a chance to work and no more fighting over tokens. All workers were given jobs but him. He went to meet Johnny and to let him know what he felt.
In front of all the others town workers he told Johnny and his gang that he was happy about his confession and he is proud that he is talking their fists off of innocent peoples back. Then a fight started and the workers wanted to join in yet their fear was still set in. While the gang was beating Terry they stayed by him and refused to work unless he walked into the factory first. During this the ship owners saw the lack of strength in the mob now that the workers felt strong. Now the unions would return and the mob has almost become powerless.
Symbolism – Because of Terry’s guilt, he decides to take care of the victim’s birds. This conveys how Terry does have nurturing feelings with ambitions to change, unlike the mob. After he sings to the police about all the injustices done by the mob to the workers and the people of waterfront, a small child throws one of Joey’s pigeons, now dead, and says, "A pigeon for the pigeon." This translates that people have the image in their mind that talking about situations caused by the mob will only bring trouble. Iddie and Terry both came from extremely different societies, however, they both were able to understand that the silence that was taken also causes trouble. It was time for the mob to be challenged. The philosophy that Terry grew up with is to hurt someone before they can hurt you. This is an exactly opposite example to how Iddie was taught to think: a pure example ofopposite’s attract. In the beginning of the movie, Terry mentions how birds "have it easy- eating, sleeping, and flying around." In the End of the movie, the birds were killed and Terry was alive. This is a great example of irony. The birds were in a cage locked up when killed by the boy, symbolizing the fact that if Terry were to stay caged in the life of the mob, he would have ended up dead as well. He left the cage and sang, yet he lived. In any point in history, and in any society, there is a universal reaction to a person who speaks up with portraying all his or her feelings. When Terry finally decided to say what everybody else was thinking, they all finally realized that they need to be doing the same thing. However, the same idea goes along on the opposite side. When one person in the mob said something, everyone would follow; however, this was drawn by fear. In the end, when the followers can rise above their fear, they find a person, like Terry to follow and eventually bring them onto the right path.