On the Waterfront Conscience

783 Words4 Pages
It is conscience that turns Terry Malloy against the mob. Do you agree? “Conscience, that stuff can drive ya nuts!” exclaims Terry Malloy when being probed about listening to his conscience. Elia Kazan’s ‘On The Waterfront’ tells the story of Terry Malloy’s redemption. His battle between reason and will shown throughout the film highlights Terry’s transformation from being a ‘bum’, lost in morality who blindly follows the orders of the unscrupulous mob, to a leader for himself and his fellow longshoremen. It is his newfound awareness of his conscience that pushes him to make the morally correct decision, that is, testifying against the mob. Contributing to turning Terry against the mob is his own external and internal self, Father Barry, Edie, Charley and Johnny Friendly. Kazan effectively reveals Terry wrestling with his conscience through a range of cinematic devices and through his powerful use of symbolism throughout On the Waterfront helps our understanding of Terry’s conscience eventually leading to him turning against the mob. Terry’s transformation throughout the film is stemmed from his moral awakening due to the betrayal he feels from Johnny Friendly and his “henchmen”. Initially, he is determined to disregard his conscience yet as a result of the guilt & restlessness he feels in regards to his role in Joey’s murder, his conscience becomes distinguished. His guilt over the murder is juxtaposed against the carelessness of the mobsters who joke that Joey could “sing but he couldn’t fly”, it is here that the Kazan separates Terry from the mob as he conveys him as a vulnerable & sensitive character as his conscience begins to overpower his ‘tough guy’ act. Kazan’s use of mist and fog relentlessly suppressing Terry Mallow highlights the ambiguity in Terry’s conscience, which reflects he is only just beginning to initiate recognition to his morals
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